The first people who arrived in New Zealand, the Māori’s, came ashore sometime around 1300 AD. In the history of the world, that’s practically yesterday. These two pristine islands that make up New Zealand escaped various architectural eras. Explore the countryside, and you won’t find one naked Greek eating marble grapes or Roman pillars holding up the sky
New Zealand is ideal for adventurers, for those who want to get into the wild, and for folks who want to lace up their boots. In other words, New Zealand is a hiker’s paradise. If you’re a dreamer who simply wants to take a great walk and clear your head, it’s your ideal vacation, too.
Hikes, called tramps in New Zealand, range from gentle amblings to overnight challenges. For walkers, consider the Coromandel Walkway, on the North Island, for views of the coast. The town of Coromandel was the center of gold rush fever in 1852, and you can visit the Coromandel School of Mines and Historical Museum to see displays of early gold mining and an old jail—those early miners could get rowdy! The Coromandel Walkway, just north of town, winds around MacGregor Bay and ends at lovely Long Bay Beach. At 1.8 miles, it is an easy walk for the whole family.
The Waipoua Forest is also an easy tramp. This forest is the home of the native Kauri tree. Some of the oldest trees in the world, these forests were all but destroyed by European colonists in the 19th century; some of their habitats are closed to visitors. But you are welcome to explore the sheltering Waipoua Forest. Plan to spend about one hour communing with these trees, some are 3,000 years old, on your walk. The Māori’s have named the largest living kauri Tane Mahuta—Lord of the Forest. Being in its presence feels like the end of a sacred pilgrimage.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
New Zealand has some of the most exceptional one-day hikes in the world. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, considered one of the world’s best hikes, is 11.5 miles long and is in Tongariro National Park. A challenging north island hike that leads you past tropical-colored lakes, the peaks of three active volcanos pierce the skyline. You can enjoy this hike, one of the most magnificent in New Zealand, all year around.
If you’re looking for solitude, then the hike called Round the Mountain in Tongariro may be for you. This is a five-day hike around Ruapehu and is an ultimate back-country experience. Carry rain gear and check for volcanic activity before setting out! Mother Nature is unpredictable. This park is sacred to the Māori’s; visit and you understand why.
Egmont National Park
Egmont National Park has 13 entrances and is good for average walkers as well as fit hikers and mountain climbers. Mountain Taranaki, or Egmont, is a dormant volcano that is 8,261 feet high. If you want to scale the summit, be prepared for snow and ice, regardless of the season. It is thought that the mountain was created 70,000 years ago after a volcanic eruption—it last erupted in 1775. The Māori’s also hold this mountain to be sacred. At a lower elevation, you can take off from the Dawson Falls visitor center and experience the unique plant, fields, and wild herbs. Just a 20-minute walk takes you to Dawson Falls. The water plunges 65 feet down an ancient lava flow. Simply stunning.
A hike through New Zealand is mind-boggling and memorable. You can experience waterfalls, volcanoes, rainforests, alpine swamps, sweeping ocean views, ancient forests, high foot-bridges that cross rivers, and unique flora. New Zealand is the place that time left behind. The people who live there are welcoming and warm. Māori art and beliefs are doors into another world. All are waiting for you on a New Zealand vacation, whether you are an avid hiker or someone who takes their time to walk and wander in the wild.