No matter where you are in New Zealand, you’re never far from a hiking trail – there are literally thousands – and with some of the most beautiful countryside anywhere in the world, hikes through New Zealand are the one of the best ways to see the country.

Misty mountains, emerald fjords, ancient fern forests, cascading waterfalls and miles of black and white sand beaches are just a few of the incredible natural attractions on offer. Here are some of the best hikes in New Zealand both on the South Island and the North Island:

The Best Hikes In New Zealand – South Island

Abel Tasman Coast Track

Abel Tasman is the most popular and one of the least strenuous hikes in New Zealand. With endless golden beaches, subtropical vegetation and clear-blue waters where fur seals play, its not hard to see why. Named after the first European to land on the island’s shores, the Abel Tasman National Park is a paradise for adventure-loving travellers and home to one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’.

The Best Hikes In New Zealand: South Island and North Island
Abel Tasman National Park | The Best Hikes In New Zealand

The hike is a two-to-five day one-way track that takes you through fern forests, manuka groves and along empty shorelines, where you can choose to camp at the water’s edge.

Other activities include: kayaking, biking, canyoning or lazing on the beach.

Distance: 60 kilometres / 37 miles

Duration: Three to five days

Milford Track

Arguably one of the finest in the world and the gem of all hikes in New Zealand, the Milford Track features forested mountains that ascend out of glacial valleys. Be sure to pack your coat, as this is one of the wettest places on earth with an average annual rainfall of 7 metres (22 ft).

The hike is renowned for its pesky sandflies which can pack a stinging bite, but with views of Mitre Peak – New Zealand’s most photographed mountain – coupled in with the 580 metre (1903 ft) Sutherland Falls, The Milford Track is one you don’t want to rush no matter how hard the sandflies bite.

Distance: 53 kilometres / 33 miles

Duration: Four days

Routeburn Track

Located in the centre of the South Island, the Routeburn Track is easily accessible from Queenstown and boasts the scenery that New Zealand is famous for; glistening lakes, vast valleys and soaring mountain peaks.

The hike weaves through meadows, alpine gardens and provides rewarding views of vistas over vast mountain ranges and valleys.

Distance: 32 kilometres / 20 miles one-way
Duration: Two to four days

Rakiura Track

Off the Southern Tip of South Island, lies the remote Stewart Island, famous for its deserted beaches, rugged forests and its large population of Kiwis – a flightless bird, commonly seen along the beaches and the national animal of New Zealand.

The Best Hikes In New Zealand: South Island and North Island
Kiwi © Neil Robert Hutton/AP | The Best Hikes In New Zealand

The hike run throughs expansive coastline, crosses forested interior and meanders along the sheltered shores of Paterson Inlet. Various historical sites lie along this track and parts of it cross Maori land, access is courtesy of the land owners.

Distance: 32 kilometre / 20 mile loop

Duration: Three days

Heaphy Track

Yet another remote track, Heaphy is located on the wild, west coast of the South Island and is the longest of all the Great Walks. The winding track runs through vast tussocks and lush palm forests with bridge crossings over all rivers and streams. The full track is a four day trip, but shorter day routes are available incase you’re pressed for time.

Distance: 82 kilometres / 49 miles on way

Duration: Four days, with day routes available.

Kepler Track

In the southwest corner of South Island, the circular Kepler Track begins and ends five kilometres from Te Anau and takes hikers through lush beech forests and epic alpine ridgelines. Walkways are made up of gravel, rock and dirt and can be slippery when wet.

The Best Hikes In New Zealand: South Island and North Island
Views from Kepler Track | The Best Hikes In New Zealand

Rivers and large waterways have sturdy bridges to cross over and most small streams are easy enough to step across safely. The track also features hill climbs with steep pathways and panoramic views,

Distance: 60 kilometres / 37-mile loop

Duration: Three to four days

Mount Alfred

The summit of Mount Alfred near Glenorchy in Queenstown offers some of the most incredible panoramic views in New Zealand, with snow-capped peaks, picturesque rivers, lakes and rain forests.

The three hour climb, meanders through a variety of vegetation types and passes through mountain streams and waterfalls, with open glades that boast spectacular scenery providing hints of the views from the summit.

The return journey retraces your steps to the valley below. With a refreshing drink in hand, it’s time to savour the moment and a great day in the mountains.

Distance: 1400 metres / 1 mile

Duration: Three to Four hours

Ben Lomond

Ben Lomond is a challenging track with a steep, 1438 metre ascent in elevation, and a path that leads through lush tree lines, alpine tussocks and shrubbery. But the view from the top makes it all worth it.

The 1748 metre summit offers 360 degree views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. And on clear days, you can spot Mount Pikirakatahi/Earnslaw and Tititea/Aspiring in the distance.

Lake Wakatipu | The Best Hikes In New Zealand

Distance: 11 kilometres / 6.8 miles

Duration: Six to eight hours

Roy’s Peak

Roy’s peak offers one of the most incredible hikes in New Zealand. Standing between Wanaka and Glendhu Bay, the 16 kilometre day-hike begins with a steep, zigzagging dirt track that leads into alpine meadows and tussock grasslands.

From the peak of Mount Roy, exceptional views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring/Tititea  and the surrounding mountain ranges are on offer.

Distance: 16 kilometres / 10 miles

Duration: Five to six hours

Mueller Hut Route

Mueller Hut is a spectacular hike and a favourite among local New Zealanders. Located in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, the hike to the hut is no ‘walk in the park’ with 1000 metre ascent in just over five kilometres.

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park | The Best Hikes In New Zealand

1800 metres above the Sealy Range, Mueller Hut boasts a 360 degree panorama encapsulating picturesque glaciers, icy cliffs, and the vertical rock faces of New Zealand’s highest peaks.

The hiking trail steeply meanders through alpine scrublands, up to Sealy Tarns where photographic opportunities are outstanding – with panoramic views of the Hooker Valley,  various mountain tarns and Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Distance: 5.2 kilometres / 3.2 miles

Duration: Four to eight hours