Get out and around and about this beautiful country, writes Lauren Jones
When it comes to finding a good walking track, it's hard to put a foot wrong anywhere in New Zealand. From 20-minute urban bush trails to any of the Great Walks, Aotearoa has a pretty staunch claim to being the best place in the world to take a hike.
About four hours' drive from Christchurch, this is one of New Zealand's best day walks. Following and crossing the Hooker River, it's a wonderful one-day hike through the ranges ending at a glacier lake. On a good day there are stunning views of Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Hooker Glacier. The walk takes around 3-4 hours return, depending where you start, and is fairly easy. However, you will need boots as some parts are rocky. Remember to dress for any conditions as mountain weather is often changeable. If you decide to go in peak season, start around 6-7am — there can be loads of tourists.
Immersed in stunning views of the coast and native bush, walking this track takes 3-5 days and is recommended for the moderately or intermediate-level fit; biking it takes 2-3 days and is suggested for intermediate to advanced riders. There are many options for baggage transfers and guides, or you can DIY it (you'll need to book the huts in advance). It's a one-way track so you'll need to arrange transport at the start and/or the end. Best to start from Ship Cove as you can get a water taxi to there from Picton. Plan your visit around the forecast: the track is most rewarding in good weather.
Home to a huge range of tramping tracks, most of which should be attempted only by experienced trampers, but there's a walk of about three hours return that shows off some of the national park's natural wonders, including Bridal Veil Falls and the surrounding mountains. You'll pass through beech forest and even get a glimpse of the Dracophyllum (mountain neinei) with its enchanting shape and, at the right time of year, red leaves. The easy walk takes you from the Punchbowl carpark to the Dobson Memorial, commemorating the surveyor who mapped the mountain pass, and back.
For stunning 360-degree views over Tauranga and its surrounding beaches you can't look past the summit walk. Depending on which track you take, the walk takes about 45 minutes. It's uphill all the way so a good level of fitness is required. The track is mostly gravel so wear sturdy shoes and take a water bottle on a hot day. Plan B: beat the heat and make the climb in time to see the sun rise from the top of the Mount. At the top, don't be in a hurry to walk back down: take in the views. If steep hills aren't for you, the 40-minute track around the base is a great, flat option.
This seven-hour walk showcases some of the best scenery the Coromandel has to offer. Start at Fletcher Bay or Stony Bay — both lovely beaches with campsites (book and pay in advance). The trail runs along the coast, through farmland and beautiful bays. Though most of it is fairly easy there is a steep section around Poley Bay. It's up to you whether you freestyle it or book a tour. Summer is the best time to take in the views: just remember to slip, slop, slap.
A three- or four-day loop track starting just out of town, this track takes you into Fiordland's beautiful mountains, offering stunning views of the ranges, lakes, forests and — if you're lucky — meeting the wildlife. Luxmore Caves and Iris Burn Falls are short add-ons; both are stunning and worth the extra kilometres. You can do the track independently or with a group; independently, you'll need to book the huts or campgrounds well in advance as this walk is particularly popular. Te Anau is only a two-hour drive from Queenstown or Milford Sound, so you can easily explore them before or after your tramp.
This day out in South Waikato showcases the Blue Spring — said to be the source of 60 per cent of New Zealand's bottled water. Its crystal-clear, pure flowing water is a dazzling greenish blue. Taking about three hours return, it's graded moderate so you'll need sturdy shoes. It takes you through bush, farmland and wetlands and it's suggested you start from the Whites Rd end. However tempting the spring may be, don't swim: you could contaminate it. This walk could be combined with a trip to Hobbiton, only half an hour drive away.
Aucklanders don't need to leave home to see the country — the Waitakere Ranges offer more than 250km of tracks, from short, easy walks to the famous four-day Hillary Trail. The west coast's famous black-sand beaches, kauri-clad rainforest, magical creeks, pools and waterfalls lie on the city's western doorstep — and they're free. Auckland Council's regional parks website is a mine of information to choose the walk that sounds right for you. Just a couple of rules: when entering and leaving the tracks, clean and spray your shoes to prevent the spread of kauri dieback; and it's best to leave the dog at home.