There are 9 Great Walks in New Zealand. These are a set of popular tramping (kiwi word for “hiking”) tracks that are developed and maintained by the Department of Conservation and allow those on route to experience some of the most diverse and incredible natural landscape in the world.
Ranging from alpine terrain to beaches and rain forests, there is no shortage in the types of adventures these Great Walks can lead you to. To complete most of these Great Walks in total, you will need multiple days and to register in advance to stay at the numerous DOC huts along the way.
There is quite a bit of competition in booking these huts, and if you’re anything like me, carrying 3-6 days worth of food, clothing and other supplies is not the most appealing thing in the world.
So there is a bit of dilemma to face when you want to experience a Great Walk but also have your princess crown on and don’t want to deal with the competitiveness of winning the lotto to share a cabin with random strangers plus lugging around 20kg+ of items for multiple days (yes, now that I have typed this out it does sound quite ridiculous and snobbish for the wanderlust mindset I like to tell myself I have).
Luckily, I have managed to still experience a handful of New Zealand’s Great Walks with my princess crown still in tact, and I’m here to share how:
The Routeburn Track
Normally a 3 to 4 day one-way hike between Glenorchy and Fiordland, this walk is famous for boasting incredible alpine views, out-of-this-world waterfalls and pristine glacier lakes, I had been dreaming of experiencing this for years! No wonder this track was named in the top 10 trails in the world by National Geographic!
So I decided to give my friends and I the challenge of experiencing part of this Great Walk in just one day.
Starting the track from the Fiordland side at The Divide, we did the final part of the track in reverse from most trampers.
It was only an hour in before we cleared the densely covered bush and were exposed to some of the most magnificent alpine terrain we had ever seen!
About two and a half hours in we reached Earland Falls–by far the most magnificent waterfall I have ever seen and undoubtedly a major highlight of the track.
Our goal for the day was to make it to Lake Mackenzie before turning back. By the four hour mark we had found ourselves at an absolutely stunning alpine lake. With water so clear and the surrounding alps reflecting on the surface this provided us with the most perfect lunch/rest stop before regaining our strength and making our way back to the start.
The return trip provided us with a whole new perspective of the route and a goal of getting back in less time and we were crushing our goal for the first two and a half hours–that is until fatigue kicked in and the last 10km seemed like an impossible feat.
In total, we did the final day of The Routeburn (twice) in 7 hours, hiked a total of 20 miles and climbed nearly 200 flights of stairs.
The day ended with us in delirium (see pic below), but was so extremely worth it.
Abel Tasman Coastal Track
For a girl who is forever a mermaid at heart, this Great Walk is an absolute dream. With endless amounts of private beaches, lagoons, waterfalls and dense beech forest to explore there isn’t enough time to experience it all–even if you choose to do the complete 5 day track.
But you don’t need 5 days to experience the magic of this walk–in fact there are multiple options for experiencing it in just one day…or even half a day!
With two days set aside for exploring Abel Tasman, we were able to bypass the heavy packs, tenting and other pains I try to avoid that comes with any multi-day hikes, and rather had two day trip missions that exposed us to the very best Abel Tasman had to offer!
The first day we started at the very beginning of the Abel Tasman coastal track. Weaving our way through this coastal path covered with thick New Zealand native Rata and Fern trees, every corner was another birds eye view that looked down onto yet another stunning private beach! Two hours into the track we made it to Akersten Bay, which provide us with the perfect setting to swim around in the teal blue waters and just relax before making the track back. After spending nearly 5 hours in the car before arriving at the start of the Abel Tasman track (note: if you’re traveling to here from the West Coast, the roads are deceivingly windy), this was exactly what we were needing!
The next day, we headed back to the national park, but this time with the goal of finding Cleopatra’s Pool–a natural rock slide we had heard about that is tucked away in the middle of the national park. But rather than having to complete a multi-day track, we were able to catch a 30 minute water taxi that took us to Torrent Bay.
The perspective from the boat was completely different from the one we had on the track yesterday and gave us an even greater appreciation for how majestic Abel Tasman really is.
Once we departed the water taxi it was an hour trek through the lush rain forest before reaching the incredible Cleopatra’s Pool.
It didn’t take long before we were sliding down this smooth rock slide into crystal clear waters for the next hour and a half!
After we had finished our fun on the slide for the day, it was back to the beach to catch our water taxi back. Coincidently planned, we still had enough time to enough to enjoy a secluded part of the beach, search for tiny little seashells and bask in the glory of what is Abel Tasm
So in conclusion–don’t let shortage of time or fear of multi-day hikes prevent you from experiencing the Great Walks of New Zealand. There are so many different ways you can experience them in a way that tailors you!