When lacing up the walking shoes, everyone knows you can head to Mauao or nip out to Rotorua's Blue Lake for a stunning scenic stroll. Little do many people know, the central North Island has an abundance of hidden gems when it comes to walking tracks, both long and short. Here are 10 you should try this summer:
1. Rainbow Mountain
Lush greenery, steamy geothermal sights and pink clay tracks. Rainbow Mountain truly is a volcanic wonderland. About 20 minutes south of Rotorua, this steep but short track between two crater lakes provides stunning mountain views, including Mt Tarawera, the Paeroa Range, the Urewera Ranges, Mt Tauhara and the volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park. The 5km return trip takes the average walker a couple of hours. However, do not take your furry friend on this one because dogs are not allowed.
2. Western Okataina Walkway
A spectacular walking track that knits together a number of Rotorua's lakes. The Western Okataina Walkway is one not to be missed. It can be walked in its entirety in either direction from Te Ruato Bay on Lake Rotoiti or from Millar Rd on Lake Ōkareka, or from the Outdoor Education Centre on Lake Okataina Rd. The 22km track is open to both trampers and mountain bikers, with the one-way track times varying from 40 minutes to three hours.
3. Kauaeranga Kauri Trail (The Pinnacles)
If you're after spectacular views of bush, mountains and beaches, this challenging hike will be well worth your while. This walk, situated just out of Thames, is not for the faint-hearted though, with many taking packs to stay the night in the Pinnacles Hut to break up the eight-hour round trip. From scaling rocks and climbing ladders, the picturesque snap at the top will not be without a bit of dust on the shorts. The word on the street is that there is nothing quite like seeing the sunrise while sitting at the top - if you can face the climb that early.
4. Mount Tauhara
Ever stood on a mountain formed 65,000 years ago while looking out at the views of Lake Taupō, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Tongariro? If so, you would be standing on Mount Tauhara. This 2.8km medium walk based in Taupō will take about one hour and 15 minutes. Make sure to take a jumper because many say it can get quite chilly at the top.
5. Tarawera Trail
There is nothing quite like a hot spa after a long day on your feet and with this walk, this relaxing treat is your destination. The 15km tramp starts off on Rotorua's Tarawera Rd winding through the bush track with scenic lookouts at various bays along the way. Walkers will finish at Te Rata Bay to enjoy a soak at Hot Water Beach, but be careful - localised patches of sand are very hot. Water taxis and a Hot Water Beach campsite are also available.
6. Coromandel Coastal Walkway
Coastal views to one side and farmland to the other, put a day aside on your next trip to the Coromandel for this 20km coastal hike between two breathtaking bays and forests. The track follows an easy gradient and is part of an old bridle path formed by early pioneers to link the two bays. Feast your eyes on views of The Pinnacles, Great Barrier Island and Cuvier Island.
7. Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway
This track, at the base of the Coromandel Range in the Western Bay, follows an old railway line between Paeroa and Waihi with sights of impressive remains from the mining and railway eras. There are a number of tracks to enjoy ranging from 2.5km to 7km. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
8. Huka Falls Walking Tracks
This waterside walk along the Waikato River provides spectacular views of one of New Zealand's most popular natural attractions. With short walks ranging from 10 minutes to 1.5 hours, this kid-friendly excursion has a number of lookout points for the wondrous Huka Falls.
9. Okere Falls Track
Another one of Rotorua's hidden gems, this 1.2km bush walk takes walkers through scenic lookouts over Okere River and its raft of waterfalls. The spot is also popular for fishing with trout often seen swimming up the current. The main lookout platform packs a bit of excitement where you can watch rafters and kayakers sweep over the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world.
10. Waihi's Martha Mine Pit Rim Walk
A walk and cycleway enriched with history in the centre of the Western Bay goldmine town of Waihi. The 4km track follows the edge of the huge mine site with various historical relics along the way, including the famous Cornish Pumphouse. Scenic parklands and wetlands can also be seen along the way. After the walk is finished, many pop down to the Waihi Goldmine Discovery Centre to learn a little more about the small town bursting with history.