Vulcano Ngauruhoe - Tongariro NP

Walking holidays in New Zealand

There’s no shortage of beauty spots in New Zealand – the small island nation that goes supersized when it comes to beaches, mountains, volcanoes, national parks, hiking opportunities (or tramping as the locals call it), and landscapes that leave you open-mouthed. And whilst you don’t need to be a Lord of the Rings fan to appreciate its Middle-earth vibes (the trilogy was filmed in over 150 locations spanning both the North and the South Islands), you may well reach for Tolkien’s masterpieces on your return.  

The North Island 

You can’t beat the North Island when it comes to island-studded bays, long sandy beaches, lush forests, rugged mountains, world-class vineyards, and a wealth of geothermal attractions. It’s also home to Auckland, the so-called City of Sails set on a narrow strip of land flanked by two harbours: the Waitemata on the Tasman Sea and the Manukau on the Pacific Ocean. You’ll have ample time to explore the city, perhaps soaking up views from the 328-metre-high Sky Tower or gazing up at the 196-metre Maungawhau (Mount Eden). Later, you’ll visit Wellington, the city that takes pride in its “coolest little capital in the world” moniker and offers a mix of interesting museums, award-winning restaurants, and a thriving arts scene.  

Equally worthy of your attention is Tongariro National Park, the dual UNESCO World Heritage Site that recognises both its Māori cultural and spiritual significance (established in 1887, it was New Zealand’s first national park). Here you’ll find three active volcanic mountains, majestic landscapes, and some of the best hikes in the world. Further thrills await in both Rotorua, the thermal wonderland best known for its shooting geysers, natural hot springs, and bubbling mud pools, and Taupo – home to the phenomenal Huka Falls, the 11-metre-high waterfall that blasts approximately 220,000 litres of water every second. 

The South Island 

For walking holidays, New Zealand’s larger yet less populated South Island ticks the boxes for endless adventure possibilities. You’ll visit the port city of Nelson in the island’s top north-western corner and later spend time in Queenstown - the self-styled Adrenaline Capital of the World located on the shore of Lake Wakatipu. Further South Island highlights include trekking through Abel Tasman National Park, soaking up splendid views at Mount Cook National Park, and hiking sections of the Kepler and Routeburn Tracks – two of the Great Walks managed by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.  

Prepare for more sightseeing on a grand scale as you take a cruise on the Tasman Glacier Lake, enjoy Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain walks, and visit Punakaiki – home of the famous Pancake Rocks. One not-to-be-missed attraction is Milford Sound – the magnificent fjord within the UNESCO-listed Fiordland National Park. Travelling by boat, you’ll get to appreciate the towering peaks, cascading waterfalls, and incredible wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for two species of dolphin (bottlenose and dusky), endemic Fiordland crested penguins, southern right whales, and New Zealand fur seals. You’ll also spot the Kiwi bird as well as the Kea (considered the only alpine parrot in the world).