New Zealand Self Drive Adventures

November 29, 2018

There are a massive number of famous and not so well-known hiking trails in NZ. Most of the famous walks take between 2 and 5 days to complete but there are also hundreds of well- maintained trails that can be walked in 2- 8 hours.

Our top 5 picks for multi-day hikes

  1. Milford Track
  2. Routeburn Track
  3. Heaphy Track
  4. Abel Tasman Track
  5. Lake Waikarimoana Track

Our top 5 picks for one day Hikes

  1. The Tongariro Crossing
  2. Cape Kidnappers
  3. Pakahi trail
  4. Te Whara track
  5. Roy’s Peak

Most of the major trails are managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation. (DOC) They also maintain the huts that are along the walk. DOC maintains over 900 huts in wilderness and well known hiking locations. Obviously a 3 or 4-day walk means you will be staying in a camp hut and usually with several other hikers. The accommodation is very basic and during the peak tourism months bookings are essential if you want to avoid sleeping outside. If you prefer to sleep outside then in most instances the climate is warm enough and there are no dangerous animals, snakes or insects to worry about. However; If you are taking a track that climbs to altitude then, hypothermia is a possibility even in the summer if you are not properly prepared.

The key factor to understand before going on a self-guided walk is what level of fitness is required and whether the trail is one way or returns to the starting point. Many of the famous walking tracks are one way, these include: the Milford Track, the Routeburn track, the Heaphy Track, Abel Tasman track, and the Lake Waikaremoana track. These tracks can be walked with guides in which case your return transport will be arranged as part of the guided walk. If you plan a self-guided walk then, water taxis, vans, vehicle relocation services etc can usually be arranged and booked in advance so that you can get back to your vehicle or have your vehicle brought to you. Booking in advance is highly recommended if you are not taking an organised tour.

There are smaller number of well know trails that take several days to walk but start and return in the same place. These include the Tongariro northern circuit, The Kepler track and the Rakiura track on Stewart Island.

There are countless tracks that start and return in the same place and take less than a day to walk such as the Tongariro crossing.

As mentioned above, there are hundreds of lesser known tracks that are well worth considering. The very famous trails such as the Milford and Tongariro tracks can be extremely busy during the summer months. The continuous spotting of other hikers can make it seem less of a wilderness experience. If you prefer to go it alone in remote conditions there are endless possibilities on lesser known tracks. However; in many instances these lesser known tracks are one way so having two vehicles or enough time to do the return trip is essential. Tracks like the Pakahi trail and the Cobb valley track can be incredibly scenic and less travelled by tourists.

Since the Covid-19 lockdown tourism costs have chnaged in many locations. In most instances there are deals on offer for accommodation and services due to the reduction in the number of visitors. it pays to do some research to find the best rates.

We are currently compiling a set self drive hiking itineraries for release this spring. Meantime if you want to do it yourself or as a guided group, The Department of Conservation has a useful but somewhat generic website that explains each trail, what to take with you, how to book guides, accommodation etc. It is also searchable by region for places to go.

Happy trails,

Author: david turner