Kit yourself out and get yourself out for a walk on the wildish side, writes Juliette Sivertsen
Sometimes it's not possible to commit to a week-long hiking trip, but that doesn't mean you can't take in some of New Zealand's greatest outdoor tracks on a short getaway.
Wherever you're headed for on a quick break from the daily grind, there are always walking tracks nearby to suit your schedule and your ability.
Remember to always check the weather conditions even on a short half-day trek, and wear sturdy shoes and warm clothes, keeping in mind some sections are likely to be muddy at this time of year and the weather a little unpredictable.
Te Ara Hura Walkway, Waiheke Island
Te Ara Hura Walkway is a 100km network of tracks around Waiheke Island, linking a mix of easier and more challenging hikes. Some are quite short but they are all connected so you can mix and match depending on how much time you have to create a trail that suits your fitness. However, due to storm damage and kauri dieback, some walking tracks have been closed temporarily.
There's no specific starting or finishing point for the walkway, but you can decide whether you want to explore the coastline, trek through native bush or wetlands, visit historic sites or build a tramp around tastings at the many vineyards on Waiheke Island.
Duder Regional Park, Auckland
Duder Regional Park is made up of 148ha of coastal parkland on the Whakakaiwhara Peninsula, giving you 360-degree views across the Brookby/Maraetai hills, the Hūnua Ranges and Hauraki Gulf islands.
There are several coastal walks that trek along different beaches as well as through rolling farmland. The Farm Loop Walk to Whakakaiwhara Pā will take about two and a half hours return, and you can even see the earthwork remains of a fortified Māori settlement. Ngäi Tai were the first people to live on the peninsula, with their ancestral links dating back about 650 years.
Wairere Falls, Matamata
The Wairere Falls is the highest waterfall in the North Island, plunging 153m. It's a 10- to 20-minute drive from Matamata. There are a couple of walking options - the shorter trip will take about an hour and a half return from the car park on Goodwin Rd to the falls, crossing a number of bridges and passing through native bush before arriving at the first lookout platform.
From the lookout, there's an option to add a more intrepid hike to get to the top of the falls. It's not a difficult track but it is steep with plenty of steps and staircases to get up the top, before passing through the forest until you reach the lookout at the top for spectacular views out over the Waikato Plains.
The return trip up to the top lookout takes about three to four hours.
Blue Spring, Te Waihou Walkway, Waikato
There's no need for any Instagram filters for The Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway. The spring supplies around 60 per cent of New Zealand's bottled water and is one of the purest water sources in the world.
The water, which is fed from the Mamaku Plateau, has an incredible clarity from being so clean that it appears a spectacular blue colour, while still being clear.
The walk to the springs takes about an hour and a half each way, following a track alongside the Waihou River, through wetlands, across rolling pastoral land and features views of small waterfalls, native bush and the famous Blue Spring. You may even see some trout along the way.
Most of it is a fairly straightforward walk suitable for all ages and abilities.
Huka Trails, Taupo
The Huka Trails are a network of walking and biking tracks that travel alongside the Waikato River before connecting with Taupō, the Huka Falls, Aratiatia Dam, Wairākei Tourist Park and Craters Mountain Bike Park.
You'll pass through native bush, geothermal streams, native punga groves and giant Redwood trees.
The Spa Park to Huka Falls Walk is a 90-minute walking track that will get you to the famed Huka Falls from Taupō. If you want a longer walk, you can continue from the falls along the Aratiatia Rapids Track. The gates at the Aratiatia dam are opened several times a day and make for an incredible sight at the many lookout points.
The rapids were actually used in the filming of a dramatic escape scene in Peter Jackson's movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is on the wish list for many New Zealanders and is considered one of the best one-day hikes in the country, trekking across the central North Island's volcanic landscape.
It's not to be under-estimated - the weather can be unpredictable and parts of the 19.4km track are not for the faint-hearted. In winter, hikers must be experienced with alpine skills and equipment with high-level backcountry experience.
The crossing is in Tongariro National Park, which is New Zealand's oldest national park and a dual World Heritage Site.
Allow nine hours to complete the hike.
Te Mata Peak, Hawke's Bay
Te Mata Park and its famous peak are a popular hiking destination for visitors to Hawke's Bay, towering nearly 400m above the Heretaunga Plains.
The landscape of the peak resembles a man lying down; European settlers called it the Sleeping Giant, while Māori legend suggests it's the final resting place of Waimarama chief Te Mata O Rongokako.
There are several walking options of varying lengths to head up to the peak, with the Giant Circuit taking walkers right around the perimeter of the park and up to the summit, taking about two hours and 15 minutes to complete.
Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson
The Abel Tasman National Park is famous for its golden sandy bays and inlets but is also New Zealand's smallest national park.
One of the best short walks in the park is the Wainui Falls Track, which takes about 45 minutes each way through native bush.
For longer hikes, you can take a water taxi up to any of the bays in the Abel Tasman, such as Anchorage, then head back to Marahau through the beech forest and across the coastline for a solid half-day hike. In the warmer months, you can add a kayak option into your journey.
Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough
The Queen Charlotte Track is a 72km track which typically takes between three and five days to complete - but there are plenty of options for shorter half and full-day hikes on sections of the trail.
The track climbs up along skyline ridges and down to coastal forests with vibrant views out to the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds.
You can arrange boat transfers to drop you off and pick you up at various parts of the trail, depending how long you want to walk. A good half-day hike is the 15km trip from Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet. It will take about five hours through lush forest up to the ridges with stunning vistas and down along the shoreline towards the inlet.
Mt Herbet Walkway, Banks Peninsula
The Mt Herbert Walkway is a fairly advanced hike, starting from the Diamond Harbour wharf, then rising to the summit, which at 920m, is the highest peak on Banks Peninsula.
The track passes through working farms, so be aware and respectful of livestock. Some of the tracks close during lambing season or during times of extreme fire risk, so check for possible closures before you go.
Allow six to eight hours for the return trip and take all your drinking water with you, as there is none available on the track apart from in the huts.
Diamond Lake, Wānaka
Most of the best hikes in this part of the country are not ideal for winter due to the alpine climate and associated safety risks. But there is a short scenic walk appropriate for the cooler months, to Diamond Lake.
This hidden alpine lake is slightly out of town and the trek there consists of a steady climb to the lookout. The Diamond Lake Circuit loop track is a relatively easy trek that only takes about 45 minutes return, but you must take care in the winter months.
There are options to continue hiking to more scenic viewpoints, but these are best done once the weather starts to improve. Even then it can be extremely slippery.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com/dosomethingnew