Best NZ Summer Hikes: Our Top Picks

Nothing beats a Kiwi summer! The weather is fantastic (most of the time), and there’s always somewhere new just waiting to be discovered… if only we’d step away from civilisation, for just a moment. 

You see, summer can be so much more than being glued to our phones, attending music festivals,  BBQs, sleep-ins and wasting the best days lounging around on the beach.

So this summer, take the opportunity to disconnect, so you can reconnect. Venture into the bush, hear the birds singing undisturbed, feel the wind on your face, the earth beneath your feet and experience what it truly means to be free,

Whether you’re an experienced outdoors person, or simply wanting to give it a go, there’s an outdoor adventure for everyone! We’ve teamed up with Rachael Grooby and Nick Allen to put together this list of best NZ summer hikes so you can experience and discover the very best of the NZ outdoors over the warmer months! 

Best NZ Hikes: North Island

About Nick Allen

Nick works in our Palmerston North Store – he’s been tramping since he was a kid, and has always had a passion for the outdoors – whether it be taking on a challenging new hike, climbing or cycling over long distances. In 2010, Nick received a devastating MS diagnosis, and ended up being bound to a motorised chair, instead of being outdoors like he had always enjoyed. But Nick refused to let his diagnosis beat him, and after making key lifestyle changes, he went on to found the Mastering Mountains charitable trust. He then embarked on an incredible expedition where he trekked, climbed and explored difficult routes in India and Nepal. This month, he released his book To The Summit which shot straight into the bestsellers list. So, who better to team up with us to put together this top five list of outdoor adventures over the summer months!

1. Rangitoto

Not much beats being out on the Waitemata on a fine summers day, not least when you are sitting at the top of Rangitoto with a 360° view of the harbour and the Hauraki Gulf. The day starts with a ferry from either Auckland CBD or Devonport, and it is best to get there as early as possible. Once you arrive on Rangitoto wharf, there is a well-formed, stepped track that takes you through the gnarly 500-600 year-old lava flows, all the way to the summit. Definitely worth a quick look are the Lava Caves, tunnels formed by molten lava. These will go down well with all ages, so bring a torch. Tramping from the wharf to the summit via the Lava Caves should take you 1.5-2hrs. The lookout platform at the top is a perfect place for lunch. It’s pretty hot up there, so make sure you bring plenty of water and lots of sunblock.

On the return trip, you can walk back to the wharf via MacKenzie Bay (3.5-4hrs). Skirting around the edge of the volcano, you really get to appreciate and enjoy the variety of the island’s unique landscape. This track also takes you past the historic bachs — a step back in time.  Check out the official DOC video.

Best NZ Summer Hikes: Top of Rangitoto

Top of Rangitoto

Best NZ Summer Hikes: The stunning view half-way up Rangitoto

The stunning view half-way up Rangitoto

2. Rangiwahia Hut

I love getting out to Rangiwahia Hut — it’s my go-to place on a Friday evening when I want a quick overnight mission. Not only is it one of the most easily accessible huts above the Ruahine bush-line, you get a lots of cool stuff in the 2-3hr walk: magnificent beech forest, an amazing wooden-arched bridge across a deep and narrow ravine, hardy stunted sub-alpine bush and leatherwood, beautiful tussock hills, and a waterfall. From the hut, you have an amazing view of the Rangitikei and Manawatu, as well as Ruapehu and Tongariro. Rangiwahia Hut (13 bunks) is a perfect family hut, a great track for first-time trampers, and can easily be completed as a day-trip.

If you get up there and you are up to a good challenge, I head back down to the carpark via the 6hr Deadman’s Loop. This poled route takes you up through beautiful tussock landscape to the top of Mangahuia, past some mountain tarns, and then back down to the carpark. The views are just stunning and there is nothing like being up there on a nice summer’s day. However, it is a difficult route and should only be attempted by experienced trampers in weather good conditions.

Best NZ Summer Hikes: The Bridge below Rangiwahia Hut

The Bridge below Rangiwahia Hut

3. Te Puia Lodge

A pristine river, whio (blue duck), beautiful bush, and hot pools: what’s not to love about this combo? Te Puia Lodge (26 bunks) is another fantastic family hut. Only a 2-3hr tramp to the hut, the benched track follows the pristine Mohaka River the entire way and is perfectly manageable for first-time trampers and kids. The hut is right on the river, next to huge swimming hole with a shallow rocky beach and, on the other side, a small cliff from which you can jump: perfect on a hot summer’s day. Just don’t forget to bring some mosquito repellent.

