For such a small country, New Zealand’s landscape is varied and diverse making it the perfect place for hiking. From the volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park to the snow-covered Southern Alps, the views are all spectacular! And the best part? Some of the best views are reached with only a short day hike!
While multi-day hikes are great, they aren’t for everyone. Luckily, there are hundreds of day walks in New Zealand that offer just as good (if not better) scenery. You couldn’t possibly do all of the day walks in New Zealand on your trip but you can certainly conquer the best ones!
These are the must-do day walks in New Zealand:
1. Tongariro Crossing
Made famous by the Lord of the Rings, the Tongariro Crossing is a day hike offering some very unique scenery. Along this trail, you will see Mount Ngauruhoe (or Mount Doom as they call it in LOTR) which is a large cone-shaped volcano. You will also stare into the top of the red crater and gaze at the emerald lakes which are named after their unique colours.
The downside to the Tongariro Crossing is that is it one of the toughest day walks in New Zealand. This trail stretches over 19 kilometres and climbs over 700 m in elevation. However, if you are looking for a challenge with rewarding views the Tongariro is for you!
Related: You can see Mount Doom for yourself on our 16-Day Lord of the Rings Tour
2. Roy’s Peak
The most famous day hike in New Zealand is Roy’s Peak. The trail begins just outside of Wanaka. The trail is made up of mostly switchbacks that wind their way up the mountain. It takes most people about 3 hours to reach the top over the 8 kilometre-long trail.
From the top of Roy’s Peak, there are spectacular views of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps. If you are really keen, hike up for sunrise! It is definitely worth the early morning!
Related: See our 16-day South Island Adventure Private NZ Tour and hike Roy’s Peak when you visit Wanaka!
3. Great Lake Walkway
For those looking for an easy, but beautiful, stroll the Great Lake Walkway is perfect. It circles Lake Taupo on a paved flat walkway. From the trail, there are views of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu behind Lake Taupo.
This walkway is also a great trail for families as it passes coffee shops, food trucks with ice cream and sandy beaches perfect for a swim. There are also lots of ducks to watch in the lake and shady trees to relax under.
The trail stretches from the Taupo Boat Harbour and goes until Taupo Township. The total trail length is 10 kilometres return but you can go just as far as you feel and turn back whenever it suits you best!
Related: Walk the Great Lake Walkway on our 15-Day Self Drive Tour – Best of Both Islands
4. Hooker Valley Track
Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. Nestled in the South Island, this mountain is simply incredible to see as it towers over its neighbours. You must visit Mount Cook National Park and walk the Hooker Valley Track in order to get the best view of Mount Cook.
The Hooker Valley Track is a 10-kilometre long walk (return) that weaves through the Hooker Valley. Although it is a long day hike, it is fairly easy as the trail is well maintained and mostly flat. At the end, you reach Hooker Lake where you can see reflections of Mount Cook on a calm day.
Related: Check out our 9-day South Island Adventurer Private NZ Tour
5. Queenstown Hill
Queenstown is easily the most touristic town in all of New Zealand with more than 3 million visitors making an appearance every year. This busy, but small town gets its popularity from a variety of things, but one of them being the incredible scenic location. The best way to appreciate Queenstown’s beauty is with a hike up Queenstown Hill!
As one of the shorter day walks in New Zealand, Queenstown Hill makes for a great morning activity. You can reach the top in as little as an hour and have views overlooking Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range.
Related: Our 10-day South Island NZ Self Drive Highlights allows plenty of time to explore Queenstown and hike Queenstown Hill
6. Franz Josef Glacier Walk
Seeing a glacier is one of those “New Zealand bucket list” things to do. Franz Josef Glacier sits along one of the most common road trip routes in New Zealand, the stunning west coast. The west coast is filled with breathtaking places to stop, however, the Franz Josef Glacier is the most popular attraction.
Reaching the viewpoint of the glacier involves a 1.5 hour return walk. The trail to the viewpoint is relatively flat and suited to all fitness levels.
Franz Josef Glacier is melting and has receded quite a lot in recent years. This makes it further away from the viewpoint but it is still very easy to see and an incredible view!
Related: Visit Franz Josef Glacier on our 9-day Exclusive Southern Lights Luxury Tour
7. Lion Rock
Lion Rock is a huge rock that protrudes from the sand along Piha Beach. Piha Beach is definitely one of the best beaches in New Zealand and it is located only 45 minutes from Auckland. Once at the beach it’s very hard to miss Lion Rock.
Climbing Lion Rock only takes 20-30 minutes and gives you panoramic views of the North Island’s rugged coastline.
Related: See our 8 Day North Island Highlights Private Guided Tour
8. Lake Marian Walk
Located in Fiordland National Park, Lake Marian is the perfect detour on your way to Milford Sound. This lake is famous for its turquoise colour and stunning backdrop.
The first portion of the walk is very flat and scenic as you walk on boardwalks along the edge of a river and various waterfalls. This first section takes about an hour. After that, it is another two-hour climb through the forest. Just as you think you will never make it to the lake, out of nowhere Lake Marian appears!
After the long walk to the Lake Marian, the only thing left to do is jump in and enjoy that icy cold glacier water! Hiking to Lake Marian is the perfect thing to do on your way to Milford Sound!
Related: Visit Milford Sound on our 14-day South Island Wonders NZ Self Drive and stop along the way to walk to Lake Marian.
9. Mangorei Track to the Pouaki Hut
Walking to the Pouakai Hut along the Mangorei Track is the best way to view Mount Taranaki. Mount Taranaki it a perfectly symmetrical cone-shaped volcano that sits only a stone’s throw from the city of New Plymouth. Mount Taranaki has significant importance to Maori people of New Zealand as it is said to be one of their ancestors.
The Mangorei Track begins in Egmont National Park. It takes about two hours to get to the Pouakai Hut and one hour back. Once you reach the Pouaki Hut, continue on the trail and follow the signs to the Pouakai Tarn (alpine lake). This is where the best view as Mount Taranaki reflects perfectly off the tarn.
If you have time, turn this epic New Zealand day walk into an overnight trip and spend a night in the hut! To do this, you must buy a service hut pass from the Department of Conservation in advance for $15.
10. The Pinnacles Walk
The Coromandel is most famous for beaches, but there is a very amazing hike there as well. The Pinnacles is one of the most unique day walks in New Zealand showcasing 360-degree views of the Coromandel.
Similar to the Pouaki Hut, there is a hut at the top of the Pinnacles trail so it is possible to spend the night. This is another walk that rewards visitors with an even better view if accomplished at sunrise or sunset!