Day and overnight hikes in New Zealand

Eleanor Hughes


If you’re keen to do some hiking while based in Auckland, there are plenty of options. The Waitakere Ranges around a 30 minute drive from the CBD have numerous walking tracks.  The islands in the Hauraki Gulf, a short ferry ride from the city, can also be explored. Further afield, perhaps a long weekend trip, the Coromandel Peninsula offers walks as well as other tourist attractions.

Rangitoto Summit Hike

Conical Rangitoto is a dormant volcano in the Hauraki Gulf, easily accessed from Auckland’s CBD by a 25-minute ferry ride, with three or four daily returns.  

A seven-kilometre scoria track takes hikers on an easy/moderate, gradually inclining walk to the summit where views back to the city and of outlying island can be had.  Around 4 hours return, this walk can be extended by visiting the Lava Caves (torch required), a short 15-minute side trip.  The island features the world’s largest pohutukawa forest which blazes with red flowers in summer.  Take lunch, there are no stores on the island, and pack swimming gear if taking the longer trail to the summit via Mackenzie Bay, a sandy swimming spot.  One of the iconic 1930s baches (holiday homes), located nearby the wharf, is now a museum and open some weekends.  

LPNZ from Pixabay.

Te Henga Walkway

Ten-kilometre Te Henga Walkway is part of the 75km Hillary Trail which runs through the Waitakere Ranges, to the west of Auckland city, a 30-or-so minute drive away.  

Te Henga Walkway takes hikers along a rugged, wind-swept, cliff path from Bethells Beach to Constable Road with continuous views - coastline, black-sanded Bethells, O’Neills and Muriwai Beaches and the Tasman Sea.  Bethells and Muriwai are popular west coast surfing beaches.

In late November, yellow sprigs of lupins perfume parts of the track, orangey-red flowers of harakeke – a flax – add colour and white Manuka flowers, viewed from a distance, look like lightly fallen snow.  Yellowhammer, tui and fantail flit amongst the bush.

Much of the path is narrow with some steep sections.  Wind is welcome on a hot day as there is little shade.   A full return trip will take around 6.5 hours but nothing is missed if walkers stop at Bartrum Bay, which looks towards the Gannet Colony at Muriwai Beach, and head back.  The last kilometre to Constable Road leaves the coast and is over farmland with nothing of note to see.

The Pinnacles Walk

Kauaeranga Kauri Trail, otherwise known as the Pinnacles Walk, is located just out of Thames in the Kauaeranga Valley, a 1 ½ hour drive from Auckland.

The Visitor Centre on the Kauaeranga Valley Road, nine kilometres before the carpark at the head of Webb Creek Track, has displays on the historic and natural features of the valley. There’s also a short film about its kauri logging history.

Webb Creek Track leads to the Department of Conservation’s Pinnacles Hut, around a 3 hour walk which is flattish to start with swing bridges and creek crossings.  The majority is a steadily uphill trek with many stone steps through native forest.  

If intending to overnight at the 80-bed hut book well in advance.  Food, plates, cutlery and sleeping bags are required.  Walkers drop their packs there and continue to the Pinnacles, two rock spires.  This forty-minute track with low-growing yellow and bronze vegetation continues uphill with the last stretch consisting of metal ladder-like rungs drilled into vertical rock.  A landing at the top gives wide views of the Coromandel Peninsula’s east coast and several distant towns. 

At Dancing Creek campsite, five minutes’ walk from the hut, the remains of an old kauri dam and information about its history can be viewed.  

The four hour Billy Goat Track is a slightly longer return option.  Get glimpses of Billy Goat Falls, the North Island’s tallest waterfall, and see remains of old railway lines, once used to transport kauri logs.  There’s some steep uphill sections to start but then it’s all downhill.

David Fisher

Crosbies Hut 

Crosbies Hut is accessed via a number of trails.  Waiotahi track starts at the end of Waiotahi Road on the outskirts of Thames located just before the Goldmine Experience, an underground mine with tours available.  

The 13-kilometre track, taking around five hours, steadily rises amongst thick native vegetation with fantails and quail to be seen.  The trail gives occasional glimpses of the blue Firth of Thames.  Dappled sunlight is like a stationery disco ball amongst twisted vines, punga and juvenile rimu that grow wispy beard-like.  

A side track to a crater lookout gives forever views of a green world where wild goats may be spotted.

Pre-book an overnight stay at ten-bed Crosbies Hut or the camping site situated nearby.  Food, gas burners, cooking equipment, sleeping bags and torches are required.  There is no electricity and toilets are compostable.  Views over the Coromandel Ranges are spectacular and include Table Mountain and Castle Rock.  

David Fisher

Coromandel Peninsula Walkway 

Coromandel Peninsula Walkway is located at the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula.  This remote, 10km one-way hike between Stony Bay and Fletcher Bay traverses native forest and farmland with stunning views of ranges, inlets, ocean and distant islands.  Undulating, except for one steep descent and rise, it’s around a six hour return hike with swimming beaches at either end.  An alternative return trip via a mountain bike track/stock route gives wider views but is a tougher walk with a never-ending ascent.

Both bays have basic Department of Conservation camping grounds with compostable toilets but no showers.  At Port Charles, 9 kilometres before Stony Bay, chalets and a lodge are available.  South of Colville, there are cabins/units at coastal camping grounds with other options further south in Coromandel, around 1 ¼ hours from Stony Bay, with nearby tourist attractions.

From Colville to Stony Bay, it’s a gravel road which becomes windy and narrow as does the coastal road to Fletcher Bay.  Some rental car companies do not allow their vehicles to be driven on these roads.  Shuttles are available from Coromandel, dropping walkers at one end and picking up at the other.  Coromandel is approximately a 3 hour drive from Auckland.

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