Better yet are the Mangatainoka Hot Springs, 45mins up the track. The two large fibreglass troughs, filled with hot water from a waterfall, are the perfect way to enjoy a summer’s evening in the bush, right next to the river. Pure magic. If you tramp back to the hut in the dark, keep an eye out for the glow worms on the side of the track.

If your party is fit, you might want to consider coming out via the track to Makino Hut. From Te Puia Lodge, there is a steep, 1.5hr grunt up a ridge to Makino Hut and some massive beach forest, then a good 2.5hr amble down the track, onto the road, and back to the carpark, where there are more hot pools for your post-tramp aches.

Best NZ Summer Hikes: Walking down the Mohaka from Te Puia Lodge

Walking down the Mohaka from Te Puia Lodge

Best NZ Summer Hikes: Mangatainoka Hot Pools - near Te Puia Lodge

Mangatainoka Hot Pools – near Te Puia Lodge

4. Sunrise Hut and Waikamaka Hut, via Te Atuaoparapara and the Waipawa River

This slightly more challenging two-night tramp sports some of the best scenery in the Ruahines. Starting off from family-friendly and stunningly situated Sunrise Hut (20 bunks, 2-3hrs), you head up to Armstrong Saddle, where you can enjoy amazingly expansive views both of Ruapehu-Tongariro and the Hawkes Bay. Following the track to Top Maropea Hut for short distance, you head off piste and bush-bash your way through the leatherwood and deep tussocks, along a small saddle, toward the summit of Te Atuaoparapara. This is actually a lot of fun, but you do need a fine day for it. Look out for the bits of track that appear and disappear — these make it a lot easier.

On the summit, you feel like you are on top of the world and its a great place for lunch. Heading down the rugged scree slopes toward the Waipawa Saddle, look out for the rock cairns that mark the best route down. From the Waipawa Saddle, pop down the western side into the stream that leads you to the characterful Waikamaka Hut. This is a truly beautiful section of the tramp, taking you through the crystal clear waters of the stream surrounded by dense beach forest. Sunrise Hut to Waikamaka Hut takes 6-7hrs.

After a night at Waikamaka (8 bunks), head back up to the Waipawa Saddle and then down over the other side, into the Waipawa River. This is a great walk on a hot day, following the river all the way down to the car park. The river goes through some wide gorges and it really feels like you are out in the middle of nowhere.

Best NZ Summer Hikes: Approaching the summit of Te Atuaoparapara

Approaching the summit of Te Atuaoparapara

 

5. Tararua Peaks

The Tararua Peaks loops is a truly epic 4-5 day tramp — one of my all-time favourites — along the stunning Tararua tops. The track starts and finishes at Otaki Forks and takes you along the rugged ridges to Kime Hut (20 bunks), around the terrifying Tararua Peaks to Maungahuka Hut (10 bunks), through the goblin forest to Anderson Memorial Hut (6 bunks), down the knee-smashing ridge to the cool Otaki River and Waitewaewae Hut (16 bunk), and then along a swampy plateau back to the carpark. Throughout the whole trip, the views are amazing: whether it’s of the Tararua’s sharply folded ridges, beautiful beach forest, or cool river valleys, you will not be disappointed.

You will need lots of sunblock, lots of water, and good navigational skills. Much of the track is just a route and not always clearly marked, which is part of the charm, I reckon. However, the Tararuas are notoriously claggy and they can be very difficult to navigate. Most of the days are around 5-6hrs, so this is a perfect tramp for someone wanting to enjoy some really remote back country without killing themselves with extraordinarily long days.

Best NZ Summer Hikes: Maungahuka Hut

Maungahuka Hut

Best NZ Hikes: South Island

About Rachael Grooby 

Rachael works on the Merchandise Team at the Macpac Head Office. Rachael has a real passion for the outdoors, and when she’s not working, she’s out testing the latest Macpac gear in the hills, training for her next adventure race, climbing with her husband and hiking with her dog. While some couples head off to a nice beach or holiday house for a getaway, Rachael and her husband prefer long walks up never-ending ridges, and romantic nights sleeping in double layers of thermals in some of the world’s greatest backcountry huts. They’ve completed epic adventures throughout Asia and Europe and run adventure blog Airway Spies. Rachael has taken on many routes of varying difficulty around the southern regions – from afternoon exploration, to technical multi-day hikes, so she teamed up with us to put together this list of five summer adventures in the South Island.

