New Zealand’s most popular tramping/trekking tracks and a river journey are collectively known as the Great Walks. This guide has been compiled by the New Zealand Information Network to introduce you to these crown jewels of our tramping track network.
The nine Great Walks were selected because of their popularity with both visitors and local trampers, and for their outstanding scenery. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has upgraded these tracks over recent years to well-marked bench tracks suitable for any person who is reasonably fit. Modern well-equipped backcountry huts and picturesque campsites are placed at convenient distances along the tracks, which take three to five days to traverse.
There are three Great Walks in the North Island. Lake Waikaremoana Track circles a beautiful lake in a mystical area of splendid isolation. Tongariro Northern Circuit crosses a moonscape of thermal vents around an active volcano. Whanganui River Journey is a fun-filled float trip by canoe, kayak or raft through spectacular gorges and exciting rapids.
The six South Island walks offer an even greater diversity of scenery. Abel Tasman Coast Track is the most popular walk along gentle bush tracks and golden beaches. Heaphy Track passes through impressive limestone country and ends with a magnificent beach walk. Routeburn Track penetrates an alpine world of high passes and towering peaks. Milford Track is the premier attraction, having earned its reputation as ‘the finest walk in the world’. Kepler Track has outstanding alpine, lake and river scenery. Rakiura Track on Stewart Island, which was opened in 2001, covers unspoiled forest and coastal scenery.
Hut and campsite passes need to be purchased before starting out on your trip. The three most popular ones, Abel Tasman, Milford and Routeburn have a booking system which guarantees a bunk for the night, but the others are on a first come first served basis. Bookings are heaviest in the summer season, particularly in January.
For the active visitor the Great Walks are the ultimate way to see New Zealand’s natural environment at its very best.