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Walking and Hiking in New Zealand

New Zealand is home to 14 National Parks and many more conservation parks and regional parks, all providing endless opportunities for hiking and walking, ranging from short 15 minute walks from the road edge, to epic 10 day wilderness hikes and everything in between.

Within our team of travel consultants we have walked most of New Zealand’s Great Walks and regularly enjoy many of the shorter walks throughout the country, so we have heaps of knowledge to help you include some of the fantastic walks into your own self drive holiday. 

How hard is the walking?

The walking can be as hard or as easy as you choose. In New Zealand there are walks that suit all abilities, from short beach and forest boardwalks at Ship Creek on the West Coast, to 10 day hikes that circumnavigate the remote Stewart Island. The Department of Conservation website is a great source of information on walks in different areas, with short and long walks listed.

If you’re not sure you can manage a multi-day hike, but still want to experience the beauty of the Milford or Routeburn Tracks there are shorter one day guided options available that include transport and lunch and a knowledgeable local guide. If you would like to experience multi-day hikes, the benefit of a guided walk is you only carry a small day pack with your lunch and clothing for the day, which makes for an easier hike. We have guided multi day hikes that range in difficulty, from easy to moderate to hard. If you’re after an easier guided multi day hike in Fiordland, the spectacular Hollyford Valley is a great alternative to the slightly more challenging Milford and Routeburn Tracks. 

If you are planning on doing some longer walks and hikes during your New Zealand holiday, you’ll enjoy it much more if you do some walking exercise at home in the weeks leading up to your holiday.

Guided walks vs unguided walks

There are advantages to going both guided and independent when you hike in New Zealand. Depending on your time restraints, experience, and desired level of comfort on your hike, take into account these pros for guided vs unguided hikes:

Guided walks:

Depending on which guided walk you choose, you will often have the opportunity to add things on to your hike, for example, with a Wilson's Abel Tasman guided hike, you can spend a day kayaking along the coast.

With a guided hike, everything is taken care of for you - from getting picked up and dropped off from your accommodation, to your food, safety and accommodation during the hike.

Guided hikes are done over a specific time frame, but there is plenty of time allowed to be able to hike at a pace that suits you. Take 4 hours or 8 hours to cover the day's distance, there will still be a hot meal waiting for you at the end

Meet the local guides on your guided hike, learn about the area and get to know all the best spots to visit once you're hike is finished

Your guides will be fountain's of knowledge when it comes to the local flora and fauna, have fun picking their brains about all the animals and plants you'll see along the way

With a guided hike, you can enjoy your trip knowing that you are in capable hands - let your guide worry about keeping everyone happy and safe

Unguided walks:

New Zealand is home to many different critters of both land and sky, but none that will cause you and immediate danger. You can hike independently knowing that you won't come face to face with a bear or a snake at any point

It can be nice to be completely free of any time frames - hiking independently you can take as many or as few days as you like to complete your hike without being restricted by start and finish dates and times

New Zelaand generally has an excellent standard of track maintenance, the Department of Conservation does an outstanding job of ensuring the most popular trials are in good condition, and will report any alerts due to weather or accidents on their website here.

What to bring

If you’re planning on walking a multi-day hike, then make sure you bring suitable footwear and clothing for this length of walk and the conditions you’ll encounter. For guided walks you’ll be provided with a list of what to bring, covering the types of clothing and personal effects that will make your walking experience more comfortable. We can send you a copy of this list for your planning.

For unguided independent walking and hiking you need to take sufficient supplies, including all food, sleeping gear and personal effects. The Department of Conservation provides a gear list for Great Walks. This is also an excellent guide for longer day walks where you need to be prepared with enough food, warm clothing and waterproof clothing in case you are out longer than expected.

If you are bringing hiking boots or shoes from home make sure they have been thoroughly cleaned first as airport border control won’t allow dirty hiking gear into New Zealand in case it carries pests that we don’t have here.

Getting to and from the walks