1. Godley Head – Taylors Mistake Day Walk

One of my favourite places to go in Christchurch in summer is the Godley Head walk out on Banks Peninsula. Only a short drive from the city over to Taylor’s Mistake, the track begins at the far end of the beach and is an easy three hour loop around the old Godley Battery Compound from WWII. The walk provides sweeping views over both the city and Lyttelton Harbour and all the way out to the Southern Alps on a clear day. Alternatively, drive to the Godley Head carpark at the top of the summit road for a shorter loop around just the Battery and Camp. After exploring the old Gun Emplacements up on the Heads, make your way back to Taylors for an ice cream and a swim on the beach.  Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a lead.

Best NZ Summer Hikes: Godley Head

Godley Head

2. Little Mt. Peel

About two hours south of Christchurch and directly inland from Hinds lies the Mt Peel Conservation Area. Popular with families for the variety of day walks around the forest park, the mountain is a great introduction to day hiking in Canterbury and like all of the foothills boasts beautiful views across the Plains all the way to the coast. You may need a map to guide you to Blandswood Road as the area is not well sign posted from the Arundel-Rakaia Gorge Road. Turn right straight after crossing the Rangitata and follow the river back towards the hills. There are two car parks and a formidable long drop at the beginning of a gravel road which leads to the track proper. You can take Deer Spur track to the summit which is a steep, but well-maintained path initially winding through some really gorgeous native bush.

The track then breaks through the tree line and out on to an open ridge line and up to the trig. The last section caused a bit of puffing towards the end but we were cracking into lunch after only 98 minutes with a good number of stops along the way.

Best NZ Summer Hikes: Little Mt. Peel

Little Mt. Peel

 

3. Cass – Lagoon Saddle Loop

The Cass-Lagoon Saddle Loop is a great 2 – 3 day tramp in the Cragieburn and Black Ranges for those looking to stretch their legs on a relatively easy to follow track. Leave a car at each end or hide a bike in the bushes so you can close the 12km road gap between start and finish. The track covers open river bed, tussock covered saddles and picturesque native bush all in the space of a few hours and is a nice introduction to tramping in Arthurs Pass. Hamilton Hut provides spacious accommodation with 20 bunks and a mammoth fire place for drying off your boots. You’ll need a serviced hut ticket to stay here and it’s the logical midway point for a two day trip. Take the time to deviate off the track for 10 minutes to Mirror Tarn between Hamilton and West Harper Huts which reflects the surrounding mountains on a clear day. If you’re making the trip in 3 days, stop off at Castle Hill on the return trip for a splash through cave stream – just remember your head torch!

 

Best NZ Summer Hikes: Cass – Lagoon Saddle Loop

Cass – Lagoon Saddle Loop

4. Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku

A 90 minute drive from sunny Blenheim up the beautiful Awatere Valley lies the Hodder River and the highest peak outside of the Southern Alps. At 2885m, Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku is an imposing but still very achievable hike for anyone with good fitness and great map reading skills. Take a cup to clip to the outside of your pack as you’ll spend your whole first day ankle deep in the Hodder River – there’s no point filling your drink bottle up here. Most people climb the mountain in a day but take an extra two walking in and out the river which can take between 5-10 hours each way.  From the huts make your way along the track to and up to the waterfall below 2100m – this is your last chance for water so make sure you fill up! The views all the way to Wellington from the summit make trudging up the huge scree slopes all worthwhile. Get in touch with the friendly owners of Gladstone Downs before you go as they keep track of how many groups are heading into the huts and you need to cross their land to get to the river.

 

Best NZ Summer Hikes: Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku

Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku

5. The Three Passes

As far as iconic New Zealand tramping is concerned, the Three Passes route has a bit of everything. Starting in picturesque Arthur’s Pass and making your way west to the bottom of Lake Kaniere takes 3-5 days and covers three Alpine Passes, numerous river crossings and some of the best boulder hopping in the country. Leave your car at Klondyke corner and have someone meet you at the end of the Styx Valley unless you enjoy hitch hiking from remote places. You’ll need crampons and an ice axe to navigate Whitehorn Pass and solid route finding skills are key for this trip. Great camping spots can be found at the top of Harman Pass and beside Lake Browning or bed down in one of the five huts along the way. When the weather comes to the party be prepared for spectacular views of the Cronin Glacier as you descend to Park Morpeth Hut.

Best NZ Summer Hikes: Ariels Tarn at Harman Pass

Ariels Tarn at Harman Pass