New Zealand is well known for our amazing walking and hiking (or tramping as we Kiwis like to call it) opportunities. It’s one of the biggest drawcards, especially to people visiting from overseas. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently not able to welcome international visitors to our shores and whilst this is having a huge impact on tourism in New Zealand, it does present opportunities for Kiwis who love to get out and explore their own backyard. Our most famous walks have never been as quiet and some of our lesser-known walks are even quieter.
ROY’S PEAK TRACK – WANAKA
OK, so this one we have championed quite a lot so there are going to be a few of you out there that have heard of it but it’s still an amazing day walk to tackle when you are next in Wanaka. Take the short 15-minute drive to the car park at the foot of the climb (which is usually pretty busy from early morning) before heading off to tackle the 1,578m Roy’s Peak summit. This walk is not for the faint-hearted. It’s super-steep in parts and can be a slog but the path is a good one and it is accessible all-year round. The reward at the top is a view like no other. Looking down over Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea beyond, it’s a wonderful spot to grab a picnic and just soak up those amazing views. During the lockdown period, people were taking advantage of the lack of people out exploring Roy’s Peak and enjoying some stunning views – were you one of them?
BEN LOMOND – QUEENSTOWN
Another hidden gem, the Ben Lomond Track is an absolute gem, right in the heart of Queenstown. The track starts on the Skyline Access Road before peeling off where you will head first up to the Ben Lomond Saddle (1,326m) and then push on again to the Ben Lomond Summit (1,748m). This is a walk for the super-fit and expect it to take most of the day, especially if you are heading all the way to the summit and not just the saddle. On a clear day, the views are simply spectacular and you will catch a sight of Mount Earnshaw and Mount Aspiring.
CATLINS COASTAL HERITAGE TRAIL – SOUTHLAND
For those who take the road less travelled to the bottom of the South Island, you will be rewarded with some stunning walking opportunities. The Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail is one such opportunity. This stunning coastal trail will lead you to remote and isolated beaches, through a fossilised forest and bring you up close and personal with some of New Zealand’s most amazing wildlife. At Porpoise Bay, there’s a good chance to see the rare Hector’s dolphin before hitting the petrified forest at Curio Bay. This full day hike is a great chance to see New Zealand at its remote best.
HOOKER VALLEY TRACK – MT COOK
Another of New Zealand’s great walking track that gets a lot of coverage on Instagram, the Hooker Valley Track is one of New Zealand’s prettiest trails. Completely surrounded by the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Southern Alps, the Hooker Valley Track is a national treasure. The good news is that it’s a flat track which is perfect for people of all fitness levels. It’s a 10km return track that will take you around 3 hours and during that time you will get some of the most amazing views of glaciers, lakes and the country’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook. If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of the Mt Cook buttercup, the world’s largest.
CAPE KIDNAPPERS WALKING TRACK – HAWKE’S BAY
The Cape Kidnappers area is one of the North Island’s most spectacular and the walking track lets you explore it to the max. The 19km return walking track takes you along the beach before you tackle a relatively steep climb which takes you up to world’s largest accessible mainland Australasian gannet colony. The walk on the beach sees you walking under towering limestone cliffs, providing a spectacular backdrop to this stunning walk. The best time to visit is between early November and late February when the gannets will be nesting. New chicks hatch at the beginning of November so this is a great time to see something pretty cool.
TE WHARA TRACK – WHANGAREI
The Te Whara Track is a true hidden gem and one that is not on a lot of people’s radar – hopefully, it soon will be! This 7.5km one-way track is a tough but rewarding one day hike. The walk will take you through some of the best coastal forest on the North Island and you will also get to see the ruins of a WWII radar station which is super-cool. The views along the track are pretty spectacular and you can see all the way up to Cape Brett to the north and Cape Rodney to the south. The path is steep and undulating so you will need a good level of fitness to complete the return trip but we think you’ll agree it’s an absolute cracker.