New Zealand is famous for its incredible scenery and adventure. It is the perfect destination for those who love to explore and appreciate nature. Whether you are an avid hiker or more of a relaxed type, New Zealand has a hike that is perfect for you. The following hikes are the best day hikes in New Zealand which range from all day hikes to on a few hours. No matter your level or experience and ability, New Zealand has a perfect and beautiful adventure that is waiting for you.
Best Day Hikes in New Zealand: North Island
Te Henga Walkway
The Te Henga Walkway is a great North Island hike which is part of the longer ‘Hillary Trail’. It also doubles as a great day trip from Auckland, since it’s only a 40-minute drive from the city (depending on traffic). It’s arguably one the best ways to see Auckland’s West coast beaches, as you cover up to 10km of this dazzling coastline along the hike.
The walk passes between Bethells Beach and Muriwai Beach, with 2km, 4km and 10km options available. The longest option takes up to 3.5 hours to complete one way, so seven hours for a return walk. The hike is considered easy to intermediate, with some steep sections. The stunning cliff views over the sea are worth the more rugged sections of the path!
Between the red rocky cliff top panoramas and blue ocean, you’ll be walking through lazy green countryside. Bethells Beach is a great first step, and I love exploring the huge sand dunes here. But Muriwai is the most memorable in my opinion due to insane viewing platforms that watch over the gannet colony. There are thousands of gannets here during breeding season!
By Cassie from CassietheHag.com
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, in central North Island, is regarded as one of the best day hikes in not only New Zealand but also the world. A title it has rightly received due to its other-worldly beautiful volcanic alpine landscape consisting of active volcano peaks, craters, solidified lava flats, steam vents, emerald and blue lakes, valleys and an evergreen forest.
The hike is also famous for two other reasons. First, the area is home to Mt. Doom (Mt. Ngauruhoe) from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movies. Secondly, Tongariro National Park is a dual UNESCO world heritage site with natural and cultural significance for the Maori people.
This 19.2 km one-way hike of moderate difficulty takes about 6-8 hours to complete. Though the hike can be done all year-round, most people attempt it in the summer months from December to February due to stable weather.
That said, no matter the time of year, the area looks simply spectacular. It is definitely a must-add to your New Zealand itinerary.
By Trisha and Modi from TryWanderingMore.com
Red Rocks Walk
The Red Rocks Walk is one of New Zealand’s best day hikes. It’s a beautiful coastal walk situated just out of Wellington, and it’s easy to reach by car or public transportation. However, the best part about this hike is that you have the possibility to spot seals.
The Red Rocks Walk is not a complicated hike. It’s only 7,4 kilometers long with no elevation gain, which makes it one of the easier day hikes around New Zealand. The hike starts in Owhiro Bay and ends at Sinclair Head where the seal colony is living.
The hike has gotten its name from an area of massive red rocks, which you’ll reach an hour into the walk. These big red boulders are more than 200 million years old and part of the Maori history. They’re very impressive, so make sure to explore this area on your hike.
If you continue to follow the coast for a small hour, you’ll reach the Sinclair Head. This is where you’ll most likely be able to spot some fur seals sleeping in the sun or playing in the ocean. Make sure to spend some time watching the seals before you begin the return walk to Owhiro Bay.
By Cecilie of Worldwide Walkers
Best Day Hikes in New Zealand: South Island
Roy’s Peak is one of my all-time favorite hikes in the entire world. Located in Wanaka, New Zealand, Roy’s peak is a difficult but highly rewarding day hike. The hike itself is a 10.1 mile hike with more than a 4000ft. elevation gain. This is definitely not a hike for the faint of heart, but the views make every step worth it. As you ascend the mountain, you are able to look over the town of Wanaka and the beautiful lakes that are surrounded by mountains. In fact, Roy’s Peak is responsible for some of the most famous hiking pictures in New Zealand.
When you reach the top, of the mountain you are able to go to the edge and overlook the entire lake with the mountains separating the different sections. Between the crystal blue lake, the snow-capped mountains, and the view of the mountain itself. This is easily one of the best day hikes in New Zealand.
