Top 12 Walks North Island New Zealand
Top 12 Walks North Island New Zealand
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 New Zealand”!
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 that famous walk here:
1. Putangirua Pinnacles – Wellington Region
This 3-hour return walk began alongside a scenic DOC campground, leading through a dry river bed – well it was on our visit!. After about 45 minutes and an uphill climb on rocky pebbles, finally the base of the amazing pinnacle formations surrounded us.
Towering high above, these vertical statuesque structures, rise upwards towards the sky and it’s an incredible sight.
In addition, a separate path lead us up to a viewpoint overlooking the Pinnacles. Then, from here we took the ridge route track, leading back to the car park, taking us through beautiful bush with rewarding views.
2. Cook’s Cove Walkway – North of Gisborne Top 12 Walks North Island New Zealand
Starting from a spacious car park, next cam a hilly start through bush which gave way to a clearing and the most beautiful views across to Tolaga Bay. Then, passing through farmland, we reached a huge hole in the rock type formation before stepping inside for a fabulous view out to sea.
Back 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 here and the feeling of solitude as you sit and admire the surroundings – simply perfect!
3. The Redwoods Forest – Yellow Walk – Rotorua – Top 12 Walks In The North Island
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 various mountain bike trails. We chose the 7km return “Yellow” walk – providing an easy loop through the incredibly dense California Redwoods.
The big bonus with this circuit, is not only the views overlooking the spectacular thermal wonderland of Te Puia. But also, we could just about see the huge ‘Pohutu Geyser’ itself – shooting up to 30m into the air.
4. Lake Tarawera Trail – Near Rotorua – Top 12 Walks in The North Island
This one-way walk takes around 5 hours and had us returning by a rather unique form of transport – a water taxi!
First, we had to book the water taxi the day before with Tarawera Taxi’s. This is a family firm who’s lived in these parts for generations. Tracey, the current owner, told how her Grandfather would take visitors to the famous Pink and White Terraces in the 1800’s. Later they would be destroyed by a huge volcanic eruption.
The walk itself starts at “The Landing” car park, next to the lake. It’s an absolutely beautiful hike, taking you through lush bush before being rewarded with stunning lake views.
After a few hours, our route took us on a slight detour with a difference – leading to a natural hot water bathing pool. This was just divine and a perfect way for a respite from the heat of the day.
Then another 1 1/2 hours of walking followed, before arriving at the finish and a welcome hot water beach – right 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. Not forgetting – this water is HOT, so watch those feet – it’s easy to burn.
There’s also a DOC campsite here, so you could book to stay overnight if you wanted to extend the experience.
5. Rainbow Mountain – Rotorua Region – Top 12 Walks In The North Island
If you like a bit of a climb, then this may be for you! Because this is an uphill track passing steaming volcanic rocks and a fabulous blue lake, towards the summit.
It takes the name Rainbow Mountain because of the colours of the volcanic matter that’s naturally in the ground. These strong tones of pink, orange, and yellow are the really obvious on the walk so it’s actually rather beautiful.
As we reached the top, the panoramic views stretched across towards Taupo and Lake Tarawera, making an ideal picnic spot despite some strong winds. Then it was back down the same route 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!
6. Taupo – Waikato River to Huka Falls Trail
This is a 14km return walk alongside the mighty Waikato River leading from Taupo town centre. Soon 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 – rather them than me!
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. Before we knew it, we’d stripped off 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 then 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.
7. Mt.Taranaki – Dawson Falls Walks
How about combining: A mix of fabulous weather, incredible scenery and the perfect Volcano-shaped Mt.Taranaki? I’m sure 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 begin. We selected the Wilkies Pool track, soon passing lava formations where water cascades form small pools. On top of that, views down to the coast and towards Mt. Taranaki itself provide a stunning backdrop.
Then, we took an uphill path to Stratford Plateau, treading gently on the narrow, eroded steps which eventually brought us to the most fabulous view at the top. This had to be our picnic stop – overlooking the great volcanic peak.
From the plateau, the steep path lead us down lots of steps, following the Enchanted Walk path. Soon, we were crossing streams and a high swing bridge – swaying across the gorge.
A further 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, so if this isn’t for you there are plenty more to choose from. Quite simply – it’s a walking paradise.
8. Mangorei Track, Mt.Taranaki
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. Our legs were left feeling the strain after those 3000 steps but it was well worth the effort.
As many others headed back down, we trampled on to hopefully catch the reflection of Mt. Taranaki – in the pools of the tarns. This was another hour or so further on but leads to the well known Instagram photo spot.
For us, this proved fruitless, as the clouds set in, drowning the view of the Taranaki peak. So, there was no chance of the glistening reflections of this peaky mountain in the pool today.
Although it’s a brilliant day-hike all the same and in clear weather, this reflection would be the icing on the cake.
9. Collins Drive Walk – Puketui Valley, Tairua
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. Now, this was completely pitch black, so we used our phone’s as a torch to guide us through the darkness.
Unbelievably – Wooden supports still hold the walls in place, making it a bit of an eerie feel. Add to that some spiders on the ceiling, glow worms and what looked like a Weta – we were certainly kept us on our toes! This was proper creepy, but weirdly enjoyable at the same time.
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.
10. Karangakake Gorge – Waihi
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 a dimly lit -1000m long old railway tunnel. Only a few ceiling lights are lit up to guide you through, before emerging into the daylight. Next, we found ourselves criss-crossing river bridges, before returning via the gorge itself.
Re-tracing our steps for part of the return journey was the only downside. Nonetheless, this is a scenic and interesting walk, through historic countryside.
11. Kerikeri River Track
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 Rainbow Falls, plunging into pools of moss-covered rocks at the end of the trail.
Taking you on a well laid path through the greenery of the bush, the route meanders alongside the river. Birdsong accompanied us, along with the sounds of the water, whirling over stones beside us.
The return is the same way, leading back to the start at Kerikeri basin in a couple of hours. The historic stone house and water-side pub across from the river basin itself, are a good place to chill afterwards.
12. Wairakau Stream Track – Totara North
It’s often the lesser known places that end up being the most remarkable. No more so than this 5-hour walk which 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 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.
Map of Walks
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