Fancy spending a few hours – or perhaps a day – in New Zealand's Great Outdoors? Here's some ideas for enjoyable short walks in the North Island.
Length: 19.4 km, 7-8 hours one way
Difficulty: Medium, two challenging inclines
Location: Starts at the end of Mangetepopo Road, Turangi
New Zealand’s greatest day walk, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4km journey across a spectacular volcanic landscape. Experience bright turquoise crater lakes, alpine meadows, high volcanic peaks and stunning 360-degree views of the central plateau in this world-renowned hike. If you’re after something a bit shorter but still want to experience a similar landscape, there are easier hikes that leave from nearby the Chateau Tongariro Hotel.
Length: 2 hours return
Location: Starts at Rangitoto Wharf, Auckland harbour
Enjoy panoramic views of Auckland City when you climb to the summit of the dormant volcano island of Rangitoto. Dominating the Hauraki Golf with its conical peak, Rangitoto is an Auckland icon. This popular summit walk begins at Rangitoto Wharf and climbs through lava fields and forest to the island’s peak at 259m above sea level. The walk is easily accessible, with regular 25-minute ferries leaving for Rangitoto Wharf from Auckland City's viaduct daily.
Length: 20 km, 8 hours one way
Difficulty: Difficult, hiking experience required
Location: Starts at Oki Bay in Rawhiti, Bay of Islands.
Winding through native bush and with vast ocean and island views, the Cape Brett Walkway is a challenging but rewarding coastal journey in the Bay of Islands. This iconic hike finishes at the old lighthouse, now a Department of Conservation Hut, where you can either stay overnight and walk back the next day or get a boat to pick you up once you complete the walk.
Length: 70 kilometres, choose a small section for a day walk
Location: Waitakere Ranges
The Hillary Trail is a network of well-maintained trails on Auckland’s ruggedly beautiful West Coast. Named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, the trail epitomises the sense of adventure that Hillary was famous for. Enjoy spectacular cliff-top views of black sand surf beaches before you delve into lush native forest, complete with cascading waterfalls and bubbling streams. Choose a small section to suit your needs for a day hike – easy-to-access sections include entrances in Titirangi, Muriwai, Swanson and Piha, which are all within a 45-minute drive from Auckland City. Read a first-hand account here.
Length: 4.15 km, 2-3 hours return
Difficulty: Easy - medium
Location: Aorangi Forest Park. Entrance off Cape Palliser Road.
Known simply as “The Pinnacles”, this walk meanders through bush and takes you right into the Putangirua Pinnacles – large, crumbly rock stalagmites rising tens of metres into the air. The Pinnacles played a starring part in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, forming the backdrop for the eerie Army of the Dead scenes in The Return of the King. You’ll also enjoy excellent views of Palliser Bay and Lake Onoke as you look out towards the South Island.
Length: 10 km, 7 hours return
Difficulty: Easy - Medium
Location: Northern Coromandel Peninsula, between Port Jackson and Port Charles
The Coromandel Coastal Track follows easy-grade farmland, meandering through coastal forest and offering panoramic views of the Coromandel Pinnacles, Great Barrier Island, Port Charles and Cuvier Island. The track is a walkway between Stony Bay campground and Fletcher Bay campground, so there are options for accommodation also.
Length: 5.4km, 1 hour 45 min
Location: Begins from Blue Lake campground
This easy walking loop circles Rotorua’s beautiful Blue Lake, taking in pristine beaches, native bush and the exotic conifers of Whakarewarewa Forest. High points in the loop provide great views over both Blue Lake and nearby Green Lake Rotokakahi. This is a great option for an easy and picturesque walk if you’re visiting Rotorua.
Length: 4km, 2 ½ hours
Difficulty: Easy – medium
Location: Wenderholm Regional Park
Only 30 minutes’ drive from Auckland CBD, Wenderholm Regional Park is known for its long, tranquil beaches and shady pohutukawa trees. The Wenderholm Perimeter Track will reward walkers with long-range views up the Puhoi Valley and across the sea to islands across the Hauraki Gulf. When you visit, try to spot the rare North Island robin, and enjoy a swim at one of the pristine beaches to cool down.