Sealy Tarns Track
One of the most beautiful Mt Cook walks with stunning views is the Sealy Tarns Track. Not only does it have the best view of Mt Cook, you can see out over the whole of Mt Cook National Park and Village
The track takes around 3-4 hours return and it’s unique feature is that it has around 2200 vertical stairs. This makes it fast to gain elevation which allows those incredible views.
The Sealy Tarns are actually a tiny alpine lake. If you strike it right, you may even get great reflections of Mt Cook in the tarn. At the top near the tarns is a huge picnic table, perfect for soaking in the views. Sit and listen to keas chat and ice cracking on the mountains high above.
The Sealy Tarns track is located in Mt. Cook National Park, about 3 hours drive from Queenstown. You will find the track at the end of Hooker Valley Road, and it’s also near the start of the famous Hooker Valley Track.
Written by Jennifer Parkes from Backyard Travel Family: Active Family Travel Specialists in New Zealand
One of the best hikes in Queenstown is easily Ben Lomond. Although challenging at 14-kilometers long (return) with a 1,483-meter elevation gain, it is worth the effort with stunning panoramic views from the top. It takes most people 6-8 hours to hike the entire trail from Queenstown and back down again.
If it sounds a little bit too difficult for you, you’re in luck because there is actually a short cut! You can ride the Queenstown gondola up to Bob’s Peak and start hiking Ben Lomond Track from there. The gondola will cost you $44 NZD for a return ride but cuts 3 kilometers off your total hike distance as well as a whopping 500 meters in elevation gain.
View along Ben Lomond Track from both the saddle and summit are epic. You’ll see Lake Wakatipu, The Remarkables, and of course, Queenstown! If you can’t quite make the climb all the way to the summit, just hike to the saddle. In all honestly, the views are very comparable and you won’t be disappointed!
By Bailey from My Queenstown Diary
Spend a lovely day trip on the South Island of Zealand and visit the gorgeous Blue Pools near Wanaka. It’s an easy hike to get here and suitable for the younger crowds, older generations, or small children. Just imagine visiting a small stream contained in rock walls, with some of the most crystal clear waters you have ever seen. Furthermore, that light refracts from the deep pools causing a slight blue tinge in the waters, making it well worth the visit.
The Blue Pools are located on the highway between Haast and Wanaka. It can get very crowded in the car park, so ensure you visit out of peak times. The hiking doesn’t have much elevation, a short three kilometres (1.8 miles) return, and about 1 hour to complete. The walk delves into the thick native forest before walking over a suspension bridge to gaze at the pools below.
Make this hike something to remember and jump in for a swim. Be warned though, the waters are freezing at any time of year, but also very therapeutic for tired muscles.
There are different hikes you can continue with, through the scenic Mount Aspiring National Park. Alternatively, return on the same track you came in on, back to the car park. This is one spot on the South Island, you don’t want to miss!
By Chris from Aquarius Traveller
Anchorage to Bark Bay (Abel Tasman Section Hike)
Anchorage of Bark Bay is a beautiful section of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. It’s an 11.7km walk, which most people can complete within four hours. The scenery is spectacular with sweeping coastal views for most of the way. To access the track, you’ll need to take a water taxi to Abel Tasman National Park from Kaiteriteri Beach (about an hour out of Nelson). Water taxis stop at both Anchorage and Bark Bay, so you can choose to start this walk at either end.
If the tide is out you can walk through an estuary to get from Torrent Bay to Anchorage, which cuts the walk by about an hour. Otherwise you can take the all-tide around the estuary at any time – and the scenery is beautiful. A popular side-trip along the high tide option is Cleopatra’s Pool – a mossy rockpool in the middle of the bush, which makes for a great swimming spot on sunny days. Other highlights include the Bark Bay Swing Bridge, which gives you great views of the entry of Fall River. Then, soon enough, you’ll come to the golden sands of Bark Bay, where you can have a picnic lunch before taking the water taxi back.
By Far Away Worlds
Sugar Loaf Scenic Reserve
If you’re looking for the best day hikes in New Zealand, you have to add the Sugarloaf Scenic Reserve to your bucket list. I spent seven days in New Zealand, and the Sugarloaf is one of the best hikes we did in that time.
