NZ - The 3 Best Day Hikes - North Island

NZ - The 3 Best Day Hikes - North Island

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Caveat - this blog is being written in December 2020 year of Covid.  There is an air of excitement that international travel may be returning soon between New Zealand and Australia.  After the last 6 months of walking around your local park, you're fitter than ever before, so when you head to New Zealand you should include some of their astonishingly beautiful walks into your itinerary planning.

These are day hikes. You need to be able to walk 20km in a day (test this out before you commit) taken at a steady pace with lots of stops for photo's and enjoying the scenery, most people with a reasonable level of fitness can handle the walks.  You might only want to do one in your time on the North Island so read our information, have a look at the links attached and decide which one appeals to you most.  If you have the time definitely do all three, they are all marvellous contrasts against each other. 

For all long day hikes, it's important to make sure you do the following:

  • Carry clothes for all weather conditions, both warm and waterproof
  • Take water, food, a head torch and toilet paper
  • Inform someone responsible of your plans and don't forget to check back in with them when you return safely
  • Be aware of weather forecasts, talk to local information centres for advice

1. Pinnacles Walk, Coromandel

The Kauaeranga Kauri Trail is our pick of the walk to do if you only do one. This is also the closest walk to Auckland (2hrs) or the first to do if you are doing all three.  The Coromandel is an area of contrast to explore so this will be just one of the days you spend here.  You can extend this walk over two days if you want to stay at Pinnacle Hut, the walks halfway point.

The trail itself is easy walking following the packhorse logging track from the Kauaeranga Visitor Centre. The scenery along the walk is varied and spectacular with dazzling views of the Coromandel Peninsula from the summit. Learn a little about the logging history of the area before you hike.

Walk details - 14 km, 8 hrs round trip

Closest town - Thames

Stay - Dickson Holiday Park, Thames

2. Te Kau Wae-a-Maui / Cape Kidnappers Hike, Hawke's Bay

After you spend a day or two checking out the wineries of the Hawke's Bay area you are going to need to walk it off! Cape Kidnappers Hike is the best way to do that.

This is a beach walk so you need to make enquires locally to time your walk to work with the tides. The local iSITE (Tourist information) will help you with this, the closest to the walk is in Hastings, you will drive through it on the way into Clifton.

Tides permitting,  try to be on the walk at dusk or dawn to look for wild Kiwi's. New Zealand's largest gannet colony is your destination on this walk but the journey there is breathtaking, enjoy the stroll, bring one of the excellent bottles of wine you've found along your journey, it deserves this backdrop!

Walk details - 19 km, 5 hr return trip

Closest town - Clifton

Stay - Clifton Motor Camp

2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing - Tongariro NP

Photo: Paul Abbott

Halfway between Auckland and Wellington is the Tongariro National Park and the one-way crossing track that is not only a perfect contrast to the other walks it's considered by a lot of people to be the quintessential day hike of the North Island. Not only a dual world heritage site but considered one of the top 10 day hikes in the world. Think prehistoric landscape with volcanic craters and tussock grasslands.  Calling the hike a unique experience seems inadequate. It's a once in a lifetime experience.

There is a big HOWEVER here, This walk requires more consideration than most, being an alpine area and difficult terrain underfoot for a large part of the walk. Consider all these points in addition to those above:

  • Only attempt the walk between October and April
  • Good sturdy hiking boots are not optional but essential
  • Start the hike by 8 am to ensure you complete it before dark
  • Read the information and watch the video linked here to decide if this walk is right for you
  • This is a one-way hike and you can't park at the start of the hike so book space on the shuttle service that leaves from the National Park Village or directly from your Campground.
Walk details - 19.5 km, 8 hrs oneway

Closest town - Whakapapa

Stay - Whakapapa Holiday Park

New Zealand is a land of incredible natural beauty and along with being a fabulous place for road tripping and probably the best country in the world to hire a Motorhome, it's also hiking (or 'tramping' as the Kiwi's like to call it) utopia.  Just take all the advice above.

Check out our drive itineraries - here

Other Photo Credits: Tourism NZ, Graeme Murray and Camilla Rutherford

Shelley Richardson

Shelley Richardson

Shelley has been working in the travel industry for over 30 years, in aviation, for tour operators and since 2016 for DriveNow. Having travelled extensively worldwide, alone, as a couple and with her family, Shelley has experience to share about how to make the most of your holiday, especially road-trips to amazing destinations.

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