Image by Harald Selke from the Routeburn Track on Flickr.com.
The country of New Zealand is known for many things such as its indigenous people (the Maori), amazing athletes in sports like rugby and sailing, The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, but perhaps most of all it is known for its beautiful and diverse landscape. Tourists flock to New Zealand by the millions every year to experience the natural beauty and wonders of this island nation. One of the best ways to experience New Zealand is to get out on some of the thousands of trails (or “tracks” as they are called in New Zealand). There are literally thousands of tracks to choose from in New Zealand, but nine of New Zealand’s trails are considered “greater” than all the rest. These tracks are called New Zealand’s “Great Walks.”
If you are a lover of the outdoors and adventure then these “walks” are something you might want to add to your bucket list*.
Today we are going to take a quick look at these amazing outdoor experiences in New Zealand. While learning about these walks, you will also learn about the amazingly diverse landscape and geographic features of this island nation. So, let’s get tramping**!
Lake Waikaremoana Track
This 46 km track winds around Lake Waikaremoana on the North Island of New Zealand. On this walk you will see podocarp trees, which are a type of evergreen tree that can grow up to 40 meters (130 feet) tall. You will also pass secluded beaches where you can take a dip in the water to cool off in the summer.
Tongariro Northern Circuit
The Tongaririo Northern Circuit is a breathtaking walk around active volcanoes! Both the Tongariro and Ngauruhoe volcanoes are passed on this 43 km walk on the North Island. On this track you with see jagged volcanic rock, volcanic craters, and steaming geothermal activity. Volcanic activity has had a great influence on the geography of New Zealand and this walk will definitely get you thinking about this. You might also recognize the volcanoes you see on this walk from the movies. The Tongariro National Park was used as the filming site for ‘Mordor’ in The Lord of the Rings movies.
Image by Aidan of the Whanganui River on Flickr.com.
Okay, well this might sound funny, but the Wanganui Journey is not actually a “walk” even though it is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks.” This 145 km journey is actually along a river, the Wanganui River, and it is made by canoeing or kayaking not on foot! So, if you love the great outdoors, but don’t love walking, this might be the right kind of “walk” for you. On this journey you will experience the power of one of New Zealand’s many rivers. Rivers have contributed a great deal to forming this country’s amazing landscape, by creating fertile river valleys. You will also see beautiful green hills that make this country so lush.
Abel Tasman Coast Track
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is found in the northern part of New Zealand’s South Island. As the name suggests, this is a coastal walk, which means trampers walk along beaches and the Tasman Sea for approximately 54 km. This walk has an amazing display of semi-tropical plants, such as beautiful fern trees. Fern trees are a type of fern that grows as tall as trees. In my opinion they look prehistoric.
Not far from the Abel Tasman Track is the Heaphy Track. This is a 78 km hike that shows off a lot of the varied plants and natural features of New Zealand. Walkers on this track will see beech tree forests, lush semi-tropical plants, dry tussock grasslands, and the sea!
This track is not on New Zealand’s North or South Island, it is on Stewart Island – a very small island just off the coast of the South Island. You have to take a plane or ferry from the “mainland” to get to this track, but that is all part of the adventure right? The Rakiura Track is 39 km in length and is considered one of the most remote of the Great Walks because of its location. One of the biggest draws of this walk is the possibility of seeing a kiwi in its natural habitat. The iconic kiwi bird is rarely seen on mainland New Zealand, but on the protected Stewart Island, kiwi are thriving. This track is also known for being very wet and muddy.
The following three New Zealand Great Walks are all in or around the famous Fiordland National Park in the southwest section of the Southern Island. This area of New Zealand is known for its breathtaking glacier carved valley and snow covered stone peaks.
This track has been call “beautiful beyond words” and most people who hike it would agree. At only 32 km, this “short” walk packs a big punch*** with amazing alpine lakes, gorgeous green rivers, and high mountain passes. New Zealand’s rugged mountains are an iconic feature of this country’s landscape.
The Kepler Track is one of the most popular of the Great Walks and is sometimes called “an adventure in the clouds.” This 60 km trail loops around two lakes (Te Anau and Manapouri) and also ascends to the top of a mountain (Mt Luxmore). There are amazing views of Fiordland National Park above treeline (or “bushline,” as it is called in New Zealand).
Image by chris.murphy from the Milford Track on Flickr.com.
Last, but not least, the Milford Track is often considered “the finest walk in the world.” So, of course, this is perhaps the most popular walk in all of New Zealand! This 53 km hike is often described as “stunning” and “magnificent.” What makes this track so wonderful? The glacier-carved valleys, peaceful forests, and many, many waterfalls that trampers pass by and under! The only drawback to this trail is the potential for a lot of rain. It is not uncommon for it to rain everyday of this 4-day hike. Don’t let the rain deter you from adding this hike to your bucket list though, just remember to bring your rain jacket and umbrella!
If my introduction to New Zealand’s Great Walks and the geography of this beautiful country has peaked your interest you can find out more about these walks here.
Best of all, a trip to New Zealand is a great way to practice your English.
*bucket list = a list of experiences that a person wants to have or accomplish during their lifetime
** tramping – a synonym for hiking, this is a commonly used word in New Zealand
***to pack a (big) punch – this expression means “to have a powerful effect”