Located a short 20-minute drive out of Christchurch, the Sugarloaf Scenic Reserve is one of the most popular destinations for day trips from Christchurch. There are multiple hiking and cycling trails in the reserve, that vary in difficulty, steepness and views.
I loved hiking here because of the variety. You can start with a tough hike straight to the peak to enjoy the view, and you can go back down from a more gentle route, wandering through the woods of the reserve. The most popular route is Mitchells Track, a 2.5km route that takes around 1 hour.
The highlight of the hike is without a doubt the view. From the peak you can see all the hills, forests and lakes that surround Christchurch. Given that it’s also a fairly simple hike, it’s well worth the effort.
By Greta from Greta’s Travels
Paekakariki Escarpment Track
The Paekakariki Escarpment Track is less than 45 minutes from Wellington. It’s an end-to-end hike and public transport at both ends, it’s easy to sort out the logistics. The hike is 10km long with ~420 metres of elevation gain. The views on this hike are what makes it so great. On a clear day you’ll get views up and down the coastline, out to Kapiti Island (see photo), and the South Island. If you’re lucky, you’ll see Mount Taranaki too.
It’s not an easy hike, but there are plenty of kids who are able to complete the track on a nice day. You can walk the hike in either direction with the biggest factor being the stairs. If you prefer going down stairs, start from the Paekakariki end. This is the most popular direction.
The track is well maintained, but make sure to save this for a nice day. When the wind is blowing, the track will feel a lot more narrow, and the two swing bridges become daunting. After your hike, explore Paekakariki to finish an awesome day trip from Wellington.
By Chur New Zealand
Moke Lake Trail
Moke Lake is one of the beautiful lakes near Queenstown. You can find there Moke Lake Loop Track, which is an easy short hike that takes about 2-3 hours. The walking trail through grassland is surrounded by mountains and goes right around the lake. The trail is about 6 km long, but you can make it longer to hike up to the mountains to see the interesting shape of Moke Lake.
Moke Lake trail is only a 15 minutes’ drive from the Queenstown downtown area, which makes it one of the best things to do in Queenstown. To get there, follow the road to Glenorchy and turn right for the road named ‘Moke Lake Road’, there is quite a steep drive up (beware that the last 8 kilometers are on the gravel road).
Directly by Moke Lake, there is a DOC campsite where you can park and stay overnight. It’s a beautiful calm place surrounded by mountains.
By Adriana from Czech the World
Gertrude Saddle, a short distance from Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park, is easily one of the best day hikes in New Zealand – assuming you visit in the right window to do it. It can only be hiked in summer (mid-December until April) and in good conditions – make sure to check at the local DOC office if they recommend you do to do it.
It should take 5-6 hours to hike the Gertrude Saddle Track and there’s heaps to see along the way. The track starts easily – a relaxing walk through a picturesque valley – and then climbs past a waterfall, around an alpine lake and then up to the saddle for an amazing view towards Milford Sound. If the weather isn’t great, or if you’re there outside of summer, you can still walk through the valley until you get to the climb – the views are awesome on this section and it’d be a nice easy walk. If you’re looking for other, walks in the region, I’d recommend Lake Marian and Key Summit.
By See the South Island
Hooker Valley Track
If you are looking for an easy, but rewarding hike, then the Hooker Valley Track is for you. The Hooker Valley Track is located by Mt. Cook on the South Island. It is a 10km track that is out and back. It takes roughly 3 hours to complete and has little-to-no incline. In fact, you actually walk along a boardwalk for much of this hike.
This beautiful hike walks you through the mountains, over a river, and by streams. It allows you to experience the beauty of the Mount Cook National Park without having to exert strenuous amounts of energy. I personally loved this hike as Eric and I used it as a recovery hike on the day after a very strenuous hike. I would highly recommend this beautiful day hike in New Zealand.
Hiking in New Zealand is an incredible experience. It’s definitely something that you should make time for on your trip. Also, if you are a thrill-seeker like me, then you should try river-rafting in New Zealand which was named one of the 10 Best Adventures Around the World.
Comment below with your favorite hike in New Zealand!