In the past eight years since starting with the Routeburn Track, I’ve done 32 multi-day walks (known as tramps in New Zealand). Over 97 days I’ve walked nearly 1,700km, seeing some of the most spectacular and beautiful places in New Zealand (and probably the world). They’ve all got their merits but here is how I would rank them.
1. Routeburn Track, December 2013 and June 2017 (as day walk)
My first tramp, with great weather, which got me hooked. The sheer amount of incredible scenery over a relatively short track is hard to beat, though you’ll be sharing it with many others. I repeated it four years later just before winter as a day walk, heading up Conical Hill, one of three must do detours from the track, along with Split Rock and Key Summit.
2. Travers-Sabine Circuit, Angelus Hut and Blue Lake detour, March 2016, March 2020 (staying at Angelus Hut twice), February 2021 (Angelus Hut trip)
The first trip was the most exhausting tramp I’d done at the time, taking five days but enjoying some of the most spectacular scenery of any walk I’ve done, and spending my first night alone in a hut, quite spooky during a storm. I had an equally memorable return in March 2020, starting the hike at Covid level 2, and returning to civilisation (and mobile reception) to level 4 full lockdown, making for a stressful trip back to Auckland. I had three huts, and seemingly most of the park to myself, and every type of weather. My most recent trip in February 2021 was an easier three day trip to Angelus Hut, blessed with perfect weather and refreshing swims in the tarn by Lake Angelus.
3. Gillespie Pass Circuit and Lake Crucible side trip, December 2016
Possibly the best single day I’ve spent tramping (if one of the longest), heading over the 1,490m Gillespie Pass, then up to the spectacular iceberg filled Lake Crucible. After a tip from the hut warden I then took a cheap back-haul helicopter trip back to the start the following morning.
4. Hump Ridge Track, December 2016
The most varied walk I’ve done, in three days covering epic beaches, panoramic views across the bottom of the South Island and Stewart Island, historic wooden bridges, and the remains of a forestry settlement. It also has very nice accommodation and is not usually that busy (as it’s run by the local community rather than DOC), though that is changing now it is becoming a Great Walk.
5. Around Mt Taranaki Circuit and Syme Hut, January 2021
Far more varied than expected, through dense native bush, across mini-canyons, and up steep scree slopes to close to the summit, taking a detour from the circuit to stay overnight at Syme Hut. This was one of the most memorable nights I’ve spent in the mountains, having the hut to myself and among the greatest sunset and sunrise I’ve ever seen.
6. Tongariro Round the Mountain, April 2015
The best walk in one of my favourite places, walking through desert (literally, the Rangipo desert), passing volcanoes, and heading up and down endless hills. Away from the crowds of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, this is quite a different and more enjoyable experience.
7. North West Circuit, March 2021
The longest hike I’ve done in New Zealand, seven days carrying everything made for a heavy pack, but the effort was rewarded was stunning beaches and dense bush. I saw my first kiwi in the wild, and enjoyed the sense of solitude and physical challenge walking around the coast of New Zealand’s third largest island.
8. Tongariro Northern Circuit, April 2014 and January 2015
The second best walk in the National Park, and one of the best Great Walks. It covers some of the best parts of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing before turning off into the wilderness.
9. Rees Dart Track (inc Dart Glacier side trip), April 2018
One of the more challenging walks in the area, and not one to do in bad weather, but on a good day this is a wonderful hike, with great huts and an incredible day walk out to Dart Glacier and toward Cascade Saddle.
10. Milford Track, April 2015
Not the finest walk in the world, but still a pretty impressive one, particularly when 390mm of rain fell in a day when I walked it, creating endless waterfalls, if also closing the track while I was on it.
11. Breast Hill and Timaru River Tracks, December 2016
Regarded as one of the highlights of the 3,000km long Te Araroa Trail (running the length of New Zealand) and understandably so for a great hut and wonderful views across Lake Hawea, with Mt Aspiring in the distance.
13. Tararua Circuit from Kaitoke, June 2020
I’ve rarely experienced such highs and lows in one trip, from watching the sunrise over the Wairarapa to a terrifying crossing of the Tararua Peaks.
