10 great New Zealand walks to do this summer

Mangawhai Heads, Northland (iStock)
Mangawhai Heads, Northland (iStock)

With summer in full swing it's the best time to dust off your tramping boots and pack, grab some mates and get out in that sunshine and enjoy our beautiful country.

New Zealand is known for its mind-blowing scenery, made famous through Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Narnia series, and sometimes it's worth venturing off the beaten track to discover the hidden beauty for yourself.

Here are 10 walking tracks which are definitely worth a visit, and ones you may not have heard of before.


1.      Northland: Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway


This leisurely walkway is situated up high, providing stunning broad coastal views of Mangawhai Beach and the wider Bream Bay.

One thing to note: The return journey is best achieved from the beach if the tide is right. However at high tide walkers can head back down the same track they came from.

Location: Mangawhai, just over an hour north of Auckland

Length: 5km return, 2-3 hoursAccess: From the Mangawhai township. The track begins near the Surf Club at the eastern end of Wintle St

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2.      Great Barrier Island: Harataonga Coastal Walkway


This walkway doesn't involve steep hills like many other tracks on the island. Instead, this track follows the road that used to link both ends of the island. It winds through forest, a stream and a coastline of beach views before ending at the south end of Okiwi Basin.

One thing to note: The track passes through some private property so keep to the marked track.

Location: Great Barrier Island, a three-hour ferry ride from Auckland

Length: 4-5 hours one way Access: From either the Harataonga campsite, or from Aotea Rd in Okiwi

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3.      Coromandel: Kauaeranga Kauri Trail (Pinnacles Walk)

This walk can be completed in a day but also as an overnighter, and proves to be one of the more popular tracks. It heads to the summit of the Pinnacles, overlooking views of the Coromandel Peninsula. Trampers can stay overnight in the comfy Pinnacles Hut that has 80 bunk beds, cooking, heating, lighting and mattresses.

One thing to note: You can do a side trip to the Pinnacles Hut which takes 40 minutes one way down a sign-posted track.

Location: Coromandel/Thames

Length: 6 km, 3 hours one way Access: The track starts past the Kauaeranga Visitor Centre along Kauaeranga Valley Road. Take the southern entrance to Thames from State Highway 25

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4.      Taranaki: Fantham's Peak and Syme Hut

This tramp offers views up Mt Egmont and down to the Taranaki Ring Plain and the coastline. It's part of the Dawson Falls tramping tracks, so if this one doesn't quite suit, there are other variations such as the Sratford Plateau Track, Waingongoro Loop Track, and Lake Dive Track.

One thing to note: Syme Hut has 10 bunk beds and mattresses. Booking is not required – it's first in, first served. There is also a Lake Dive Hut.

Location: Dawson Falls/East Egmont, about a 30 minute drive from Stratford.

Length: 5-6 hours return, or overnight

Access: Take the Fanthams Peak Track above the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre. Follow the track uphill past the Hooker Shelter to the Kapuni Lodge junction. This is where the track ascends steeply up a staircase to meet toe Upper Lake Dive Track

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5.      Wellington: Red Rocks Reserve

This coastal walk takes you on a four-wheel-drive track from Owhiro Bay to the Red Rocks. It takes just under an hour and passes through an unusual rock formation created by an outcrop of ancient volcanic pillow lava. Despite its brevity, the walk is known for leading to a New Zealand fur seal colony at Sinclair Head.

One thing to note: Just beyond Red Rocks there's a track that leads to Te Kopahau Reserve.

Location: South coast between Owhiro Bay and Sinclair Head/ Rimpurapu

Length: 30-40 minutes

Access: Begin walking from Owhiro Bay, which has toilets.

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6.      Marlborough Sounds: Queen Charlotte Track


Many New Zealanders have been on this track, or at least know of it, and for good reason. It provides idyllic views of the Marlborough Sounds, starting from Ship Cove Anakiwa in the Grove Arm of Queen Charlotte Sound.

One thing to note: You can also mountain-bike this track.

Location: Access to Ship Cove for most is by boat and a number of companies operate regular shuttle runs between Picton to various points along the track.

Length: 71 km one way, 3-5 days

Access: It is recommended to start this track from Ship Cove. Boat operators are available to carry your pack between accommodation places.

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7.      Nelson: Heaphy Track


This track covers some of the most diverse landscape in one track, expanding through tussock downs, forests and nikau palms, and West Coast seas. Look out for great spotted kiwi and nocturnal land snail. This track can be dissected into smaller walks, depending on where you start and how long you want to go for. A popular two-day, one-night trip is on the western side from Kohaihai to Heaphy Hut, returning to Kohaihai.

One thing to note: Mountain bikes are allowed between May and September. Also, this is not a circuit track.

Location: The track is located in Kahurangi Nation Park in the Nelson/Tasman region

Length: 78.4km, 4-6 days where you stay at Perry Saddle, Saxon, James Mackey and Heaphy Huts.

Access: You can start the track from Brown Hut in Golden Bay or from Kohaihai on the West Coast.

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8.      Kaikoura: Mt Fyffe and the Seaward Kaikoura Range

Mt Fyffe pierces the Kaikoura skyline, and this track will offer views over the Kaikoura plains and peninsula. On a clear day the view includes Banks Peninsula and the North Island.

One thing to note: For a shorter journey you can walk as far as Mt Fyffe Hut, which takes five hours return, or the lookout point near a firepond, which is just an hour above the carpark.

Location: Just a nine-minute drive north of Kaikoura, via Mt Fyffe Rd or State Highway 1.

Length: 8 hours return, 1602m high

Access: From Mt Fyffe car park follow the 4WD road up the mountain's south-west ridge. This road goes right to the summit.

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9.      Queenstown: Earnslaw Burn Glacier


This track follows Earnslaw Burn through bush to the tussock basin at the head of the valley for views of an icefall on Mt Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi. The earn created a number of waterfalls that tumble down huge rock faces. Scenery here may be familiar from locations in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpcted Journey.

One thing to note: The track can be hard to find in places, including a river crossing which can be dangerous in heavy rain. Experience is essential.

Location: A 20 minute drive from Glenorchy

Length: 8-12 hours

Access: The track starts on the left bank of the Earnslaw Burn on the Glenorchy – Paradise Rd

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10.  Fiordland: George Sound

This track links four stunning lakes and George Sound together, providing great kayaking and fishing opportunities. It crosses two major valley systems and crosses one mountain range, rising up to 900 metres.

One thing to note: The George Sound route requires transport across Lake Te Anau and is only recommended for experienced, well-equipped groups.

Location: Lake Te Anau is a 17 minute drive from Fiorland Visitor Information Centre

Length: 17.8 km, 3-4 days one way

Access: The track from Middle Fiord of Lake Te Anau to Lake Hankinson is signposted from the beach and takes 15 minutes. You must travel 20 minutes across Lake Hankinson, either by kayak or boat to be arranged with a local operator.

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