New Zealand, a walker’s dream destination. With hundreds of trails throughout the country, one even prettier than the other, you could easily spend months walking through this gorgeous country. All for free!
Unfortunately we did not have that much time on this trip, however we do like walking in nature and I was so excited to finally return to New Zealand after 18 years!
In this article
New Zealand is even more beautiful than in my memory and dreams.
Sure, Instagram is full of shots of fit boys and girls hiking up to Mt. Cook or the Tongariro Crossing. But you do cannot peak every day, right? Besides, hiking 20 km up and down is not for everyone. No worries, there are definitely a lot of relatively easy paths in New Zealand that are worth taking. So which approachable walks in New Zealand took my breath away?
Cathedral Cove Walk
3.6 km, 45-75 min
Coromandel is a stunning peninsula, a few hours southeast of Auckland. 18 years ago I also visited the area too, my family usually spent their holidays in Hot Water Beach. Some things have changed over the years (more crowded with tourists, especially from Asia) but some things stayed the same: Cathedral Cove is still magnificent. A must visit when in New Zealand!
Read more about Coromandel in the specific article Coromandel Peninsula: a piece of paradise in gorgeous New Zealand.
The tunnel underneath the rocks, the big rock in the water, sun, sand, sea… Cathedral Cove has something special to it. Nowadays there is a neat, asphalt path called the Cathedral Cove Walk that starts at the small parking lot on top of the hill (Grange Road S). This small parking lot is Kiss & Ride only during high season (Oct-Apr). The additional walk to the large parking lot closer to Hahei town is another 10-20 minutes’ walk.
My memory had completely erased how – according to my experience – long and steep the walk is. It’s still considered a short walk. Cannot recommend in the middle of a hot day, with legs still sore from long flights, but at the end of course: it’s worth it!
Staying in Auckland without a car? You could consider this Coromandel Peninsula Highlights Small Group Tour from Auckland.
Blue Lake Track
5.5 km, 1.5 – 2.5 hours
In Rotorua, there are two lakes next to each other called the Blue Lake and the Green Lake, named after the distinctive color of their water. We decided to walk the Blue Lake Track, which lake is significantly smaller than the Green Lake and can be done in a few hours. This walk actually took us about one hour longer than average as I kept taking pictures LOL Palm ferns, I love them!
Park at the Lake Tikitapu look-out point and walk the main path clockwise around the lake. Halfway, near the beach and Top 10 Holiday Park, there is a silver food truck called Air Stream Café, where you can get delicious salads, wraps, refreshing drinks and fresh coffee.
Staying in Auckland without a car? You may want to consider this Rotorua Day Trip from Auckland.
Abel Tasman Coast Track
9.3 km, 2.5 – 3.5 hours
Staying in Marahau we had the perfect starting point to start the Abel Tasman Coast Track. The full track is 60 km and takes 3-5 days. We walked the first lap of the track, from The Park Café in Marahau to Observation Beach (1km before Anchorage). This is a one of the best walks I have done in New Zealand and doable condition wise. You walk all the way parallel to the sea (in the comfortable shade) and see many wonderful beaches along the way.
We spotted a cheeky Weka in the bushes, not to be mistaken by a Kiwi!
The Observation Beach gets pretty crowded around lunch time, with lots of people getting either dropped off or picked up, having lunch together on the beach. We met our guide from R&R on the beach too, he was easy to recognize by the red kayaks. Together with four other people we kayaked overseas back to Marahau (via Adele Island) in a few hours.
Officially this was a half day walk & kayak trip, however we left at 08:30h and got back around 16:00h so pretty much a full day for half-day price! Water is provided. Just don’t forget your sunblock and a baseball cap! Obviously the kayaking is out in the full sun.
Pre-book or wing it?
It is actually not really necessary to book a kayak trip in advance, there are enough companies in Marahau to meet the demand, also in high season. However, if you are staying in Motueka (25 min) or Nelson (1 hour) you may want to book a tour to Abel Tasman NP prior to your arrival:
Please know that no kayaks are not rented out here to single individuals, you must kayak as two persons. So for solo travelers who wish to kayak at Abel Tasman NP I’d definitely recommend to join a group tour.
Lake Matheson / Te Ara Kairaumati Walk
2.6 km, 1.5 hours
The weather changes a lot and often around the glaciers, is my experience. This made it challenging to determine the best time to visit Lake Matheson and do the Te Ara Kairaumati Walk. First there were many clouds and rain, then some sun but only shortly… Standard it’s said the best time to visit is in the morning, and I agree.
However if the forecast is rain, hard wind or many clouds for the next day, you may want to check it out in the afternoon already. That’s what I did at first, as I was afraid the next day would be worse, but honestly I did not go far enough as I got a bit scared on my own in the forest around sunset… What a wimp huh? I did meet a very nice couple on the way back.
Anyways, next morning we went back together and walked the full loop around the lake before breakfast. Wow! What a stunning place this is! Different setting than I thought based on the pictures I saw from my sister. Completely embraced by the forest around the lake, with only a few viewpoints where you can actually see the lake, the rest of the time you are walking between the trees, bushes and little water streams.