14. Mount Somers Track, December 2017
An unexpected delight, incorporating many of the best bits of tramping into a day and a half circuit, with epic views, unusual rock formations, a decent summit walk, and a nice camping spot outside the hut.
15. Motatapu Track, April 2018
Physically one of the hardest tramps I’ve done, packing about 3,000m of ascent and descent into two days, hard on the ankles in particular, but worth it for exploring a beautiful part of the country between Wanaka and Macetown.
16. Queen Charlotte Track, November 2020
Relatively easy as water taxis can transport your bag, but 71km is a decent distance to cover in three days. I got lucky with glorious weather making all the difference to this coastal hike.
17. Rob Roy Glacier, Matukituki Valley, and part of Cascade Saddle, March 2017
I’d originally planned to head over Cascade Saddle and down the Rees Valley but aborted due to weather, but still packed in a quite incredible one day exploring the Matukituki Valley and spending the night in the historic Aspiring Hut. This is one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve been along, and the views from toward the saddle down the valley were unforgettable.
18. Kepler Track, December 2013 and June 2018 (as day walk)
I would have probably ranked this higher if I’d been able to see anything along the middle ridgeline section, but unfortunately I spent most of it walking through cloud. The walk out from Iris Burn Hut was lovely though, and it is the Great Walk I would repeat. In 2018 at the start of winter I did a day walk up to Luxmore Hut and back which was simply stunning, with snow and being above the clouds.
19. Tableland Circuit, April 2019
An enjoyably varied track with some unusual accommodation options (numerous rock bivys) and great views. About a third of the track is reasonably tough (from Mt Arthur Hut to Salisbury Lodge), the other two thirds is easy and well graded.
20. Old Ghost Road, December 2020
One third excellent hiking with stunning views in the middle of the track, two thirds quite dull walking along dual use track which would be more enjoyable on a bike. The huts are a notch above typical DOC ones though, loved the bucket showers!
21. Cape Brett, Te Toroa and Whangamumu Tracks, February 2020
One of New Zealand’s best coastal walks, Cape Brett also has one of the more unusual accommodation options, an old lighthouse keeper’s house at the cape.
22. Heaphy Track, December 2014
The longest of the Great Walks was surprisingly easy, with a nice variety of landscapes but no significant altitude unless you take the unmarked track from Perry Saddle Hut up to the 1,238m Mount Perry summit for by far the best views of the track.
23. Abel Tasman Coastal Track, January 2015
Beautiful yes, but by far the busiest track I’ve been on thanks to all the day walkers and boat access along most of the track. Harder work than expected as though the hills may not be huge there are a lot of them, particularly if you do it in a masochist two days.
24. Lake Waikaremoana Track, April 2016
The least well maintained Great Walk, which is a shame, but it does offer nice views of the lake and takes you through some of the most ancient and atmospheric forest in the country.
25. Greenstone Caples Track, June 2016
An easy and scenic if not overly spectacular walk, perfect (if cold) during winter to avoid the summer crowds.
26. Rakiura Track, September 2014
The least interesting Great Walk by some margin, but it has it’s moments and Oban is a great start / end point for the walk worth visiting.
27. Aotea Track, Great Barrier Island, November 2015
One of the best / few multi-day walks relatively close to Auckland, with Mt Heale Hut offering views of Little Barrier Island, and Mt Hobson 360 degree views over the whole of the Barrier.
28. Mt Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit, November 2018, and July 2020 (to summit of Mt Holdsworth and back)
A great introduction to the Tararuas, famous tramping hills a couple of hours north of Wellington, notorious for bad weather. It is usually walked in 2-3 days, thus its inclusion here, but I walked it in a day, finding the Great Walk standard track relatively easy and fast. I repeated it a couple of years later during winter, with the same result of starting out planning to do it over two days, only to finish it in a day, though I took a shortcut back from the snow covered summit of Mt Holdsworth.
29. Abel Tasman Inland Track, December 2015
Far less busy than the coastal track, but a tricky tree root fest offering few views, if a good physical challenge to complete in two days.