North Island’s Great Walks in New Zealand

The New Zealand Great Walks represent the best of the country’s trails, passing through varied and spectacular scenery: dramatic gorges, snow-capped mountains, tranquil lakes and verdant native forest.  With three of the nine on North Island, there’s a good chance there will be a journey to fit around your travel plans and scenic preferences.

Here’s the lowdown on 3 New Zealand Great Walks on North Island .

3 New Zealand Great Walks: North Island

1. Lake Waikaremoana

Length of trail: 46 km

Allow: 4 days

Fitness level: Moderate

New Zealand Great Walks North Island: Panorama of Lake Waikaremoana from Panekiri Bluff
Panorama of Lake Waikaremoana from Panekiri Bluff by Christiaan (public domain)

Why you should visit: Midway between Taupo and Gisborne, this one way track between Onepoto and Hopuruahine winds around the shoreline of Lake Waikaremoana.  Evergreen podocarp trees cloak the landscape as they have done since prehistoric times, and whether pausing on a wild beach or tramping to the top of Panekire Bluff, the views will not disappoint.

Don’t miss: The Korokoro Falls, a one-hour detour from Korokoro campsite, for tumbling water framed by lush vegetation.

Tip: Start at Onepoto to get the steepest part of the hike out of the way on Day 1.

2. Tongariro Northern Circuit

Length of trail: 43 km

Allow: 4 days

Fitness level: Challenging, especially in winter

New Zealand Great Walks North Island: Tongariro Alpine Crossing showing the Emerald Lakes and the Blue Lake
Tongariro Alpine Crossing showing the Emerald Lakes and the Blue Lake by Yogi de CC BY-SA 3.0

Why you should visit: If you’re after active volcanoes, then this is the hike for you.  Beginning and ending in Whakapapa Village, this circular walk leads you past Pukekaikiore, one of Tongariro volcano’s older vents and on to the solidified lava flows of Ngauruhoe, a parasitic cone perched on Tongariro’s flanks.  The steep climb to Mangatepopo Saddle is rewarded with panoramic views of the valley below.

Don’t miss: The Emerald Lakes, whose vivid hue is caused by the mineral content of the water

Tip: Check the status of volcanic activity in the area before setting out.

3. Whanganui Journey

Length of trail: 145 km

Allow: 5 days

Fitness level: Moderate

New Zealand Great Walks North Island: Kayak on the Whanganui River
Kayak on the Whanganui River by Ingolfson (public domain)

Why you should visit: This walk is, in fact, a paddle, as this Great Walk follows the Whanganui River from Taumarunui to Pipiriki.  Shoot the rapids for an adrenaline rush; admire the beauty of the middle reaches of the river dripping with waterfalls; savour the impressive gorge of the Manganui o te Ao River from your watery vantage point.  Remember to view Tamatea’s cave from a distance – it’s a sacred place for the Maori and thus off limits.

Don’t miss: The opportunity to take a hike to the Bridge to Nowhere, a reminder of the failed settlement of returned World War One ex-servicemen.

Tip: Never canoe the river when in spate or when levels are predicted to rise – it’s just not worth the risk.

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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