Words and images courtesy of Celebrity Cruises.
On the best hikes in New Zealand, expect cinematic quality scenery, monumental mountains with towering peaks, diverse landscapes and electric blue lakes. An outdoor enthusiast’s haven with views straight out of a postcard, this destination will fulfill anyone’s hiking fantasy.
It should be noted that hiking is referred to as ‘tramping’ and trails are considered ‘tracks’ in New Zealand. Hiking here isn’t a treat just because of the backdrop, but also thanks to the well-maintained and labelled trails. Just remember to always check conditions before heading out.
So, when you’re ready to lace up your boots, these are the best hikes in New Zealand. Be warned though, hiking here may ruin you for hiking anywhere else in the world.
Ruakuri Caves, Waitomo
You don’t have to venture far from Auckland to explore some of the best New Zealand hiking trails.
How does discovering a geological wonder sound? The historical significance of the Ruakuri Caves and their ties to Maori culture will present the chance for an educational experience while gazing at crystalline cave details, rock formations, and impressive stalactites.
You may even spot some of the famous glow worm residents while walking through the mysterious cave world.
A mix of coast and forest, Waiheke Island is an ideal place to absorb the beautiful surroundings of the North Island of New Zealand. Situated just outside of Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf, the island is accessible by ferry and filled with family-friendly trails as well as other activities like vineyards, beaches and zip-lining.
You can go hiking in the Onetangi Reserve, which offers several trails as well as great bird watching. Whakanewha Regional Park is the perfect balance of woodland and beach with trails that you can complete in just a couple of hours or less.
For a quick beach hike, walk on the sands at low tide from Oneroa Beach to Little Oneroa Beach where you can access a track to Fisherman’s Rock and get a solid lookout reward.
Puketi Forest, Bay of Islands
In the Bay of Islands, you’ll find Puketi Forest, rife with the indigenous Kauri tree, one of the longest living trees in the world. Stroll the Manginangina Kauri Walk to marvel at these natural giants and enjoy a leisurely hike along the boardwalk suited for all ages.
Walking this half-mile loop trail with a local guide will provide educational facts about the vegetation as well as some history of the ancient Kauri tree grove. Get ready to feel small as you stand under these magnificent trees.
Putangirua Pinnacles, Wellington
The Putangirua Pinnacles Track is a two- to three-hour loop trail made famous by a popular film series. These natural rock wonders formed from years of erosion make for an incredibly interesting backdrop to you walk.
Your hike can be made longer or shorter depending on your preference. Start your adventure from the viewing platform looking down over the pinnacles before heading down to the streambed where you’ll really be wowed.
Walk along as you gaze up at the mind-blowing rock formations, feeling like you’re in the movie yourself. If you decide to continue further uphill, you’ll actually get to zigzag through some of the towering pinnacles as you make your way up. When you reach the lookout, you’ll be granted extra views over Lake Onoke and Palliser Bay.
Rangihoua Heritage Park, Bay of Islands
This historic site was opened in 2014 to commemorate the first missionary settlers, the Pākehā, on the bicentennial of when they arrived and peacefully forged new partnerships with the Māori, who had lived there for centuries.
The Marsden Cross Track is a popular choice for getting the most out of the historical information and natural backdrop in the park while embarking on a relatively easy walk. On the 2.2-kilometre trail, you’ll cross sweeping farmland with coastal views of Oihi Bay on your way to the Marsden Cross.
This carved stone structure represents the place where the first Christian church service took place. The starting point is just 36 kilometres outside of the city of Kerikeri, making it an easy day trip too.
New Zealand’s Southern Alps offer what is perhaps the epitome of New Zealand hiking. The only issue here will be choosing which stunning trails to tackle and having enough time to traverse them.
The Bealey Spur Track is situated by Arthur’s Pass and just under two hours from the city of Christchurch, making it an easy day trip. This six kilometre trail offers views of the Waimakariri River and Avalanche Peak as well as the jaw-dropping valley below.
If you’ve got just a couple of hours to spare, the Hooker Valley Track is a solid option with remarkable views.
Near the city of Dunedin, Otago Peninsula is filled with hiking trails past some of the South Island’s most breathtaking vistas. You might even spot some yellow-eyed penguins or fur seals.
The Sandymount Track gifts epic coastal views. You’ll start by admiring Hooper’s Inlet while waving at friendly sheep and tramping through an active farm. Make this a longer hike by adding on Sandfly Bay. Either way, the views will leave you speechless.
Part of this track is closed during lambing season from early September to mid-October, as it ventures over farmland, so plan your visit accordingly.
The Karetai Track is another great choice. It goes along an old road, making it an easy journey along spectacular coastlines, including Smails Beach as well as the cityscape of Dunedin. For a longer walk, tack on the Highcliff, Buskin or Paradise tracks.
