Hiking in Hiker Paradise: Tramping Kiwi-Style

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The Milford Track begins at Lake Te Anau
The Milford Track begins at Lake Te Anau

New Zealand lies some 1,200 miles southeast of Australia. It consists of two main islands, the more populous North Island and the rugged South Island. The North Island has been shaped largely by volcanic forces, while the South Island owes much of its geography to the uplift caused by the crashing and buckling of tectonic plates. Although the North Island boasts one of the country's starkest and most dramatic treks (the Tongariro Northern Circuit) most veteran Kiwi trekkers give the South Island the highest marks for drama, ruggedness, and variety.

You could probably spend six months in New Zealand and not even scratch the surface of its trekking trails (called "tramping" in Kiwi-speak). And there are more than 900 backcountry huts to choose from—which means it would take two and half years to stay in them all.

So where to start?

The obvious place is with New Zealand's so-called "Great Walks"—the crown jewels of a glittering trails system. Administered by New Zealand's friendly and efficient Department of Conservation (D.O.C.), the nine great walks actually include eight walks and one paddle, and range from the gentle coves and beaches of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track to the stark and sere, lunar-like and volcanically active landscape of the Tongariro Northern Circuit and the dramatic above-bush-line glory of the Kepler Track.

Well maintained, with easy grades and dramatic scenery, the great walks are easy enough that anyone in reasonable shape can do them—but they reward even the most experienced backpacker with some of the world's most outstanding scenery.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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