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New Zealand's Best Day Walks

Ashley Forest August 2017 updated

New Zealand’s Best Day Walks.  Whilst walking in the Ashley Forest recently, I was thinking about the opportunities day walks present for visitors to see New Zealand from a different perspective – they are immeasurable.   Visitors are often unaware of the close proximity of day walks in just about every region of the country.  In no particular order, here are just a few that may get you thinking about adding one or two to your itinerary.   The beauty of self drive holidays is that you have the flexibility to stop and enjoy a walk when it suits you.

I am currently training for the Tora Walk (Southern Wairarapa) in November.  This is a three day walk/hike and will be quite challenging for me so I am putting in the work now to ensure a reasonable level of fitness when the time comes.

North Island, New Zealand 

stingray bay

Stingray Bay – Coromandel

Coromandel Coastal Walkway

The Coromandel Coastal Walkway is a really popular New Zealand Day Walk.   If you love beaches then this is the walk for you.   I love this part of the country and the next time I visit this walk will be on my “to do” list.   The walk takes around 7 hours return.  Passing beneath Mt Moehau, the track traverses pristine bush, farmland and coastline.  For those on a self drive tour the track is accessible from Stony Bay which is around 2 hour’s drive from Whitianga.  You will need to allow a full day.   The other option is to do part of the track and make the length of the walk fit into your timetable.

A shorter option which you can do on your way to one of the Coromandel Beaches is Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway which follows the old railway line between Paeroa and Waihi, giving access to impressive remains from the mining and railway eras.  Karangahake is on SH2 between Paeroa and Waihi, at the base of the Coromandel Range.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Tongariro WalkwayTongariro Alpine Crossing

A higher level of fitness is required for this one – it’s worth getting fit for though!  Earlier this year we booked some clients on this very popular day walk.  This is what they had to say:

“Incredible views;  fairly challenging; exhausted at the end of the day – but well worth it.”

If you want to see amazing volcanic scenery, active craters and emerald lakes and you are fit and energetic we highly recommend you put this day walk on your list.  The track has a car park at either end and shuttles operate from nearby villages.  You will need to allocate two days of your itinerary to achieve this worthwhile walk.

South Island, New Zealand

Mt Iron Walkway

Lake Wanaka – So many tracks and so little time!

A great short walk is the Mt Iron Track.  This is a loop track and the view from the top offers 360 degrees viewing of some of the best scenery on the South Island.  4.5km long the track takes about 1.5 hours up and back.   The next time I walk this track I will take a picnic and spend some time enjoying the views from the top.

For something slightly more challenging, Jeanette is a great fan of Rob Roy Glacier Walk.  3-4 hours walking, 10 km of Alpine scenery.  You can choose to go with a guide and enjoy walking with someone that has amazing knowledge of the flora and fauna; birdlife and the surrounding views or just enjoy an independent walk at your own pace.

 Milford Sound

Milford Sound credit Rob SuistedMilford Sound

The world-renowned Milford Track is typically a 4 day walk/hike.  However, it is possible to do a one day walk and there are various options for this so so don’t discount adding a walk in this amazing and world re-knowned area to your itinerary.


AbelTasmanCleopatras-PoolCleopatra Falls, Abel Tasman Walkway

The Abel Tasman area offers a myriad of walking opportunities.  The world renowned
Abel Tasman Walkway is one of New Zealand’s Top Walks.   You can access the Walkway via water taxi or scheduled cruise boats, at various points, creating a one day option for those unable to spare the 3 – 4 days  required to walk/hike the whole track.

An option that offers a variety of scenery is the 4 hour Medland Beach Walk.   Access is via water taxi/cruise from Marehau or Kaiteriteri (just one hour`s drive from Nelson).   The walk encompasses:  Falls River Swing Bridge, Torrent Bay inlet, Lush native forest and long golden beaches.  An additional hour gives you the opportunity to walk into the Cleopatra Falls – I highly recommend you make the time take in the falls – it will be a highlight of your day.

In Nelson city a shorter walk option is the Centre of New Zealand walk.  Just 2 minutes from the centre of Nelson, this one hour (short but steep) walk is accessible from the lovely botanical reserve in Hardy Street.   At the top take a seat, enjoy the stunning view and pick out the features of Nelson’s geography from the information panels.  There are various options for returning to your starting point.

West Coast of New Zealand – Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers


Franz Joseph Glacier, West Coast

Two of the best short walks on the West Coast are the Franz Joseph Glacier walk and the Fox Glacier Walk.   Our guests that visit the West Coast tell us that the walks give them a real “back to nature” experience.

Franz Joseph Glacier is just 5 minutes’ drive from the township.  It is 5.4 km long and you need to allow 1.5 hrs.   A level of fitness is required and you will need suitable footwear as the Glacier is accessed via a stoney riverbed.   The Franz Josef Glacier valley is a hazardous environment and the road and tracks can be closed due to rock falls or flooded rivers.  Check the conditions on the Glacier Country Website.  The weather can change at any time. Be prepared and don’t go beyond the safety barriers.

Fox Glacier Walk is an easier 1 hour walk option.   The walk provides wonderful views of the Glacier.  Just 2.6km long the walk is accessed via a 2km drive from Fox Glacier village.  As per Franz Josef Glacier the weather is very changeable here as well so be prepared and check the conditions on the Glacier Country website.


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