It’s no secret that New Zealand is the preferred destination of backpackers and travellers all over the world. NZ might be small in size, but this energetic, welcoming country has plenty to offer in terms of wonderful, mind-blowing sights and activities.
The North Island’s green thrives in abundance and once you step into the South, be prepared to see stretches of snowy, powdery mountains. Be prepared by toting your camera anywhere you go so you won’t miss a thing since the country has a profusion of delightful flora and fauna that will leave you thanking the generosities of Mother Nature.
There are strangely beautiful rock formations to see, walking tracks drenched in the green that one can bask in while hiking, piercing blue oceans, icy mountain views and glacier formations, boiling hot springs and so forth; all waiting for that one picture perfect moment.
Backpacking is the Best Way to See New Zealand
Backpackers and tourists quite often spend a good month in the country, and in that length of time you have probably enjoyed all of the land’s breathtaking natural sights and partook in the many activities the country offers. Even a 2 to 3 week stay on a visitor visa will yield one loads of sightseeing and fun activities particularly if you are on a leisure trip.
Backpacking or hiking is the most popular activity to do in New Zealand. NZ has the best wilderness sights in the world, and most of the tracks are taken care of by the Department of Conservation. Basically, these tracks or Great Walks as the DOC calls it, are a snap to follow.
Most of the tracks or walks are situated in the country’s mountainous or woodland regions, the exception being the Abel Tasman Coast Track. These hikes can be completed in between 2 and roughly 6 days. The tracks are maintained properly by the DOC though, so expect nothing but safe paths throughout.
Peak season begins in the spring in October and goes on until the early autumn season in April.
Here are five of the country’s most highly esteemed trails, and they are as follows:
Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk
This track is located in the North Island and is considered as one of the North’s most far-flung areas. 28 miles of the track enclose the Waikaremoana and it offers hikers a 4-5 day walk. Hikers will encounter ascending a precipitous bluff along the way but then it segues into a relaxed hike throughout the rain forest.
The area is the home of the Ngai Tuhoe, one of NZ’s Maori tribes. The track has lots of beautiful rivers, crystal-clear waterfalls and dew-specked valleys that are camera-ready. It is home to each and every North Island flora and fauna, most especially the dynamic birds that the country is known for. In here, you will hear the sweet chirps of the tui birds, wood pigeons and kiwi bird calls anywhere you go.
Starting from the Panekire Hut, the track then directs south-west to the uppermost parts of the Panekire drop. The track descends into the verdant valleys of the area’s rain forest. See red beeches, rimu trees and other local species like the matai, miro, tawa and totara.
The track has 5 DOC huts located along the way and several campsites as well. It requires reservations so don’t forget to produce one. Peak season starts around October to April and will require bookings while the rest of the months do not.
You can also book a walk with tour providers if you are not too keen on hiking solo. Read the Lake Waikeremoana brochure.
Tongariro Northern Circuit
The Tongariro Northern Circuit is a round track that can be completed in a matter of 3-4 days. This is an active volcanic area in the North, teeming with geysers, fumaroles, lakes, grasslands and lava formations.
It is also known especially to fantasy fans and movie buffs because it was used as prime location for Kiwi director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings franchise. It is best to trek this region in late November down to March.
The region has Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro, active volcanos that adds to the mystique of the North. The area’s volcanic terrain boasts of out-of-this-world landscapes, piercing blue lakes, volcanic craters and ice-cold valleys. See the wonders of the Kaimanawa range to the east, the Lake Taupo by the north and Mount Taranaki from far away west coast.
In addition, the region is the enclave for an assortment of NZ’s birds. You will see bellbirds, tui, tomtits, fantails and even the rifleman roaming and flying about the region. If you are lucky enough though, you might catch blue ducks or a much rarer sight: the karearea.
The track has 3 DOC huts together with several campsites scattered along the way. October and April call for advanced tickets while the winter season does not. Read the Tongariro brochure.
Abel Tasman Coast Track
This walk is an excellent way to discover what the South Island’s Abel Tasman National Park has to offer. You can tour the region by means of boats or kayaks, or you can cross the trail in a span of 3 to 5 days. It’s not a circuit track though, so keep in mind to book transportation at the end of the trail.
Discover a wealth of sunny beaches with fine golden sands and lush, pristine waters. You can choose to swim at the beaches or choose to hike first and take in the sights of breathtaking views. In addition, you might see fur seals scampering about or blue penguins feeding by the sea nearby Tonga Island.
It’s also not hard to miss dolphins swimming about in the oceans as well.
The DOC has provided 4 huts along with several campsites in the track. You can stay during the night on one of the huts or choose isolated, lodging house style rooms. Several campsites offer ocean views so you can have your sunset and sunrise views.
Tickets are required during the summer seasons, from October to April while the winter season does not call for advanced reservations.
The Heaphy Track in the South Island has a length of approximately 50 miles and is not an arduous hike but more of a leisurely one. It can be completed in a matter of 5 days and it’s accessible most of the time, although the steeper parts of the trail can get cold during the winter season.
There are plenty of attractions found on this area, and this includes sights like prime beaches located at the western end of the track, verdant beech woodlands and alpine basins.
Walk the trail throughout the forests and tussock downs and you might spot the great spotted kiwi in the Kahurangi National Park or even catch the night-time meat-eating land snail at play. In addition, if you are fond of bikes, you can ride bikes on the trail from the first of May to the 30th of September.
Rock formations are rife in this region since it is mainly made up of marble or limestone. It has arches, bluffs, caves and outcrops and the park has the biggest cave system known in the country.
7 DOC huts and nine campsites adorn the trail and the huts all have bunks, water, heating and toilets. Several even have lighting and gas cooking conveniences. Remember that booking is required for a stay in these huts and campsites though. Read the Heaphy track brochure.
Situated in the South Island, the region has a varied landscape; you can witness beautiful, unblemished waterfalls, alpine greenery, lush woodlands, pristine lakes and spectacular views. The trail can be completed in a matter of 3 days and it runs 24 miles long.
Find snow-capped valleys entrenched in beech forests, craggy glacial mountains and clear blue lakes in areas like the Fiordland mountains and Hollyford Valley. The Harris Saddle meanwhile, offers hikers wild, panoramic views.
The track goes by 2 national parks namely Mt. Aspiring and Fiordland. This is avian sanctuary so bird enthusiasts might catch NZ’s prettiest birds in action here; from bellbirds, fantails, parakeets, native robins, yellowheads and the esteemed kea bird.
An added attraction for Lords of the Rings trilogy fans: Begin your trek on Milford at the Divide trailhead and complete your hike on the side of Queenstown by the Dart River valley. This valley is the site responsible for breathing life on the Rohan scenes of the franchise.
The trail is lax even for beginners. It’s well-built with slow and steady ascends. Walk the trail in either course and coordinate transportation for it once you finish the track. Four DOC huts, two campsites and two private huts from Ultimate Hikes adorn the track and several companies also offer guided hikes for first-timers.
DOC huts are equipped with beds, running water, cooking accommodations and toilets. However, keep in mind that fuel, rangers and running water are not available for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, reservations for the trail need to be done in advance during the summer, from November to April. Read the Routeburn track brochure.
New Zealand is one of the best places to hike and take the beauty of Mother Nature on foot. It has some of the world’s most distinctive and most beautiful flora and fauna as a result of its unique geographical location. Each adventure promises to give you an experience unlike any other. So are you up to the challenge of the New Zealand trails?