Despite its diminutive size, New Zealand boasts fourteen spectacular National Parks. Here’s our pick of best New Zealand national parks for those looking for one-of-a-kind park experiences.
Best New Zealand national parks
Best for kayaking: Abel Tasman
With some of the most scenic sea kayaking in the country, this one’s a no-brainer. Numerous operators offer guided trips along the turquoise waters of Abel Tasman’s sheltered coast, passing idyllic stretches of white sand and photogenic granite outcrops. You’ll need to organise your kayak before you enter Abel Tasman National Park, as there are no rental outfits inside the park.
Best for walking: Fiordland
While it would be easy to argue the case for hiking in any number of the best New Zealand National Parks, with three of the country’s Great Walks, Fiordland National Park just tips the balance over its rivals. Serious walkers will be spoilt for choice deciding whether to tramp the Routeburn, Kepler or Milford Tracks. And even though this is the wettest part of the country, the scenery’s so dramatic a bit of bad weather is unlikely to spoil the fun – just make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the conditions.
Best for trainspotters: Arthur’s Pass
Combine a love of the great outdoors with one of New Zealand’s most fantastic rail journeys with a trip on the TranzAlpine. The train tracks slip right through the middle of the National Park, but to fully appreciate the scenery you should alight at Arthur’s Pass station midway through your journey. There are several short walks that can be completed in between trains, but to fully explore the park we’d recommend staying a little longer.
Best for glaciers: Westland
It’s not the only National Park to deliver on ice – Aoraki Mount Cook is a strong competitor, for sure – but Westland tops the list for two reasons: Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Conveniently located a short drive from each other, they offer the opportunity for unforgettable hikes, scenic flights and picturesque walks along valley floors – something for every age, ability and fitness level. For the ultimate in glacier tourism, try a heli ice climb – getting you as close to the ice as it’s possible to do.
Best for volcanoes: Tongariro
Volcanic scenery is ten-a-penny amidst the tectonic landscapes of this geologically youthful country, but in New Zealand’s oldest National Park you’ll find not one but three active volcanoes: Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe are all found here. With hot springs, lava fields and magnificent scenery, Tongariro National Park is one of North Island’s most rewarding spots. In winter, skiing and snowboarding are possible on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu for the ultimate in bragging rights this side of the Pacific.