8 Things Australians Need To Know About Hiking In New Zealand

greats walks new zealand

Kia ora Aussies, if you’re thinking of doing your first guided hike experience in New Zealand, here are 8 things that might surprise you about the outdoors in New Zealand.

1. Varied Landscapes

Nature is always close-by in New Zealand. We have an incredibly diverse range of landscapes within relatively short distances, for example, you can land at Auckland Airport at 9am and be in the wilderness by lunchtime. Our country is small, but our geography is powerful. Our Australian hikers are blown away by the dramatic contrasts between coastal trails, lush rainforests, alpine meadows, and snow-capped peaks, all within the same region. The North Island and South Island look very different too – both great places to visit, just for different reasons.

Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk
Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk

2. Changeable Weather

Our weather is perhaps the most underestimated aspect of travelling in New Zealand. The weather in New Zealand is highly unpredictable, even during the summer months. We often have rapid changes in weather conditions like sudden rain showers, strong winds, and temperature fluctuations, especially in mountainous areas like the Tongariro National Park. You’ll notice that Kiwi’s are always dressed in practical, functional clothing – even when we’re not hiking. Our changeable weather, and our strong agricultural and horticultural industries, mean that everyone is a weather expert – it’s a constant topic of conversation.

Wet weather doesn't stop us hiking in New Zealand
Wet weather doesn’t stop us hiking in New Zealand

3. Well-Maintained Trails

Incredibly, 33% of New Zealand is conservation land, meaning it’s legally protected. The Department of Conservation (DOC) is the New Zealand Government’s conservation body and it’s their job to not only protect and enhance our wilderness, but also to manage and maintain the majority of the facilities our visitors use. Many Australian hikers are impressed by the quality and maintenance of New Zealand’s hiking trails. The DOC and other organizations, like Federated Mountain Clubs and the Backcountry Trust, work diligently to maintain trails, install markers, and provide facilities such as huts and campsites, enhancing the overall hiking experience.

Ahukawakawa Wetland Pouakai Crossing Track
Boardwalks Across The Ahukawakawa Wetland, Pouakai Crossing Track

4. Abundance of Wildlife

New Zealand is home to unique flora and fauna, including native birds like the kiwi and the kea, giant snails and forest-dwelling frogs. A large proportion of our wildlife is endemic to New Zealand, meaning its’ not found anywhere else in the world! With Walking Legends you’ll have opportunities to observe diverse wildlife in their natural habitats. The North Island is the better place to hike if you like bird-watching. Many of our off-shore islands are part of conservation projects to restore native bird numbers, like Aotea/Great Barrier Island or Tiritiri-Matangi, both in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland.

Hiker holding black petrel chick on Mt Hobson, Great Barrier Island
Close encounter with a rare black petrel chick on Mt. Hobson, Great Barrier Island

5. Friendliness of Locals

Our guided walk guests often find the local communities we visit in the North Island of New Zealand to be warm and welcoming. We visit regions where locals are eager to share their knowledge of the area. Whether it’s receiving helpful advice or enjoying a friendly chat at a trailhead, Australian hikers appreciate the hospitality they encounter during their hikes. New Zealanders are known for their laidback, approachable nature and we love meeting folks from overseas.

Happy woman enjoys catering for guided walking groups
Meet locals in the remote regions of New Zealand

6. Backcountry Huts

The presence of backcountry huts along many Great Walk hiking trails surprises some Australian hikers, but staying in these huts is seen by many as a rite of passage for all Kiwi hikers. These huts are managed by the Department of Conservation and provide basic accommodation and amenities, allowing hikers to experience multi-day guided hikes in New Zealand without the need to carry heavy tents and camping gear. These huts are for public use and some require booking in advance via the DOC website. If you’d like to experience a New Zealand Great Walk, we offer a multiday guided hiking package on the Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk where our guides carry all the food and equipment and prepare all of the meals. If you haven’t stayed in anything like a DOC hut before, check out our more in-depth blog post on ‘What To Expect From a DOC Hut.’

Waihohonu Hut Tongariro National Park
Waihohonu Hut, Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk, Tongariro National Park

7. Cultural Significance

The North Island has a longer history of Māori settlement, so the Māori cultural identity is more accessible than in the South Island. Many North Island hiking trails have cultural significance to the indigenous Māori people. They may have been used as traditional pathways between mountain tribes and coastal tribes for trading, warfare or family links. Having had such interesting and varied use throughout history these trails naturally come with legends and stories that enrich the hiking experience.

8. Challenging Terrain

While Australia offers its share of challenging hikes, some Aussie hikers tell us they are taken aback by the ruggedness and steepness of certain trails in New Zealand, particularly in alpine areas. Our local hiking guides will help prepare you for challenging terrain so your next great walk in New Zealand is a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.

Stone Stairs on the Pinnacles Track Thames Coromandel
Stone Stairs on the Pinnacles Track, Thames, Coromandel

Choose Walking Legends as your North Island Great Walks guides. We have a range of multi-day, luxury guided walking tours of the North Island. Visit Aotea/Great Barrier Island, Coromandel, Lake Waikaremoana, Tongariro National Park, or Te Papakura-o-Taranaki/Egmont National Park.

For a great walk near Auckland, check out our range of North Island luxury guided walks

4-day Great Barrier Island Escape guided walk

  • Just a 30-minute scenic flight from Auckland Airport.
  • Laidback, alternative island culture with a strong sustainable, environmental focus.
  • Carry a day-pack only.
  • All-inclusive package; meals, ensuite accommodation, transport, guides and complimentary hiking gear hire.

4-day Coromandel Explorer guided walk

  • Departs from, and returns to, Matamata or Rotorua City.
  • Spectacular coastal hiking trails, lush temperate rainforests.
  • Carry a day-pack only.
  • All-inclusive package; meals, ensuite accommodation, transport, guides and complimentary hiking gear hire.

For a great walk near Rotorua, check out these Walking Legends guided walks

4-day Waikaremoana Discovery Tour

  • Departs from, and returns to, Rotorua City.
  • Truly remote, peaceful paradise with a strong indigenous Māori cultural identity.
  • Carry a day-pack only.
  • All-inclusive package; meals, ensuite accommodation, transport, guides and complimentary hiking gear hire.

4-day Tongariro Hiking Tour

  • Departs from, and returns to, Rotorua City.
  • Stunning alpine scenery, dramatic lunar landscapes and aquamarine volcanic crater lakes.
  • Carry a day-pack only.
  • All-inclusive package; meals, ensuite accommodation, transport, guides and complimentary hiking gear hire.

3-day Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk

  • Departs from, and returns to, Whangamarino/National Park Village, Ruapehu.
  • Hike the bulk of the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing as part of this North Island Great Walk.
  • Our guides carry the food and equipment, you carry just your own gear.
  • All-inclusive package; meals, backcountry DOC hut accommodation, transport, guides and complimentary hiking gear hire.

For a great walk near Taranaki, check out this Walking Legends guided walk

4-day Taranaki Discovery Tour

  • Departs from, and returns to, Rotorua City.
  • Phenomenal cinematic landscapes, pristine forests and rare native flora and fauna.
  • Carry a day-pack only.
  • All-inclusive package; meals, ensuite accommodation, transport, guides and complimentary hiking gear hire.

For helpful advice on all things North Island guided hiking, contact our friendly team on NZ Freephone 0800 925 569, AUS Freephone 1 800 646 584 or send an email to [email protected]

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