Top 10 alternative hikes in New Zealand

When planning your New Zealand trip  you will usually come across the “Great walks” advertised across websites and travel brochures. Although these hike are indeed “great”, they’re also cost a pretty penny. To hike over the great walks you must buy a Pass and not to mention the cost of the Huts along the way (can be extortionate in the summer). But not to worry, New Zealand has hundreds of incredible walks that are just as impressive without spending your any hard-earned money. Our Top 10 alternative hikes of New Zealand range from day walks to multi-day hikes, all of which we have hiked ourselves. Enjoy!

10: The Pinnacles Track

  • Location: The Coromandel Peninsula, North Island
  • Freedom Camping: DOC site located at the start of the track
  • Time: 7 – 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Terrain: Gravel, mud and rock face
  • Weather: Open to the wind at the top. Be safe and keep an eye on the weather
  • Information: Begin the walk at the campground . Make your way through the forest and open hill tops. The root is easy to follow with no issues of getting lost. Once at the top, you have wonderful visas of the Coromandel region. Be careful once approaching the top and be sure to use the ladders provided. Note: You can turn this one dy trek into a 2 day if you wish. There is a DOC hut at the top of the Pinnacles track which has great facilities including electricity, gas, potable water, toilets and showers. Be sure to take food, lighter and sleeping bags.
  • Toilet: Nature
  • Parking: Available (free)


9: The Waipaou Forest walk

  • Location: Northlands, North Island
  • Nearest campsite: DOC site and Freedom camping options
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Terrain: Gravel
  • Weather: Protected from wind and sheltered.
  • Information: Great day out visiting multiple walks through out the Waipaou Forrest area. Home to the famous, Tane Mahota which is estimated to be around 2000 years old.
  • Toilet: Drop Toilet
  • Parking: Available (free)


8: Rangitoto Island Track

  • Location: Auckland
  • Elevation: 260m
  • Nearest campsite: Accommodation in Auckland available
  • Time: 1 day (Full)
  • Difficulty: Easy to Medium
  • Terrain: Sharp volcanic rubble in parts and gravel (wear hard soles)
  • Weather: Mild throughout the year in Auckland, a little windy at the top.
  • Information: Early start to catch the ferry across to the island. Very interesting walk up to the peak of the Rangitoto Island and too to. Beautiful views across the bays and surrounding islands. Gentle walk down and onto the loop track that brings you back to the ferry terminal.
  • Toilet: Drop toilet
  • Parking: Not needed


7: Cape Kidnappers beach walk

  • Location: Napier
  • Freedom Camping: Available on the beach front in Napier
  • Time: 6 – 7 Hours
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Terrain: Sand and boardwalk
  • Weather: Exposed to th sea breeze and tide
  • Information: This is a great day walk with its steep cliffs, amazing sea views and of course the awesome Gannet Reserve, home to thousands of Gannets nesting. Such a great day out, but be aware of your timings. The time of your walk will depend on the time of the tides, so check with your local I-Site.
  • Toilet: Nature
  • Parking: Free parking near start and paid parking also available


6: The Copland Track Hike

  • Location: Fox Glacier is the closest town
  • Nearest campsite: Nice hut available on this overnight hike
  • Time: 2 days plus
  • Difficulty: Medium to Hard
  • Terrain: Wet, muddy, slippery and gravel
  • Weather: Crossing river with option of bridge further down. Sheltered from elements with forest canopy.
  • Information: A great multiple day hike. Begin with a river crossing, through forest and grasslands whilst taking in the mountains views. Arrive at camp with your sleeping bag and food. Camp has natural springs which you can sit in and watch the stars at night. We personally did this walk on Christmas eve which was rather lovely.
  • Toilet: Toilet available at hut


5: Mount Taranaki Loop Hike (1 day)

