I explored some of the most spectacular parts of New Zealand by foot this year. Though much shorter than my walks overseas, many of these being day walks, the scenery was stunning and tracks generally quiet.
My longest walk in New Zealand was the 81km Rees-Dart Track with a side trip to Dart Glacier. Closed for several years due to an epic land slip and damaged bridges, it was worth the wait to do. It is one of the best of many amazing tracks a relatively short distance from Queenstown.
My hardest walk in New Zealand this year was the 34km Motatapu Track, due to the 3,000m of ascent and descent on steep tracks, and walking it in a tough day and half. The reward for my efforts was enjoying the beautiful Otago landscape without really seeing anyone else on the track.
Closest to home was a 20km return walk along the Waikōwhai Walkway, only 10 minutes drive from my home in Auckland, heading along the Manukau foreshore.
Long overdue but I finally made it down to Arthur’s Pass, home to some of the best day walks in the country, generally involving heading up near vertical mountainside for epic views, before an equally steep return. Avalanche Peak is understandably the classic one day walk in the area.
But unexpectedly my favourite was the Bealey Spur Track & Triangle Peak, a short drive from Arthur’s Pass for views along the Waimakariri River, with paragliders soaring above.
The first days of winter were the perfect time to return down south for day walks in a snow covered landscape before it got too cold or dangerous. I’d walked the Kepler Track a few years ago over summer but found it a totally different, and far more spectacular walk with snow on the ground, and low cloud above Te Anau.
Along the Milford Road (for my third trip to Milford Sound) Lake Marian was a wonderful place to escape to for a couple of hours.
I thought I’d walked most of the decent tracks close to Queenstown but was pleasantly surprised at how good the Mt Crichton Loop Track was.
My last tramp of the year was the Mt Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit in the infamous Tararua Ranges, renowned for terrible weather, which thankfully I mostly avoided though did lose most visibility by lunchtime.