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Walking and Hiking in New Zealand

Walker enjoying a forest trail in new Zealand

New Zealand is home to 14 National Parks and many more conservation parks and regional parks, all providing endless opportunities for hiking and walking, ranging from short 15 minute walks from the road edge, to epic 10 day wilderness hikes and everything in between.  Within our team of travel consultants we have walked most of New Zealand’s Great Walks and regularly enjoy many of the shorter walks throughout the country, so we have heaps of knowledge to help you include some of the fantastic walks into your own self drive holiday. 

How hard is the walking?

The walking can be as hard or as easy as you choose.  In New Zealand there are walks that suit all abilities, from short beach and forest boardwalks at Ship Creek on the West Coast, to 10 day hikes that circumnavigate the remote Stewart Island.  The Department of Conservation website is a great source of information on walks in different areas, with short and long walks listed. 

If you’re not sure you can manage a multi-day hike, but still want to experience the beauty of the Milford or Routeburn Tracks there are shorter one day guided options available that include transport and lunch and a knowledgeable local guide.  If you would like to experience multi-day hikes, the benefit of a guided walk is you only carry a small day pack with your lunch and clothing for the day, which makes for an easier hike.  We have guided multi day hikes that range in difficulty, from easy to moderate to hard.  If you’re after an easier guided multi day hike in Fiordland, the spectacular Hollyford Valley is a great alternative to the slightly more challenging Milford and Routeburn Tracks. 

If you are planning on doing some longer walks and hikes during your New Zealand holiday, you’ll enjoy it much more if you do some walking exercise at home in the weeks leading up to your holiday.

Guided walks vs unguided walks

Guided walks take the hassle of planning out of the picture which suits many of our international visitors who may not be familiar with hiking in New Zealand or are unable to bring all of their own hiking equipment.  Experienced companies arrange return transport to the start and from the finish of the walk, delicious food and beverages are provided and a knowledgeable guide accompanies you providing a rich source of information on the flora and fauna you’ll see.  For multi day hikes an extra bonus is that at the end of a hard days walk, you enjoy great food prepared for you and you sleep in comfortable lodges with hot showers and often in your own private room.

Many short day walks can be accessed easily and are well marked so you can walk these unguided on your own.  The Department of Conservation website has information on the walks available in each area or visit the regional DOC office for up to date information.  For longer multi day hikes, the Great Walks website provides information on our most popular hikes, an important thing to note is that many of the huts on the Great Walks need to be booked in advance.  For all unguided walks, both day walks and multi day hikes there are a few things to consider from the Outdoor Safety Code.  Firstly plan your trip, tell someone your plans, be aware of the weather (visit metservice), know your limits and take sufficient supplies.

What to bring

If you’re planning on walking a multi-day hike, then make sure you bring suitable footwear and clothing for this length of walk and the conditions you’ll encounter.  For guided walks you’ll be provided with a list of what to bring, covering the types of clothing and personal effects that will make your walking experience more comfortable.  We can send you a copy of this list for your planning.

For unguided independent walking and hiking you need to take sufficient supplies, including all food, sleeping gear and personal effects.  The Department of Conservation provides a gear list for Great Walks. This is also an excellent guide for longer day walks where you need to be prepared with enough food, warm clothing and waterproof clothing in case you are out longer than expected.

If you are bringing hiking boots or shoes from home make sure they have been thoroughly cleaned first as airport border control won’t allow dirty hiking gear into New Zealand in case it carries pests that we don’t have here.

Getting to and from the walks 

Guided walks will pick you up from your accommodation and take you to the start of the walk and at the end you will be transferred back to your accommodation.  Many of the short walks and day walks that are listed on the Department of Conservation website can be driven to in your rental car and you can walk from the road.  Unguided multi day walks are often one way and the start and finish locations are very far apart and in remote locations, so you will need to organise shuttle transfers.  Many of the Great Walks are well catered for and if you visit the website for each individual walk transfer and shuttle companies will be listed.