  • Location: Nearest town is New Plymouth, North Island
  • Elevation: 2500m
  • Freedom Camping: Available behind car park
  • Time: 8 – 9 hours
  • Difficulty: Medium – Hard
  • Terrain: Gravel, Board Walk, Wet, Muddy
  • Weather: Exposed to the elements, Cold in the morning
  • Information: Start the walk at the information centre. Climb up around half way and then begin walk along the side of the Volcano. You have incredible views across the whole region on a good day. You come across volcanic rocks, wildlife, forestry and marsh lands. A great loop track walk.
  • Toilet: available at car park
  • Parking: Available (Free)


4: St Arnaud range hike and Nelson Lakes, South Island

  • Location: South Island, St Arnaud
  • Elevation: 650m
  • Freedom Camping: Available for Self Contained and also DOC Site
  • Time: 5 – 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Terrain: Gravel and tree roots. Please be safe.
  • Weather: Very cold at the top
  • Information: A forgotten hike by many travelers but an absolute gem and worth a day’s hike. The start of the walk begins in the car park located halfway up the mountain that loops around the side with wide open views of Nelson Lakes. Then up to the top with incredible views stretching across the south island mountain ranges  and back down through forestry. A beautiful walk all in all.
  • Toilet: Available at car park
  • Parking: Available (Free)


3: Ben Lomond (7-8 hours), Queenstown, South Island

  • Location: Queenstown, South Island
  • Free Camping: Self contained vehicles only on the outskirts of Queenstown
  • Elevation: 1700m
  • Time: 7 – 8 Hours
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Terrain: Gravel and rocks
  • Weather: Partly sheltered but exposed to the elements also. Cold at the top.
  • Information: Start at the bottom of Queenstown Hill and work your way to the top where you will find, bungee jumping, carting and views across Queenstown. Carry on the walk away from the crowds to the saddle with amazing scenery of neighbouring mountains. Then to the top over rocks and gravel where you will be rewarded with a vista like no other. For me, one of the most rewarding walks I’ve ever done.
  • Toilet: Nature
  • Parking: Town centre


2: Roy’s Peak (5 hours), Wanaka, South Island

  • Location: Wanaka, South Island
  • Elevation: 1600m
  • Freedom Camping: Self Contained sites available near the hike
  • Time: 5 – 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Medium – Hard
  • Terrain: Gravel and steep
  • Weather: Exposed to the elements. No shelter.
  • Information: Get there early to beat the crown and to find a parking space. Bring sun cream if it’s a nice day. Stop half way up for the iconic photo of New Zealand (see below) before heading up to the top. Incredible panoramic views of Wanaka and the mountain ranges surrounding the region.
  • Parking: Available (Free) but get there early.


1: Tongariro Crossing (Free great walk in one day!)

  • Location: Tongariro National Park
  • Elevation: 2000m
  • Freedom Camping: Available for self contained a short drive from the start of walk
  • Time: 12 – 13 hours including Mount Ruapehu. 9 -10 hours with Mount Ruapehu
  • Difficulty: Medium to Hard
  • Terrain: Gravel, icey when cold, board walks, volcanic rocks (wear hard soles)
  • Weather: Exposed the elements for most part. Cold in the mornings.
  • Information:

The trek is not a loop walk and you will need to take a shuttle bus back to your car/van once finished. As a tip, to avoid paying for the shuttle, we would suggest enjoying the walk with   one other couple. This way you can take two vans, leaving one at the finish and driving the other van to the start together. This was our tactic and it worked perfectly.

Start the walk, taking in the awesome view of Mount Ruapehu or “Mount Doom” for all those LOTR fans. As suggested you either have the option to climb the active volcano or carry or to carry on. Recent updates suggest that you may not have this option for much longer, so please check the official DOC website for information. Now you will cross the vastness of Tongariro to the emerald pools where the second active volcano (Mount Tongariro) sit. Next you will enjoy the incredible views surrounding you as you make your way over to the pass. On the final leg you will bend in and around the forest with views of the crossing and lakes before finally finishing the trek.

  • Parking: available (Free)


Thanks for reading our top ten list of alternative hikes in New Zealand.  We hope the list helps you on your New Zealand adventure. If you would like to know more or would like advice on any other walks, I will be more than happy to help if I can. Plus, im sure everyone will enjoy suggesting other brilliant walks too! Happy travels!


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