Any traveler heading to New Zealand is surely an adventure enthusiast. I'm sure you're no different! After 7 months on the road on our RTW Honeymoon, we headed to New Zealand for life in a Campervan for 6 weeks. There is certainly no shortage of amazing hikes to head out on while on either Island. (For the most epic of all the hikes research the New Zealand Great Walks). The day hikes listed here, for us, was the most "bang for your buck". We didn't have the gear for multi-day hikes but still had the adventure in our hearts to see some of New Zealand's summits. Everything listed can be completed in about 2 - 8 hours.
Key Summit @ The Divide
(3 Hours Return)
Ranking this the easiest trek with the biggest reward. Overlooking Fiordland National Park this hike switchbacks up the mountains through bush trails. At the summit you’ll not only find the most picturesque potty you’ll ever see, but you’ll also be able to navigate around a 30 minute loop for full 360 views.
I’d definitely recommend waiting for a clear day (rare in this neck of the woods). Mountain peaks as far as the eye can see.
(6 Hour Return)
Ready to fee the burn? If I was ever going to give up on a trail this was the one for me. Switching back and forth along the open-faced mountain side was a constant reminder of how far we had yet to climb. Recommended 6hr return hike, we ended up at 4hrs up and 3 down. Sure, there were 18 year old local kids that were literally running up the side of the mountain, but there were also couples moving slower than we were. Make sure to start early for this one.
The view just kept getting better and better. I kept thinking - I don’t need to go up any further… there It’s beautiful just right here! But somehow the view does change, the mountain gets more unique and interesting and the reward truly is that much greater.
You are here looking north over Lake Wanaka and fortunately (for us on a chilly day) we were always in the sun…. Keep that in mind if you’re heading up in the dead of summer.
Lookout Point: Fiordland National Park
(3 hours return)
A surprise lovely day hike for us a result in staying in the nearby DOC campsite. This hike (as compared with the others on this list) was the most challenging trail. We were balancing on damp tree roots, using branches to lift ourselves up the side of the trail and holding on to plants as we slipped around mud. Fortunetly, with a short return time of 3hrs you aren’t spending too long on the trail… just get ready to feel your stairmaster buns burn!
Abel Tasman (Partial Trek)
(4 hours return)
The Abel Tasman 3-5 DAY trail is listed as one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”. Overnight hiking wasn’t a part of our trip as we were nearing the end of our Round-the-World trip and didn’t quite have the hiking gear for these treks (nor the budget - DOC huts are actually quite expensive due to their remote nature).
Parking at the souther “start” point for the Great Walk we were able to make a day trip of leaving the starting point and hiking up to Appletree Bay where we were able to hang out at the walking/boating access only beach.
This is by far the least challenging trek of all listed on this page and you will find hikers of all ages along this route. Good tip - avoid busy weekend days with local tourists and rememeber to pack your bathing suit!
Tongariro Alpine Crossing AKA Mt. Doom (LOTR)
(7 hours - 1 way - transportation needed)
First things first: DO NOT MISS THIS HIKE.
This was definitely the most unique experience we had in 6 full weeks in New Zealand. Mountains are mountains, the sea is the sea, but I don’t know anywhere else on earth to see the diverse topography you’ll find on this 7 hour crossing.
Crossing: it is just that. I’m not exactly sure how with all of our travel planning and after talking to several locals and other tourists during our first 4 weeks did we miss this fact: This is a ONE-WAY DAY TREK. That means that when you park your car, you spend the next 7 hours walking away from it... so you need:
Transportation: As of April 2016 there were several shuttles running from the “end” of the track back to the “start” at a cost of $30NZD/pp. (Save money by sending one person to get the car while the other one waits.) We were told the last shuttle ran at 5:30pm.
All in all, unlike any other day hike we encountered, this one required a bit of planning and we found ourselves lost and confused when we pulled into the parking lot expecting to return to it. Our investigation driving around town to figure out “the deal” cost us about 2hours of our sunny day. Don’t make the mistake and ask around town what the “deal is” the day before you plan to hike.
Weather: For me, sunny is always better, but if you end up with a mega cloudy day, don’t be put off… you ARE hiking Mt. Doom by all means… it might make the scenery that much more dramatic.
OTHER DAY HIKES TO CONSIDER
- Mt Burns
- Fanthams Peak
- The Pinnacles @ Coromandel