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The 13 New Zealand National Parks

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The National Parks of New Zealand are protected areas under administration by the Department of Conservation. The parks are natural places of beauty so are a big attraction for backpackers travelling around New Zealand. There are heaps of walking tracks to enjoy or it is fun to cruise down a river by boat, kayak or canoe taking in the scenery that New Zealand is known for. What’s great about the national parks is that they all have something different to offer, whether it is the magnificent fiords of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park or the volcanic landscapes of Tongariro National Park.

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1. Tongariro National Park

Tongariro became the 1st national park in New Zealand in 1887. It is also a Unesco World Heritage Centre. The standout features are the 3 volcanoes, Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe. Find out more about what backpackers can do in this region in our Tongariro – Guide for Backpackers.

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2. Egmont National Park

Egmont National Park has features such as the Goblin Forest, swamps, and Wilkies Pools that surround Mt Taranki/Egmont. Find out more about the region here: Egmont National Park– Guide for Backpackers.

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3. Whanganui National Park

Whanganui is famous for the Bridge to nowhere, remote native bush lands, the Whanganui River, and its population of brown kiwi and blue duck/whio. There’s more to discover in this national park, so see our Whanganui National Park – Guide for Backpackers.

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4. Abel Tasman National Park

To emerge from a forest onto a secluded white sandy beach is a sight you can enjoy over and over again in the Abel Tasman National Park.

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5. Kahurangi National Park

The 2nd largest national park is where many take the longest New Zealand Great Walk, the Heaphy Track. Kahurangi means “treasured possession” in maori, which aptly describes the wildlife in this national park.

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6. Nelson Lakes National Park

If you want to see some insanely clear lakes then the Nelson Lakes National Park is the place. Blue Lake in particular has visibility up to 80m!

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7. Paparoa National Park

Along the West Coast of the South Island are a series of crazy rock formations, most famously the Pancake rocks at Punakaiki.

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8. Arthur’s Pass National Park

The 1st national park in the South Island is in the southern alps, dividing Canterbury and the West Coast. It makes the ultimate scenic drive by taking the highway or railway.

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9. Westland Tai Poutini National Park

Another part of New Zealand that is on a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Te Wāhipounamu. Westland Tai Poutini also incorporates the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers and Lake Matheson/Mirror Lake.

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10. Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Obviously, this is the home of NZ’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook! This national park is also part of the Te Wahipounamu – South Westland World Heritage Area. Much of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park is covered by glaciers, including the longest, The Tasman Glacier.

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11. mt Aspiring National Park

Yep, another section of the Te Wahipounamu – South Westland World Heritage Area. Maori used to come here in search for Greenstone, so you may be in luck for finding some yourself.

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12. Fiordland National Park

New Zealand’s largest national park, FIordland National Park is a top tourist attraction. Many visit Milford Sound, take a Great Walk, and meet the locals – by locals we mean the devious kea parrots. Fiordland also has world heritage status.

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13. Rakiura National Park

This national park makes up the majority of Stewart Island – New Zealand’s 3rd island. Backpackers are not the only visitors, as penguins and seals are also known to come to the shores.

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