Alternative ‘Off-the-Beaten-Track’ walks
New Zealand’s Great Walks take hikers through some of the country’s most stunning scenery and are popular for a reason. But New Zealand is filled with more off-the-beaten-track options that offer equally beautiful journeys into the native wilderness, and you might even have the views all to yourself.
As part of TourismNZ's 30th Anniversary of the Great Walks, we decided to share some stories to celebrate. Beyond the normal options, the NZ Mountain Safety Council and Department of Conservation staff teams share some of the many alternative tracks that also offer spectacular views and a rewarding challenge.
Header photo: Pouakai Circuit, Tom Harris
- Cape Brett Track, Northland
This Northland track tests hiker’s abilities with its rugged terrain, and steep cliffs, but also rewards them with dramatic coastal views and native bush. The 16km track requires walkers to have a good degree of fitness and experience as the steep cliffs require caution. Due to the importance of this track to both Māori and European history, it has been named a Tohu Whenua site by Heritage New Zealand – acknowledging it as a significant place that shaped our nation. Photo: Jonty Crane
- Aotea Track, Great Barrier Island, Auckland
Taking a break from Auckland city to enjoy the spectacular Aotea Track is well worth the trip for those with a medium level of fitness. Whether you have 2 or 3 days, hikers will explore through native bush, wetlands, and to experience rare wildlife and plants up close. Be sure to research the track to make sure your fitness abilities are sufficient to enjoy this track safely. Photo: Jonty Crane
- Pouakai Circuit, Taranaki
This 2-3 day hike presents the best of the Taranaki region. The 25km track leads walkers through forest, alpine tussocks with spectacular views of Taranaki Maunga (mountain) and the farmland below. Planning and preparation is especially important here as Taranaki Maunga is known for high winds, very fast-changing weather, total cloud cover and freezing conditions at any time of the year. If you’re lucky and time it right, the Pouakai Tarns and their picture-perfect reflections are a photographer’s dream.
- Tama Lakes, Central North Island
The Tama Lakes track is one of many achievable tracks in the Central North Island’s Tongariro National Park. Its incredible views of the two volcanic lakes and craters are a draw card and it’s a good option if poor weather prevents you from tackling the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Don’t forget your jacket, warm hat and gloves as it can get windy around here.
- Timber Trail, Manawatu-Whanganui
An 85km bike ride featuring 35 bridges is an achievable 2-3 day adventure and it’s even more rewarding when it passes through the heart of the North Island, the Pureora Forest Park.
The Timber Trail follows an old logging truck path, rich in history, linking the small settlements of Pureora and Ongarue. The trail is mostly off-road, including gravel roads and stunning suspension bridges. Predominantly wide and smooth trail classifies this as grade 2 (easy), however there are some decent climbs and trickier sections that push it to grade 3 (intermediate). Make sure you’re reasonably fit and experienced on a bike to make the most of it.
- Te Puia Hut Track, Hawke’s Bay
A great overnight walk for beginners and families with the bonus of relaxing in the Managatainoka Hot Springs as a reward at the end of the day. The track is surrounded by native bush and offers nice views of the river, which leads to the hot springs only 45 minutes past the Te Puia Hut.
- Mt Somers Track, Canterbury
Mt Somers is a family and beginner walker classic sitting in the foothills of the Southern Alps. Its range of options for hikers of all experience levels makes it easy to find something for everyone. However, despite its accessibility and popularity, this area still frequently experiences harsh conditions in the form of cold temperatures, strong winds, snow and rain. If you’re more of a beginner or just after a shorter walk, Woolshed Creek Hut is an easy 1-3 hours, and a great overnight option with lots to see nearby. Photo: Tom Harris
- Copland Track, Westland
The Copland Track is one of the most popular walking destinations on the West Coast with its natural hot pools a strong draw. The high annual rainfall makes for some spectacular rainforest to go with the stunning mountain views, but it also makes this area one of the most dynamic in Aotearoa with flooded rivers, rockfall and land slips a frequent occurrence.
- Lake Daniell Track, West Coast
This 8.4km track is a great introduction to hiking or a good first trip as a family. Along the way walkers are treated to river and forest views and can enjoy a swim in the lake. Nearby the Lewis Pass offers a taste of alpine New Zealand, and the longer St James Walkway is another option for more experienced and competent groups. Treat this as a day walk, or stay in Kōhanga Atawhai – Manson Nicholls Hut if you’re looking for an overnight trip.
- Hooker Hut, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
The 90-minute walk to the recently restored Hooker Hut follows the Hooker Valley Track and crosses two incredible swing bridges with views of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mueller Lake. If you’re lucky you can even hear avalanches or spot a kea (New Zealand’s curious native mountain parrot). Being near the country’s tallest mountain means the weather is very changeable, so check the latest details before starting. Photo: Backyard Travel Family
Celebrating the Great Walks
As part of TourismNZ's 30th Anniversary of the Great Walks, we decided to share some stories to celebrate this incredible aspect of New Zealand's tramping culture and showcase other incredible options to up-skill and explore. Read the other stories in the series:
- How tramping has changed over 30 years
- Unmissable highlights on NZ's Great Walks
- 9 Day Walks to challenge yourself
- 5 Short Walks to stretch your legs while road tripping around the South Island
Prepare for your adventure
Using the free Plan My Walk app can help you plan and prepare for your next New Zealand walk. Learn about the track and check for any alerts, read other’s track reviews, check the weather, get help from the suggesting gear list. Download it, or head to the website planmywalk.nz.
Make sure you also check out the Department of Conservation’s website for everything you need to know about the tracks.