The right direction
After leaving the car park, crossing the suspension bridge, it’s a short 10 minute walk to the point where you have to choose to go left or right. I’d suggest to go left and do the walk clockwise. The Jetty Look Out you come by after about 15 min (600 m) is the best spot of the loop. If you’re lucky, the lake is mirror smooth, with reflections of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.
Completing the entire walk was a nice morning workout, the second part of the park (right side) includes the most ups and downs. By the time we crossed the suspension bridge back to the parking lot around 9 am, we met the first Kiwi Experience bus load coming in.
Fox Glacier & Franz Josef walks
2.6 km, 1 – 1.5 hours
Since our Franz Josef Heli Hike to go inside the glacier got cancelled on the last moment due to bad weather, we had to figure out alternatives. There are actually many walks around Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier, most interesting the ones that walk up to the glacier, so you can see the exterior from the front.
First we did the short Peters Pool Walk (1.1 km, 20 min) at Franz Josef Glacier and the River Lookout Track (20 min return) across the river at Fox Glacier, when we were still in the hope for the weather to clear and get on the next Heli Hike.
Fox Glacier / Te Ara o Tuawe Valley Walk
The next day, once we lost all hope to be able to get on a Heli Hike, we decided to do the Fox Glacier / Te Ara o Tuawe Valley Walk. The gradual incline felt pretty steep to me, but hey, I am not a Kiwi LOL The climb up gets rewarded with a good front view of Fox Glacier. It is actually pretty sad to see how far the glacier has withdrawn due to global warming.
Going on top and inside a glacier would have been cool though. My sister did that and came back with amazing pictures that always sticked to my mind. Anyway, I can’t complain, two years ago I already walked on top of the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia, Argentina.
If you are not so much into hiking, or doubt if you lack the condition, there is the option for a Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight over the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, which also lands on top of one of them, should the weather be good enough…
Mount Eden Summit (Auckland)
4.7 km, 60 min
We parked around 117 Owens Road and followed the Summit sign. First you go up past a few houses. At some point you cross the road barrier and end up on an asphalt road, where you go left. Nowadays cars cannot come here anymore, but other non-motorized means of transport such as bikes are allowed. The city view on top of the mountain is incredible! On top you can easily walk around the crater, which is completely covered by grass. Enjoy lunch at Olaf’s Bakery in Eden Village.
Of course there are more ‘short and relatively easy walks’ in New Zealand than described in this blog. The Department of Conservation has a great website full of options.
The great thing is: New Zealand has this exotic vegetation, a bit like jungle or rainforrest, but not so many creepy creatures! At least no human life threatening, scary inhabitants like the tarantula spider, anaconda snake, piranha, etc. The trails have clear signs and the paths are neat. My boyfriend said he thinks the walking trails in New Zealand are more polished than in Norway, with the marginal note we did not really go off the beaten path on this trip.
To be honest I found the so-called ‘easy walks’ in New Zealand quite challenging actually, many of them left me panting. So not only figuratively speaking but also literally these walks took my breath away… My home country The Netherlands is as flat as a pancake.
These walks in NZ made me realize that my condition can use some further improvement, no doubt. Here you go, my New Year’s resolution is out there! Cheers to that. Exercise-induced asthma and B12 deficiency don’t really help either. Oh well, we had some great walks and I loved every second of it!
How to get around
Getting around New Zealand can be done in many different ways. Most will choose either public transport, a rental car or camper.
Rental car New Zealand
A rental car and being able to drive around yourself gives a lot of freedom and flexibility. You will be able to see more in a shorter period of time compared to public transport, and the airconditioning is a bit plus too! Just make sure it is insured all-risk and that you bring your EU or international driver’s license.
Personally, when it concerns renting a car, I would recommend Sunny Cars, an all-inclusive, worry free rental concept with affordable, fair prices, great service and no unpleasant surprises upon pick up or drop off. I am a big fan and use them all the time! In most countries the 2nd driver, free cancellation up to 4 hours in advance and all-risk insurance are standard included. Ideal, I use them all the time!
Camper New Zealand
Many people dream about renting a camper in New Zealand as it is a great way to get around, nonetheless finding the best deal online can be a bit of a nightmare. World Wide Campers makes our lives easier by offering rental camper quote service in English, Dutch, German, Spanish, Italian and French. This means you can easily compare and pick the best deal. A camper will never be cheap but good comparison can save a lot of money.
Tip: traveling from south to north can safe you money when renting a car or camper in NZ.
Map six easy walks New Zealand
This map includes places and spots mentioned in this article (and more). This one is ‘smartphone friendly’; you can easily use it via the Google Maps app. Click the icon at the top left to open the menu and see the categories. To adapt the map to your own preferences and interests, (de)select a category. Via Google Drive you can copy the map to your own My Google Maps account.
I hope you found this article inspiring and useful. Have you ever been to New Zealand? Or would you like to go? Please leave a comment below.
More New Zealand articles
Read on with these New Zealand articles:
- Practical tips for the Tongariro Crossing and visiting nearby Turangi
- Coromandel Peninsula: a piece of paradise in gorgeous New Zealand
- New Zealand: vineyard hpping at the best wineries in Blenheim (Marlborough)
- New Zealand: swimming with horses in Turangi at Korohe Horse Treks
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Last Updated on 02/16/2024 by Elisa Flitter Fever