Ten New Zealand hiking trails you've never heard of (but should consider trying!)
16 Feb 2018
The Great Walks of New Zealand get more than their fair share of media space – and rightly so. But, there are other amazing paths to walk in New Zealand’s big wild. Here are some of our favourite lesser-known New Zealand hiking trails.
1. Tutoko Valley Route, Fiordland
Not the easiest of tracks but worth every muddy step, this five-hour hike takes you deep into beech forest. It is a river valley route with panoramic views of impressive mountains – definitely one of the most underrated tracks in the region. The gradient is not steep, but you will have to walk through mud and puddles – even jumping over tree roots – eventually reaching a swamp and an open river valley.
Location: The Tutoko Valley Route is signposted on the side of the Milford Road just after the Tutoko River Bridge.
2. Catlins River Walk, Southland
You’ve possibly never heard of The Catlins. This remote (but spectacular) southern spot doesn’t make it to many itineraries. For those who do stumble upon it, The Catlins remains a holiday highlight. Among its many walks is the 4 – 5 hours’ Catlins River Walk. It can be combined with other walks to form a larger loop track if keen. Expect silver beech forest and an opportunity to see rare birds like the rifleman and mohua/ yellowhead along with beautiful waterfalls and suspension bridges.
Location: South of Owaka on the Southern Scenic Route SH92 on Catlins Valley Road.
3. Rob Roy Glacier Track, Wanaka
Not to be confused with Wanaka’s Instagram hero, Roys Peak, Rob Roy Glacier Track is a 10km stunning walk in Mount Aspiring National Park. A little known gem among New Zealand’s hiking trails, this valley walk features waterfalls, a swing bridge (yes, we do have a lot of them around!) and stunning views, including that of the glacier. If it’s warm enough and you’re up to it, take a wee dip in one of the rock pools, filled with icy cold glacier water, before the walk back down.
Location: The track starts at the Raspberry Creek car park, 54 km west of Wanaka on the Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road.
4. Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara Walking Tracks, Stewart Island
This is a collection of tracks in Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island. Predator-free, Ulva Island is wilderness at its shining best. There are some seriously impressive lookouts and stunning beaches. Allow plenty of time to soak in this beauty and listen to the birdsong.
Location: Starts at Post Office Bay.
5. Hooker Valley Track, Canterbury - One of our favourite New Zealand hiking trails
This popular walk in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is one you’ve probably heard about. Not classified a Great Walk, but great in every aspect, this easy walk has it all – big mountains (including Aoraki Mount Cook), bigger vistas, swing bridges, picturesque icebergs and glaciers. Your camera will be put to good use on this tramp – there is something to capture at every bend.
Location: This track starts 2km from Aoraki Mount Cook village.
6. Cape Foulwind Walkway, West Coast
Combine an epic New Zealand wildlife experience with a grand walk and you get Cape Foulwind Walkway. Featuring a seal colony and a lighthouse, this rugged 3 – 4 hours headland walk has panoramic coastal views to die for. And if you thought the Fiordland keas are cheeky, wait till you encounter the wekas on this walkway – out to steal your food at every opportunity!
Location: This walk is located 15 minutes from the town of Westport.
7. Te Whara Track, Northland
Some of the best coastal forest Mother Nature can offer is found on this 7.5km (one way) walk in the winterless north. This is an ancient Maori trail and has a steep gradient, but the views you get are totally worth the gruelling climb. The track brings you back to Ocean Beach, a beautiful sandy bay sweeping northwards and a very popular summer spot.
Location: Start at Urquhart Bay car park near Whangarei.
8. Pouakai Crossing, Taranaki
You know you’re in for a stunner when even the car park that marks the start of the track is spot you could happily camp at (if permitted of course!). Located in Egmont National Park, this track traverses the lower slopes of Mt Taranaki. Like many New Zealand hiking trails, expect towering cliffs, lush bush, a moss swamp and stunning views. What sets it apart from the rest – that view of Mt Taranaki!
Location: North Egmont, 29km from New Plymouth.
9. Aotea Track, Auckland
The mountainous inland of Great Barrier Island features spectacular landscape, secluded hot springs and rich history. It is a multi-day track but you can slice and dice as you wish to do, combining one or two sections to make it into a day walk. We recommend including Kaitoke Hot Springs and an overnight stay at Mt Heale Hut – the sunset here is awesome!
Location: This track has multiple entry points around the Great Barrier Island.
10. Lake Waikareiti Walk, Eastland
Deep inside Te Urewera, this two-hour walk gives you a good sense of the remoteness that makes this region so special – get off the grid and enjoy the birdsong as you walk through red and silver beech forest, soaking in the tranquillity of Lake Waikareiti. There is shelter at the top of the track at the lake’s edge along with stunning views if you want to make it an overnighter.
Location: Start just over the Aniwaniwa Stream Road Bridge.