New Zealand is pure bliss for us walking enthusiasts. There are so many trails on offer, that we could literally do nothing else but walk! Routes are well marked, many have drop toilets and above all, they are extremely scenic. It’s such a difficult decision to choose “The Top 12 Walks In The North Island”!
For the past couple of years we’ve spent a few months touring in our campervan, walking each day and enjoying every minute! So here’s our pick of the “Top 12 Day Walks In The North Island” of New Zealand.
We’ve not included The “Best Day Hike in The North Island” but you can read about our walk here: https://campervancastaways.com/2020/01/11/the-tongariro-alpine-crossing/
The 3 hour return walk began alongside a scenic DOC campground, leading through a dry river bed (well it was on our visit!). After 45 minutes and an uphill climb on rocky pebbles, the base of the amazing pinnacle formations surrounded us.
Towering high above, these vertical statuesque structures, rise upwards towards the sky, it’s an incredible sight. A separate path lead us up to a viewpoint overlooking the Pinnacles. From here, we took the ridge route back to the car park, through beautiful bush, rewarding us with glorious views too!
A hilly start through bush, gave way to a clearing and the most beautiful views across to Tolaga Bay. Passing through farmland, we reached a huge hole in the rock type formation, stepping inside for a view out to sea.
In October 1769, Captain Cook set anchor here, coming ashore, and later going on to circumnavigate New Zealand. The 2 1/2 hour return walk is a pleasure, even without the historic element. It’s all about the views and the feeling of solitude as you sit and admire the surroundings.
Just 3km outside of Rotorua lies the vast Redwoods Forest. Beginning from the visitor centre, are a series of colour-coded walks through the forest, as well as mountain bike routes. We chose the 7km return “Yellow” walk, an easy loop through the incredibly dense California Redwoods.
The big bonus with this circuit, is the views from an elevated section, overlooking the spectacular thermal wonderland of Te Puia below. On our visit, we could just about see the huge ‘Pohutu Geyser’, as it shot up to 30m into the air!
This one-way walk takes around 5 hours and had us returning by water taxi! We booked this the day before with Tarawera Taxi’s, a family firm, who has lived there for generations. Tracey, the current owner, told how, her Grandfather, would take visitors to the famous Pink and White Terraces, in the 1800’s, before they were destroyed by a huge volcanic eruption.
The walk itself starts at “The Landing” car park, next to the lake. An absolutely beautiful hike, through lush bush and rewarded with stunning lake views.
After a few hours, a slight detour, lead us to a natural hot water bathing pool, it was just divine and perfect for a respite from the heat of the day. A further 1 1/2 hours, mostly uphill, had us arrive at our finish and a welcoming hot water beach on the lake.
The steaming water was an ideal place for us to soak, whilst waiting for our boat and the 30 minute ride across the lake, back to the start. There’s also a DOC campsite here, so you could book to stay overnight.
If you like a bit of a climb, then this may be for you! An uphill track took us past steaming volcanic rocks and a fabulous blue lake, towards the summit.
Rainbow Mountain is named because of the colours of the volcanic matter, that’s naturally in the ground. The pink, orange, and yellow tones are the really obvious ones on the walk!
As we reached the top, the panoramic views stretched across towards Taupo and Lake Tarawera. It was the same route back down to the start, so no change of scenery, on this 3 hour walk.
As a extra bonus, we drove down the road to Kerosene Creek when we finished. This natural, thermal stream was ideal for a good soak after the walk. Just don’t expect the narrow, hot flowing water to yourself – it got fairly busy during our visit!
A 14km return walk, alongside the Waikato River from Taupo town centre. Passing Taupo Bungy, where the turquoise blue river, teases those who dare to leap from above. Here, we stopped to watch the excitement as they took the leap of faith.
The path then has an interesting twist, in the form of a hot water stream, that flows into the river in ‘Spa Park’. Never ones to resist a dip in a thermal pool, we stripped to our swim suits and found a very lovely, super hot rock pool for a good soak!
Continuing on from the hot stream, the path lead us to the mighty Huka Falls. These huge rapids, cascade along a narrow gorge, where the Waikato River is squeezed into this 10m deep chasm.
