Walking Middle Earth: The Best Hiking Trails in New Zealand
Have the panoramas of the New Zealand landscape featured in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit” left you dreaming of exploring this picturesque green land? With its diverse scenery, well-marked trails and outdoorsy culture, New Zealand is a perfect destination for a hiking holiday (or “tramping” as the locals call it). If you head to the Land of the Long White Cloud, you will have many spectacular treks to enjoy from multi-day journeys to shorter expeditions.
The following are a few of the best trails in the country:
The Milford Track
This is one of the most famous treks in New Zealand. You make your way through deep lakes, dramatic gorges and beautiful waterfalls. The enormous valleys you see throughout are the result of glaciers that have molded the landscape over the last two million years, carving their way through sheer rock.
Most trampers hike an average of seven hours per day over three days and four nights. You can find shelter along the way in remote private lodges that have hot showers and other modern conveniences.
The track can only be hiked in one direction, from Glade Wharf toward Milford Sound. The trail is open from late October to late April, and only 40 independent walkers are allowed to start the track each day.
The Tongariro Crossing
One does not simply walk into Mordor, or into the volcanic region of the Tongariro National Park that played the part of Mordor in the “Lord of the Rings” films. This dramatic and atmospheric park can be steep and the weather unpredictable, so if you plan on following in the footsteps of Frodo and Sam you should bring appropriate clothing, a phone as well as plenty of food and water.
This stunning track, in the heart of the North Island, is 18.5 km and can be completed in one day. It features ancient fields of lava that climb to over 1,900 metres in altitude and offer amazing views of dormant volcanoes.
If you are an experienced hiker you can do this trek yourself, but you can also hire a guide who can give you historical information and safety tips. There are even trekking trips that depart before dawn so you can watch the sunrise from the peak of the mountain.
The Abel Tasman Coast Track
This hiking trail is near Nelson on the South Island and is a very popular trek in the summer. There are several white-sand beaches along this 51km track, where you can take a break from hiking on a hot summer day and cool off.
This track can be done on multiple days or you can tackle sections on single-day trips. There are also tour experiences that include activities like kayaking. There are many options for accommodation on moored boats, campsites and huts as well as private lodges on the beach.
The Queen Charlotte Walkway
The Queen Charlotte Walkway passes through several different types of scenery including coastal forests, bays and along skyline ridges that provide an amazing view of Kenepuru Sound and Queen Charlotte Sound. This trek is approximately 71 km long. It can be completed in three to five days, taking you from Ship Cove all the way to Anakiwa. From March through November, the trail can also be done on mountain bike.
The trail offers a variety of accommodations as well as water transport services that allow you to transfer your luggage each day, whether you are walking with a guide or on your own.
If you are looking for a hike that will be challenging, rewarding and unforgettable, these are a few of the best hiking trails in New Zealand. Unless you have Hobbit feet, pack your hiking boots on this adventure.
About the Author: Paul Howard is a travel agent from Dublin and a hiking enthusiast. In 2012, he tackled the Queen Charlotte on one of his last minute holidays, and he dreams of someday attempting the Milford Track.
Have you been hiking in New Zealand? Do you have a favorite hiking trail? Share it in the comments!
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