5 of the Best Hikes on the North Island, New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited. With its vast landscapes, snow-capped mountains and endless hidden gems, you could easily spend a few months travelling there. If you love the outdoors and love the idea of hiking in New Zealand, then you’re in for a treat!
We spent three weeks travelling both islands which meant our schedule was pretty tight. We had more time to explore the North Island and found day hikes to be more convenient with our timeline. They also tend to be more manageable if you have a friend or partner who doesn’t love walking as much as you do! So, without further ado, here are my top five favourite hikes you can do in a day on the North Island, New Zealand.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing - Image: Emily Tyson
Tongariro Alpine CrossingImage: Emily Tyson
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is in Tongariro National Park, south of Lake Taupo, and was an absolute highlight for me. The rating for this hike: tough. The top is very steep and slippery and you need to be prepared. With an altitude of 1,120m, the temperature can change at any moment. Around 600 people do this walk each day and an early start is recommended; we started our hike at 6am. As the car park has a 4-hour limit, it is recommended that you book with a shuttle company to take you from the end point, Ketetahi car park, to Mangatepopo car park, the starting point. From here, you will walk back to Ketetahi car park to get to your car.
The most important thing for this hike is to have the right gear. I wore trousers with shorts underneath, a jumper, windproof jacket and a pair of sturdy trainers. We also food prepped the night before and took sandwiches, snacks and as much water as we could carry – we went through three litres each, luckily there are toilets along the way!
Top Tip: To reach the Emerald Lakes, it takes around 2.5 hours. The Mangatepopo car park has a 4-hour parking restriction so to walk to the Emerald Lakes and back isn’t an option. However, we arrived early and talked to the ranger who marked our car down as ‘returning’. We are quick walkers anyway, but it meant we could enjoy our hike without dangerously rushing back to avoid getting our car towed away. We returned within 5-6 hours. Make sure you get the go-ahead from a ranger otherwise you could risk your car being towed away.
How long does it take to hike the Tongariro Crossing: 5-7 hours
More info: LINK
Mount Maunganui Summit - Image: Emily Tyson
Mount Maunganui SummitImage: Emily Tyson
Mount Maunganui, also known as ‘The Mount’, has a great vibe and a lovely community. We stayed for two nights but could easily have stayed longer. The Summit has a few tracks to choose from and is suitable for all levels of fitness. Oruahine and Waikorire are the recommended routes for sightseeing. We chose the Base track after a long, tiring drive that day; it’s an easier option and less high but with incredible views nonetheless. We started at the end of the main beach, following the track round to the end of Pilot Bay. I loved it so much that I went back in the morning and used the track as my morning run.
Top Tip: do this walk at sunrise or sunset.
How long does it take to hike Mount Maunganui: 45 minutes
Difficulty: Easy (Base track)
More info: LINK
Cathedral Cove - Image: Emily Tyson
Cathedral CoveImage: Emily Tyson
A popular coastal walk, this hike starts from the top of Grange Road and ends at Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve (Te Whanganui- A-Hei), New Zealand’s sixth marine reserve. The beach is only accessible by foot, boat or kayak and is protected by the Department of Conservation. The car park for this walk is on Pa Road which is an additional 20 minutes uphill walk from the starting point. During the summer months, there’s a shuttle bus that runs regularly. It’s perfect if you have kids or would like a shorter walk. Right from the start of the route, there are clear signposts, the track is fairly wide and the views are stunning. Just before you reach the beach, the steps are pretty steep, but push away those ‘oh no, I have to walk up this again later!’ thoughts because once you get down onto the sands, you’ll see it is totally worth it.
Top Tip: Start the walk early to beat the crowds and the hot midday sun.
How long does it take to hike Cathedral Cove: 1.5-2 hours
More info: LINK
Mount Egmont - Image: Emily Tyson
Mount EgmontImage: Emily Tyson
The Kamahi Loop Track
This track is quite different to the previous walks on our trip. It felt like we were in an enchanted forest and I was completely in awe of the beautiful shades of green, the textures and the magical shapes of the tree branches.
The track begins at Stratford Mountain House car park, 15 km along Pembroke Road. It takes 15-30 mins and is the shortest, easiest introduction to Mount Egmont National Park.
Top Tip: For a longer, and equally as beautiful walk, park at Stratford Mountain House car park and take the Patea Loop Track. It’s a 2.5k loop track and will take around 1 hour 30 mins.
How long does it take to hike the Kamahi Loop Track: 15-30 mins
More info: LINK
Spa Park to Huka Falls
This track starts from Spa Park and winds all the way down the Waikato river before ending at Huka Falls car park. At the start of the walk, before the Huka Falls, we reached Otumuheke Stream, a naturally hot stream that runs into the Waikato river. A few people were bathing but we decided it was best to take a dip on the way back as we could then dry off and hop straight back into the car. We carried on walking and could hear the Huka Falls before we could see it. As soon as the river came into sight, it was hard not to be blown away. Each second, up to 220,000 litres of water gushes through the gorge and bursts out over the 11 metre falls down into the Waikato river. To return to the car park, follow the same track back.
Top Tip: On the way back, take a dip in the Otumuheke Stream. The further you get from the stream where the water mixes with the Waikato river, the colder it gets.
How long does it take to hike from Spa Park to Huka Falls: 1 hour 30 mins
More info: LINK
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