New Zealand is one of the world’s best hiking destinations—this is an inarguable fact. Of all the trails in the country, however, the ones known as Great Walks are the best of the best in terms of accessibility and beauty. Specially classified by the Department of Conservation, these nine different trails range between 20 and 47 miles and offer the full range of New Zealand’s beauty. Trace the tideline of turquoise coves on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, or traverse an alpine, volcanic moonscape on the Tongariro Northern Circuit. Trek past lakes and over mountain peaks on the incomparably beautiful Routeburn Track, or combine the hiking with paddling a canoe on the epic Whanganui Journey. Visitors who tackle one of the Great Walks can either stay in huts or camp, although the popularity of many of these hikes means booking months in advance. The Milford Track, for example, can often be booked up to six months in advance, although some of the lesser-visited Great Walks—such as the Rakiura Track on Stewart Island or the remote and rugged Heaphy Track—don’t require nearly as much lead time but can still be busy nonetheless.
Not everyone who visits New Zealand, however, has the time for a multi-day trek, and sometimes accessing the remote trailheads can be difficult without transportation. For travelers who still want to experience the beauty—but are logistically a bit short on time—there are guided hiking tours across New Zealand that make it easy to experience the outdoors. Even from the bustling center of Auckland, hikes in the nearby Waitakere Ranges offer black sand beaches and refreshing waterfalls that splash through forested hills. Farther north, outside the Bay of Islands, guided tours of the Puketi rainforest take travelers deep into some of the Northland’s most pristine groves of native forest. It’s even possible to experience a Great Walk as part of a lengthy day trip, as tours from Queenstown walk parts of the Routeburn track in Mt. Aspiring National Park. All over New Zealand, from the Catlins to the Coromandel, there are accessible hiking tracks of all lengths that showcase the nation’s beauty, and while the Great Walks will always remain the most popular, any day spent on New Zealand’s trails is an adventure you’ll never forget.