Combine fabulous weather, incredible scenery and the perfect Volcano-shaped Mt.Taranaki. You’ll get the picture and it doesn’t get much better than this!
We started our walk from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre, where several routes start. We selected the Wilkies Pool track, passing lava formations where water cascades form small pools, whilst views down to the coast and up towards Mt. Taranaki itself provide a stunning backdrop.
Taking the uphill path to Stratford Plateau, treading gently on the narrow, eroded steps, the view at the top leant for a picnic stop, overlooking the great volcanic peak.
From the plateau, the steep, path lead us down lots of steps, following the Enchanted Walk path. Crossing streams and a high, swing bridge, swaying across the gorge.
A hike up through bush for another 1 1/2 hours, before arriving back at Dawson Falls, made this walk a full day for us.
There are so many hiking routes around Mt.Taranaki, if this isn’t for you, it’s a walking paradise.
We must have been mad to want to tackle the 3000 steps up the mountain, but we do love a good challenge! This is the Mangorei Track, leading up to Poukai Hut, where we arrived, after a 2 hour walk through the lush bush. Legs feeling the strain after those 3000 steps.
As many headed back down, we trampled on to hopefully catch the reflection of Mt. Taranaki, in the pools of the tarns, another hour or so further on.
For us, this proved fruitless, as the clouds set in, drowning the view of the Taranaki peak, there was no chance of the glistening reflections of this peaky mountain in the pool.
A brilliant day hike all the same and in clear weather, this would be the icing on the cake.
Well this is a walk with a difference, certainly one where there is light at the end of the tunnel – quite literally!
Forming part of the old Broken Hills gold mines, the walk began alongside a DOC campground, climbing steeply up the side of a mountain, with a scenic river and bush alongside.
Before we knew it, we’d arrived at the entrance to the old, 500m long , gold mining tunnel. Completely pitch black, we used our phone’s as a torch to guide us through the darkness.
Wooden supports, still hold the walls in place. Whilst spiders on the ceiling, glow worms and what looked like a Weta, kept us on our toes – this was proper creepy but weirdly enjoyable.
As we emerged into the daylight, the route took us to the summit lookout, giving views out across the range, before descending back down the mountain to the start. Swim holes close to the car park are an ideal cool down after the strenuous, 2-hour return hike.
Picture an old railway line, gold mining relics and a scenic river and you’ll know what to expect from this 9km return walk.
Where better to start, than at the quaint railway station at Waikino, before following the river along the disused railway.
The big attraction comes, with a walk through the dimly lit, 1000m long, old railway tunnel. A few ceiling lights guide you through, emerging into the daylight and cross-crossing river bridges, before returning via the gorge itself.
Re-tracing our steps for part of the return journey, was the only downside. Nonetheless, a scenic and interesting walk, through historic countryside.
Sometimes, we just need a bit of a gentle stroll in idyllic surroundings, rather than a hard-going hike. This walk, ticks all those boxes and more, providing the most glorious sight of the Rainbow Falls, plunging into the pools, of the moss-covered rocks at the end of the trail.
Taking you on a well laid path, through the greenery of the bush, meandering alongside the river. Birdsong accompanied us, along with the sounds of the river, whirling over stones beside us.
The return the same way, back to the start at Kerikeri basin, is a couple of hours. The historic stone house and water-side pub, across the river at the basin itself, are a good place to chill afterwards.
It’s often the lesser known places that end up being the most remarkable. This 5 hour walk left us completely mesmerised, it was simply stunning.
Situated near Whangaroa, in Northland, Totara North is a tiny hamlet. The walk leads though leafy bush and involves a few river crossings, adding to the picturesque settings.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, along came the views of the estuary and Lane Cove, where we stopped for our picnic.
From here, there’s an option to walk the Duke’s Nose Track. An extra hour each way, this took us up a hilly track, ending in a 10m long metal rail, which hauled us up the rock face, onto a plateau.
The views across spectacular bays were worth every once of effort, despite the legs being a bit shaky after the experience of clinging on to a metal rail!
A definite surprise find, and one that will go down as the most fabulous day walks for us.
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