Tramping In New Zealand (4 of The Best Great Walks)

tramping in New Zealand - great walks

For some of the best tramping in New Zealand, I highly recommend these four trails after spending a few months hiking in the country on both the north and south islands.

New Zealander’s refer to hiking as ‘tramping’ just to clear up any confusion!

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 four hikes mentioned here are part of the New Zealand great walks category. Basically meaning they’re awesome.

These New Zealand hiking trails are some of the best multi-day hikes in the country.

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.

There’s one notable exception which those familiar with tramping in New Zealand and will no doubt wonder why it’s not on the list, and that’s the Milford Sound.

This is the most popular hike in New Zealand and so many people want to do it that there was no space available.

So I didn’t hike it, simple as that!

That’s something to bare in mind if you visit and plan to hike. You can try free camping, although it’s technically not allowed on the trails.

I did, however, manage to get away with some free camping in New Zealand when there.

But the four hikes I did manage to do were epically beautiful, and perfectly showed the diversity of the nature in New Zealand.

Be sure to pick up a guide for New Zealand to help plan your trip in more detail. I used the Lonely Planet New Zealand (Travel Guide)

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for my trip and recommend it.

They’re in no particular order.


The Tongariro Crossing

Tongariro crossing hike - tramping in New Zealand
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Maybe this one should be called the “Mordor” hike as this is where they filmed Mordor in the Lord of the Rings.

In fact, 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 was one of the best hikes imaginable, 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.

In fact, 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 own 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 here.

FIND PLACES TO STAY IN QUEENSTOWN HERE

 


The Routeburn Track

routeburn track
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I loved the Routeburn Track hike, partially because it was the first one I did in NZ and introduced me to NZ nature.

You begin along a trail through 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 on where they ran it all in one day. Yeah, I didn’t join that one. I free camped for the first night there.

This hike is on the south island near Queenstown.


The Kepler Track

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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 all the way out back to the closest town.

I free camped for one night there and woke up to the view in the photo above. A more detailed report on the Kepler Track hike.


The Abel Tasman Coastal Walk

Abel tasman
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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, going to sleep next to a campfire by myself was the perfect escape.

The Abel Tasman is also located on the south island but at 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.

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


A video summing up 4 of the best hikes in New Zealand:

 


 


Free Camping When Tramping in New Zealand

As far as free camping while hiking in New Zealand goes in some places it can easily be done, while others such as high up on the Kepler Track it becomes more tricky.

The problem is it’s not allowed on the trails and there are sometimes rangers stationed at the camp places where you sleep.

It’s understandable why they do this as it keeps the number of hikers down and makes you feel more away from it all as a result.

But if you come last minute and one of the nights on a trail campsite isn’t available, and therefore messing up your plans like happened to me twice, then I say just go for it.

As long as you’re discreet and camp away from view and you’re not in a group. Just 1-2 people so as not to get in the way or noticed.


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

I hear the same from many other travellers that 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.

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.

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Be sure to get travel insurance in case something goes wrong. Medical treatment can be expensive. I use World Nomads for my travels and outdoor adventures:

 

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20 thoughts on “Tramping In New Zealand (4 of The Best Great Walks)”

  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 rules.you 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!

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  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.

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