As the days get warmer and longer the idea of getting into the bush becomes more appealing.

For many busy families that's often as far as it gets. The best walks seem far away, and too hard to get to.

Except they're not, as Shaun Barnett reminds us his beautifully updated Day Walks in New Zealand.

Barnett's guide first appeared in 2007. I have a copy of that book, but this is a more inviting edition, full of striking images and enriched by Roger Smith's panoramic maps which instantly tell you the kind of country the walks cover.


Carefully divided into 50 North and South Island walks - two of the southern walks are on Rakiura or Stewart Island - Barnett has located many of his picks within easy distance of our biggest cities. Wellington is perhaps best served here with 10 walks an hour or so of Courtenay Place.

New Zealand is blessed with a huge variety of tracks - make the most of them. Photo / supplied.
New Zealand is blessed with a huge variety of tracks - make the most of them. Photo / supplied.

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The big bonus is that most of Barnett's selection can be reached by buses or trains from the capital.

The Auckland walks mostly need a car to access but they are all within an easy drive or boat trip from the city and can be comfortably done in a day. You could go west to Karekare or Te Henga, or get out on the Hauraki Gulf and visit our youngest volcano - Rangitoto - or go a bit further to Tiritiri.

The spread of kauri dieback means some high-grade walks near Auckland are out of bounds. It is though still possible to see magnificent mature kauri up close, and Barnett includes advice to protect this threatened taonga.

For new walkers wondering about their fitness, the tracks are classified by their degree of difficulty. Most are graded easy or medium, with just a few falling into the hard category where walkers might need a head for heights and a nose for navigation.

Clearly the categories are subjective, because fit walkers will peel off routes in half the time that an office party might achieve.

Though these tracks are chosen as day walks, quite a few, especially those in the South Island, pass huts.

MV Wairua on trip to Downs Hut on the Whanganui River. Photo / Bevan Conley
MV Wairua on trip to Downs Hut on the Whanganui River. Photo / Bevan Conley

For anyone who has not stayed in a tramping hut there are plenty of options here to chose from, including tiny corrugated iron relics to large, supervised bunk houses.

Huts come in handy if it's pelting down. Anyone who has been in the bush will know our weather can deliver unexpected and often unpleasant surprises. Barrett includes advice for newbies about preparing for the worst, and how to cope when the conditions fail to follow the script.

A lot has changed since 2007. Track use has intensified on the most popular trips. But this needn't put walkers off the backcountry because we are spoiled for choice.

Of the 100 walks in this collection, perhaps a dozen can get busy, with the Tongariro Crossing the only wall-to-wall entry. But if crowds put you off, and solitude is your thing, there are loads here that will deliver both scenery and silence.

New Zealand's remarkable range of tracks are a special asset. They are diverse, some are testing, most are well maintained, and all have something - a glimpse of the peaks, a rushing stream, a mighty forest or a sprawling coastline - that makes them all worth the effort.

Over the years l have ticked off half of Barnett's tracks, or parts of them.

The new edition has whetted my appetite to nail the rest. It is impossible to delve into this guide without feeling inspired to head for the hills.

Day Walks in New Zealand by Shaun Barnett
Published by Potton & Burton (RRP $49.99)