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The 13 New Zealand National Parks

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Visit the most beautiful parts of New Zealand or even the world?

Where can you see that landscape that featured on the Lord of the Rings or has been grabbing your attention on Pinterest? Chances are, many of those mind-blowing pictures have been taken in the New Zealand national parks. There are 13 to enjoy and we’ll go through every single one of them in this list of New Zealand national parks.

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 first national park in New Zealand in 1887. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The standout features are the three 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 is famous for it’s dense fairy tale-like forests that surround the perfectly coned Mt Taranaki. The park has features such as the Goblin Forest, swamps and Wilkies Pools. 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. The New Zealand national park can be experienced by the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, a New Zealand Great Walk, by kayak, water taxi and more! Check it out in Abel Tasman National Park – Guide for Backpackers.

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5. Kahurangi National Park

The second 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. Caves, arches and other unusual rock formations can be found in this national park. Find out more in Kahurangi National Park – Guide for Backpackers.

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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! Multi-day hikes, ski fields and short hikes can be enjoyed in the Nelson Lakes National Park. Take a look at Nelson Lakes National Park – Guide for Backpackers for more information.

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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. Find out more about this national park by heading over to Paparoa National Park – Guide for Backpackers.

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8. Arthur’s Pass National Park

The first 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. Find out more in Arthur’s Pass National Park – Guide for Backpackers.

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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. Find out more in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park – Guide for Backpackers.

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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. Head on over to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park – Guide for Backpackers for more things to do there.

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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. Get more information at the Mt Aspiring National Park – Guide for Backpackers.

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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. Check it out at Fiordland National Park – Guide for Backpackers.

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13. Rakiura National Park

This national park makes up the majority of Stewart Island – New Zealand’s third island. Backpackers are not the only visitors, as penguins and seals are also known to come to the shores. Finally, take a look at Rakiura National Park – Guide for Backpackers.

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