Skip to content

5 Great Walks For Tramping in New Zealand

Tramping in New Zealand on the famous “Great Walks” is some of the best hiking in the world and I highly recommend these five tracks after spending a few months on both the north and south islands enjoying hiking there.

New Zealanders refer to hiking as ‘”tramping.”

New Zealand is known as one of the most beautiful countries in the world, after all, they filmed the Lord of the Rings there for a reason. From chilled-out coastal walks to more strenuous mountain/volcano hikes, it’s beyond breathtaking.

The five hikes mentioned here are part of the New Zealand great walks category, which means they’re awesome.

Tramping in New Zealand

One thing you should know about tramping in New Zealand is that you must reserve ahead to book a place in designated campsites or huts along the trail.

You can do this at the official doc camping website here.

I didn’t know this before going but luckily it was towards the end of Autumn and going into low season. That way I was able to get space.

But the hikes I did manage to do were epically beautiful, and perfectly showed the diversity of nature in New Zealand. They’re in no particular order.

The Tongariro Crossing

Maybe this one should be called the “Mordor” hike as this is where they filmed Mordor in the Lord of the Rings.

I had the fun thought of dressing up as an ork and jumping out from the rocks to scare other hikers. But alas lugging around an ork costume while hiking is not the best idea.

This is one of the best New Zealand hiking routes you can do, combining a volcano, volcanic lakes, and a jagged barren landscape the higher up you get.

At the end of Autumn, it was cutting it fine on being able to do it as the highest crossing point was beginning to get iced up, and very hard to traverse.

You can also climb the famous volcano, also known as Mount Doom (again the Lord of the Rings) although it’s very hard going.

I didn’t make it as I left it too late in the day to have enough daylight.

Just don’t forget a cheap ring to throw in if you want to enact your own Lord of the Rings fantasy.

The Tongariro Crossing is in the centre/south of the north island. It took three days to complete.

I had a lift into the national park and hitched out. It should be easy to hitch in and out to starting and endpoints if you don’t have your transport.

Otherwise, organise some transport:

More about the Tongariro Crossing hike in this detailed trip report.

Queenstown makes an excellent gateway to the south island’s hikes. There are so many hikes on New Zealand’s south island you can do such as the Hooker Valley Track, but I’m writing about my 3 favourites.


The Routeburn Track

I loved the Routeburn Track hike, partially because it was the first hike out of the New Zealand hiking I did and it introduced me to nature in the country.

You begin along a trail through a dense forest with a fast-flowing river running through it, and waterfalls, before ascending up into the mountains.

Up at the highest point, you will be kept company by some local birds as you descend from the clouds to a lake below. 

The whole lake area was shrouded in mist when I was there and had a very ethereal effect.

Tramping out was along a mountain path and down into more forest and past waterfalls. I was alone for pretty much this entire stretch and easily hitch-hiked out at the end by the main road.

The whole hike can take around three days, although when visiting they had a mountain marathon happening where they ran it all in one day.

This hike is on the south island near Queenstown.

The Kepler Track

Up in the clouds, really. There were times when I had trouble seeing ahead due to the cloud cover.

But once the clouds dispersed a view across snow-covered mountains and down into the valley with its lakes appeared.

Like the Routeburn, it starts out in dense forest until high mountains appear on each side, before going up a very (I will repeat for those thinking of doing this hike), very steep climb, that took around 2 hours.

You will be left breathless not just from that climb, but for the view that awaits you.

The Kepler Track is on the south island not too far from Queenstown. Again it was a three-day hike.

This one I hitched a ride to the beginning and walked out back to the closest town.

A more detailed report on the Kepler Track hike.

The Abel Tasman Coastal Walk

This made a brilliant change from the other hikes as it was at sea level tramping along beaches and through lush forest.

It doesn’t sound the most exciting if compared to feeling remote high in the mountains, with the views that go along with that, but this is one of the best hikes I ever did.

Hiking along peaceful beaches, relaxing with a swim in the sea, enjoying being with nature, and going to sleep next to a campfire by myself was the perfect escape.

The Abel Tasman is also located on the south island but in the very northern part. This one took me only two days but I was enjoying running along the beaches, so that sped things up a bit.

As far as New Zealand hiking goes this is the best one for a coastal walk.