If wildlife spotting is your thing, Taiaroa Head Natural Reserve all the way at the end of the Otago Peninsula will have you seeing seals, penguins and albatross.
Stroll the boardwalk trails and observe the only mainland colony of albatross nesting, or head to Victory Beach to view penguins in their natural habitat, especially at dusk. This is a fantastic family-friendly activity to enjoy this South Island peninsula.
Te Mata Park, Hawke’s Bay
Well-known for its food and wine scene, Hawke’s Bay on the North Island is host to Art Deco cities like Napier and Hastings as well as incredible outdoor opportunities amongst the stunning landscape.
The resident Te Mata Peak awaits hikers to show off 360-degree views of the Ruahine, Kaweka and Maungaharuru Ranges in addition to the well-known Cape Kidnappers and Heretaunga Plains.
Te Mata Park offers several walking tracks, each of which has varying lengths and difficulty to tailor to your needs. Take the long way around with the Rongokako Trail, a more challenging way to reach the summit. The Karaka Wander Track takes you through diverse landscapes including a grove of ancient and native Karaka trees.
Maungaharuru Mountain Range, Hawke’s Bay
To get a bit more off the beaten path, head to the northern region of Hawke’s Bay and delve into all that the Maungaharuru Mountain Range has to offer. This is the perfect area to experience some top New Zealand hiking.
Chase waterfalls on the Shine Falls Track, a two kilometre easy walking trail at the edge of the Maungaharuru Mountains within the Boundary Stream Scenic Reserve. If you’re interested in one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, Lake Waikaremoana in Wairoa awaits with a trek through rainforest, wetlands and waterfalls, all while skirting the gorgeous lake.
Listen to the native bird calls of the Tui and Kereru species of the Te Urewera region as you trek through this pure nature. It’ll be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before!
Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Sounds
One of the best things to do on New Zealand’s South Island is to explore the Marlborough Sounds, a smattering of inlets and bays perfect for kayaking, cruising and fantastic hiking.
It’s here that you’ll find one of the main regions near the city of Picton called Queen Charlotte Sound, home to an epic trail, the Queen Charlotte Track. The full trek spans 70 kilometres of pristine New Zealand beauty, though it’s possible to hike just a portion of the trail for a taste of the region via the Peninsula Loop track.
This section will have you taking in the scenes between Mistletoe Bay and Waterfall Bay, complete with beech forest and panoramic coastal views, in just about half an hour.
Mount Maunganui, Tauranga
The Bay of Plenty on the North Island lives up to its name with a lively culinary scene, unique attractions, rich cultural history and natural wonders. In the midst of this area is the metropolitan city of Tauranga, a destination rapidly growing in popularity and an ideal jumping-off point for hikers to explore the surrounding area.
The 3.4-kilometre Mauao (Mount Maunganui) Track is a well-liked trail in Tauranga that circles the extinct volcano, a landmark of the region. It’s also possible to trek to the summit via the Mount Maunganui Summit Walk. Both options boast views of the coast and Matakana Island offshore.
Cape Kidnappers, Hawke’s Bay
Cape Kidnappers is another nature and bird lover’s paradise with the most accessible gannet colony in the world. The Te Kauwae-a-Māui track skirts the craggy coastline, spanning 19 kilometres (out and back).
You’ll need to plan according to low tide for safety, as the trail goes along the beach. Your best chance of seeing gannets is between November and February.
Mount Tarawera, Rotorua
The North Island’s region of Rotorua is a hot spot, quite literally. Well-known for its geothermal activity, hot springs and mud baths serve as the perfect post-hike relaxation in a gorgeous natural environment.
Mount Tarawera and the lake at the base are an idyllic setting for stretching your legs on a hike. If you’re interested in a trek to the top, you’ll have to join a private tour, as the mountain is owned by a local Maori tribe and only accessible with a private guide.
There are plenty of other tracks to choose from as well, including the Tarawera Falls track, where you can discover a 65-metre waterfall with just a 20-minute jaunt.
Mount Victoria, Wellington
The city of Wellington on the southern tip of the North Island is filled with cultural exploits like museums, galleries and a botanical garden. Additionally, it’s a city heavy on culinary and outdoor pursuits with many walks in close proximity, making it a great base for exploring the surrounding area.
Don’t want to venture too far out of the city lines? Hop on a trail right from town and hike up to the Mount Victoria Lookout for an expansive city panorama that you won’t soon forget. This iconic walk is between 2.6 and 4.6 kilometres, depending on where in the city you start. Wellington is known to be windy, so check the weather and pack appropriately!
Native forests, breathtaking views, waterfalls, Maori culture and mountain ranges set to impress await you on any of these best hikes in New Zealand. Our tip on how best to get up close to the stunning vistas and outdoor adventures in New Zealand? On a luxury cruise with Celebrity Cruises of course! Ask us about a New Zealand cruise with Celebrity.
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