7 North Island Hiking Destinations in New Zealand
Take a hike at the end of the world.
by Tommy Walker | August 04, 2017
Visiting New Zealand will always bring you adventure. If it doesn’t, then you’re probably doing something wrong. The country that sits “at the end of the world” is home to a collection of natural, breathtakingly beautiful terrain, with every pocket of the country having something nothing short of spectacular to offer.
And speaking of beautiful landscapes, we rounded up the best hiking trails in the North Island. Whether you go with a guide or head out on your own — you mostly don’t need any specific training or qualifications — pack up, put on your hiking boots and nestle into the natural world.
About an hour from the city, the Hunua Ranges wait for trekkers. It’s home to Hunua Waterfall, one of the most popular bodies of water in Auckland. It’s the reward that waits for hikers who use one of the several trails.
You can head out on foot on three-hour loop trails such as the Cossey-Massey, reach the silent Cossey Dam, or even go a little further and complete Ernie’s Trail, a six-hour hike with no path but just orange triangular signs to show you the way.
The Waitakere Ranges also sit close to Auckland. This chain of hill ranges don’t just offer waterfall-filled rainforests to explore, but misty beaches at the stretching coastline are also included in the package.
If there’s anywhere in the North Island that has a good sampling of New Zealand’s natural features, it’s Waitakere. It’s a great place to spend a weekend, taking all of them in.
What will come as a surprise when visiting Karangahake is the lack of visitors. The gorge was once home to an old mining camp, and you can still see some steel ruins, cart tracks, and hill tunnels — it’s something like the outer corners of the zone in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker.
If that’s the vibe you’re going for, make sure to visit out of peak season, and the rain will gladly add to the eerie abandoned feel. But if you want the opposite, visit in the summer and make sure to bring more than a few of your friends.
Waitomo, on the other hand, is known for its magnificently complex cave network, and the glow worms in it. But on the surface, literally, Waitomo offers a hike or two on its verdant trails.
Walking into Ruakuri Scenic Reserve via Waitomo Walkway, you’ll encounter limestone rocks, tunnels, caves and a flurry of different plants and trees above you. Waitomo River will be soon by your side, and as will the Marokopa Falls.
New Zealand’s Bay of Islands get a lot of attention in this area, but you’ll be surprised to know that it isn’t just sandy coastlines and fluorescent waters that you can experience. Puketi Forest is great for eco-tourists who enjoy the complexities of nature and wildlife both day and night.
Explore Puketi’s rich flora and fauna and learn about the Ancient Kauri trees that still stand proudly here. If you want to go along with the common term of “getting back to nature,” Puketi — over any season — should be at the top of your list.
Looking over Auckland city, Rangitoto Island is great for a day out. Depending on your experience and enthusiasm, you can treat this as a sauntering excursion. Reach the peak of Mount Rangitoto, known for offering panoramic views of Auckland and the surrounding bay and islands. You don’t need to plan much for this trip, just take a ferry over from downtown Auckland and you can get right on track!
Tongariro National Park
Last but most definitely not the least, Tongariro National Park is a hikers’ playground, and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing trail is the most popular yet demanding walk from the whole list.
It takes seven hours to complete this particular trail, but with stunning views that include the setting for Mordor in the movie Lord of the Rings, you’ll be determined to make it through to the end.
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