I hitch-hiked in and out like the others. More on the Abel Tasman hike.

Milford Track

great walks in New Zealand
Milford Track.

I’ll say right away that I didn’t manage to go tramping in New Zealand on the Milford Track as all the huts and camping were booked up so I gave it a miss.

However, it is regarded as one of the best great walks in New Zealand, so I’ve added it here. For more info on hiking the Milford Track hike check that link.

Great Walks In New Zealand

New Zealand lives up to its hype. Nature is some of the best I’ve seen anywhere (competing with Iceland and Alaska), and I’ve explored around 90 countries.

I hear the same from many other travellers who have been there.

If you love hiking put New Zealand on the top of your list as a place to go.

For a great walks guide and for tramping in New Zealand I recommend the Lonely Planet Hiking and Tramping in New Zealand guidebook.

For more inspiration for New Zealand take a look at the 10 best documentaries about New Zealand.

There are so many great hikes to do in New Zealand and in particular the next time I visit I would love to see New Zealand’s famous Blue Lake.

I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

Share the tramping in New Zealand great walks:

20 thoughts on “5 Great Walks For Tramping in New Zealand”

  1. +1 to the Abel Tasman National Park coastal walk. So beautiful and peaceful.

    You need not overnight. Boats that serve the shoreline make it possible to enjoy a walk in as little as several hours, with no need to walk back to the starting point. Transfer coaches from Nelson take you to these boats.

    The segment I hiked did not require an extreme level of physical fitness to put it mildly. In fact, most of that hike happened near sea level.

    Go for it!

  2. Yes you can really take it easy on this route. I just enjoyed the full energy experience of hiking all the way through fast for fun 🙂

  3. Thanks, Jonny.

    Forgot to mention that I passed some really wonderful shoreline camping areas — paradises for all & especially for families with children.

  4. Please can I make the point that some of these trails can be very dangerous especially out of season. Take the advice of the Rangers, register your intentions and take an emergency locator beacon, especially if there is just one or two of you. We kiwis get rather upset when our visitors don’t get to go home and share their wonderful experiences.

  5. Yes it’s common sense when going into the mountains anywhere in the world to know your fitness level, the terrain you are getting into and to check on wether conditions. Thanks for pointing out 😉

  6. This is amazing. I’m hoping to backpack around new Zealand towards the end of this year. If you wouldnt mind emailing me some more tips that would be so helpful

  7. As a NZ er who camps, this is why we hate people like you.disrespectful of the should not free camp on the great walks and climbing ‘mt. Doom’ is prohibited by local Maori, it is a sacred area and should be respected.i can’t believe how lacking of respect you are for our wild places. Please don’t come back. This is why we have to clean up litter, why our streams are polluted -because of tourists that flaunt the rules. Disgusting.

  8. When I was there hiking in New Zealand it was in 2014 and I was told as long as you’re 500 metres away from the main trail and out of sight and not making or leaving any mess which I didn’t, and was by myself not in a big group, then that was ok. Also on The Tongariro Crossing their was no information back then that I could see in the area telling you not to climb ‘Mount Doom’ for cultural respect, in fact there were signs pointing you to the direction to climb it! I know now since 2017 I believe they have some rangers from the DOC advising about the respect for Maori culture and not to climb ‘Mount Doom’. Don’t judge people if you don’t know the full story, although it is a good reminder for me to update about not climbing ‘Mount Doom’.I’m sure you will find some New Zealanders flaunting your rules as well, so get off your high horse 😛 And if we were to ask people from not coming to each other countries out of ‘respect’ then how about some of those drunk New Zealand backpackers working in my native country ‘UK’ getting drunk, being noisy, and pissing on the streets!


  10. Pingback: The Laugavegur Trail Trek Report (Best Trekking in Iceland)

  11. Pingback: 5 Of The Best Hikes in Australia (Hiking Australia) - Backpackingman

  12. Pingback: 5 Alternatives To Toilet Paper (Travel Ass Wiping Advice)

  13. Hi! Thank you for sharing this post. It was interesting to see the hikes that you chose. I was in NZ last year and did some of the hikes as well. I absolutely loved it.

  14. Pingback: Fox Glacier Town Guide (In New Zealand's Beautiful Countryside) - Backpackingman

  15. Pingback: Trekking The Tongariro Crossing In New Zealand

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest