Guide to the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand
If you are going to go for a walk for 3-6 days, you might as well do it in New Zealand.
Why? Because 9 walks in particular are great! NZ’s Great Walks are premier tracks managed and maintained by The Department of Conservation (DoC). Not only is tramping these tracks the perfect way to see NZ’s beautiful backcountry, but they are an unforgettable experience in themselves.
What you need to know about the 9 Great Walks.
A Great Walk isn’t just simply turning up and hiking – that would be a “Super Awesome Walk”. There is a bit of booking and planning involved. This article will cover:
- What are the 9 Great Walks?
- Accommodation of the Great Walks.
- How to book accommodation.
- How to prepare.
- What not to forget!
What are the 9 great walks?
The Great Walks are scattered in NZ’s most impressive and remote natural environments from the Hawke’s Bay region in the North Island, all the way to the most southern of NZ’s populated islands, Stewart Island. Check out our article on The 9 Great Walks of New Zealand for details of what each Great Walk consists of.
Ranging from 3 to 6 days, you can usually decide how ‘great’ you want to make your walk by doing detours to noteworthy and camera-clicky features. Take a 30min detour to Korokoro Falls on the Lake Waikaremoana walk or deviate 1.5 hours to the gargantuan Sutherland Falls on the Milford Track.
Accommodation on the Great Walks
Freedom camping is forbidden on the Great Walks, so you must book and pay for your accommodation through DoC. All walks have DoC-managed backcountry huts. During the peak season, October to April, each hut costs NZ$32 per person per night on Lake Waikaremoana, Tongariro Northern Circuit, Whanganui Journey, Abel Tasman Coast Track, and Heaphy Track. It’s NZ$54 per night on the Routeburn, Kepler and Milford Tracks. Finally, the Rakiura Track is NZ$22 per night. These prices are subject to change during the off-peak season on some tracks. The backcountry huts include these facilities:
- Bunks with mattresses (bring your own sleeping bag).
- Some have lighting or candle holders.
- Some have cooking facilities with fuel (bring your own cooking utensils).
- Broom and pan to clean up after yourself.
- Hut wardens
There are designated Great Walk campsites on all tracks but the Milford Track. The cost is NZ$6-18 per person per night. Facilities include:
- Washing sinks
- Some have cooking shelters.
- Some have picnic tables.
How to book Accommodation for the Great Walks?
Booking huts and campsites is done through the DoC website and the relevant national park visitor centre. During off peak season some huts and campsites are on a first-come basis. The peak season is a whole different story. The Great Walks are extremely popular so booking far in advance is essential.
Planning on feeling the thigh-burn by doing multiple Great Walks? A year’s backcountry hut pass is NZ$122 or a 6-month pass is NZ$92. Passes can be purchased through the YHA and some i-SITES. YHA members get a discounted yearly pass at NZ$100 a year. However, be aware that only some Great Walk huts can be booked with the backcountry hut pass all year round and others only outside of the Great Walks season (May-October). This varies each year. Check out the DoC website for more information.
How to prepare for a Great Walk
Preparation starts with how you are going to get to the Great Walk and back. Circuit walks are obviously more convenient to finish where you started, which are the Kepler Track and the Tongariro Northern Circuit. For the other walks you need to consider transportation at the start and end of the walk.
Sufficient food and water needs to be taken, as well as clothing for all weather types. See our article on How to Prepare for a Great Walk in New Zealand for more tips.
There are a few items you may not want to forget for your Great Walk.
- First aid kit including plasters in case of blisters and sunscreen.
- A camera
- A rubbish bag
- Sleeping bag
- Decent hiking shoes or boots.
- Thermal clothes. Avoid cotton!
- Your best walking legs.
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