With summer just around the corner, it’s time for us all to get out and explore our beautiful country. With so many amazing things to do here in NZ, it’s a tough call what to do each and every day. Beach, regional park, bungy jump, skydive, geothermal attraction, skiing, golf, surfing…the list goes on!
One of the most popular activities here in New Zealand is walking, or as we like to call it here, tramping. With so much open space, it’s perhaps no surprise that we have amazing walks. We do in fact have nine that are considered ‘New Zealand’s Great Walks’ and you can read more about them in a recent blog post.
In this post, however, we wanted to focus more on the one-day walks. You know the ones. The sun is shining and you need to get out and exercise but it would be pretty cool if you could see some amazing things along the way. Those kind of walks. You don’t need to pack the kitchen sink in order to complete the walk. Just a few snacks, some water and maybe some warm clothes in case the weather changes.
Well, you’re in luck. We have heaps of those amazing one day walks in New Zealand. From Cape Reinga to Stewart Island, you will find an amazing day walk pretty much wherever you go. Here are 10 of the best one day walks in New Zealand for you to get stuck into this summer.
1. Key Summit Track
If you want to experience the magnificent Routeburn Track but don’t have the time to commit to complete the entire Great Walk, then this is a great opportunity to tackle one of the best sections. This is not a particularly long walk – it’s only a 3.4km return track, however, it is pretty hilly as you head up to Key Summit. Once you get to the top, you are rewarded with stunning views across the Humboldt and Darran Mountains.
2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Arguably New Zealand’s best one day walk, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a trek which will take you across a volcanic alpine landscape, skirting past Mt Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe) as well as Mt Tongariro. The 19.4km one-way track is a great challenge. The weather can be changeable even if you set off in glorious sunshine so pack for all conditions. A highlight is climbing to the top of the Mangatepopo Valley and looking down over the stunningly brilliant Emerald Lakes.
Find out more: https://www.doc.govt.nz/tongariroalpinecrossing
3. Charming Creek Walkway
Heading out to the West Coast, this is arguably the highlight of the numerous walks on that rugged coastline. The 9.5km one-way walk follows an old coal railway line through native bush in the Ngakawau River Gorge. The walk will take around 6 hours return and there is a lot to see along the way. From rusty relics to the impressive suspension bridge, there are lots of photo ops on this beautiful walk. A highlight is the mighty Mangatini Falls.
4. The Mueller Hut Walk
The Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is one of the best places in New Zealand for walkers. There are so many amazing tracks to pick from (which is why we have two on our list!). The Mueller Hut Track is in the Sealy Range and offers a 36o-degree panorama from where you will see glaciers, ice cliffs, rock faces and New Zealand’s highest mountain. This 5.2km one-way track takes around 4 hours one way and you can choose to stay at the Muller Hut (bookings are required). Along the way, you will pass the Sealy Tarns which offer spectacular views of the Hooker Valley.
5. Hooker Valley Track
This is perhaps one of New Zealand’s most Instagrammed walking tracks and is known as one of New Zealand’s best one-day walks. The track winds its way up the Hooker Valley, past alpine streams and glaciers under the shadow of the magnificent Mount Cook. This is a 10km return track (returning via the same track) which should take around 3 hours. Always allow more time for photos and just kicking back and enjoying the majestic scenery. There are three impressive swing bridges along the track and you will often see (or hear!) avalanches from the nearby Mount Sefton.
6. Pouakai Crossing
This is perhaps the closest challenger to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing for the title of New Zealand’s best one day walk. The Pouakai Crossing is a one-day walk version of the popular 2-3 day Pouakai Circuit. The walk will wind you around the lower slopes of the wonderfully iconic Mt Taranaki and take you through some wonderfully diverse landscapes including moss swamps, towering cliffs and magnificent waterfalls. The walk is 19kms one way and will take around 8-9 hours to complete putting it on par with the Tongariro Crossing.
7. Mount Robert Circuit
The Nelson Lakes National Park is yet another one of New Zealand’s beautiful parks. This loop track which will take you on a steep journey up Mount Robert is not for the faint-hearted but the rewards are pretty spectacular. The route follows the Pinchgut Track and Paddy’s Track to form a 9km circuit. After making your way up a steep zigzag path, you will enjoy amazing views looking back over Lake Rotoiti which make everything worthwhile! It’s a 5-hour return walk or it can be done as an overnight stay with a stay over at Bushline Hut.
8. Twilight – Te Werahi Loop
If you are heading up to Cape Reinga and you fancy walking a bit further than the trip from the car park to the lighthouse, the Twilight – Te Werahi Loop Track is a great way to explore beautiful Northland. The 16km loop track takes around 5 hours to complete and includes a number of different terrains including paddocks, beaches, dunes and swampland. It’s a great trail for nature lovers as the wetland areas attract lots of native birds. There are also some spectacular views along the walk to rival those up at Cape Reinga.
9. Gertrude Saddle
If you are looking for something challenging and beautiful, then head down to the Fiordland National Park. The track is a 7km return trip via the same track, however, expect it to take you 4-6 hours. The track is only recommended for experienced trampers and is not recommend for those with a fear of heights as the track is narrow in parts and goes up steep rock slabs. If you’re a bit of an adventurer though, you’ll feel like you’re part of the Fellowship heading up and over the mountains in Lord of the Rings!
10. Lake Rotoiti Circuit
Our final walk is the longest but also the flattest. Another of our recommended one day walks that will take you to the Nelson Lakes National Park and in particular, Lake Rotoiti. This is a 23km or 31km (via swingbridge) circuit that will take you between 7-10 hours to complete. It’s a truly magnificent one day walk that will take you around the shores of the stunning Lake Rotoiti. There are options to take a water taxi or for an overnight stay at Lakehead Hut or Coldwater Hut but to complete the walk in a day is a great challenge. Make a weekend of it and tackle the Lake Rotoiti Circuit and Mount Robert Circuit in one weekend!
Exploring New Zealand on foot
These are just 10 of our favourite one day walks in New Zealand. There are hundreds, if not thousands of other great walks so get out there and get exploring. New Zealand is a fantastic country to explore, especially on foot where you have the time to really appreciate everything going on around you.
We’d love to hear about your tramping experience in New Zealand and let us in on any hidden gem tracks you have come across on your travels. For more ideas of great one day walks in New Zealand, heal to the DOC website.
And don’t forget, if you need to rent a car to get you to any of these awesome walks, we’ve got great deals on throughout the year so make sure you check them out!
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