Best local treks to do in the North & South Island in 2021
Aotearoa New Zealand’s domestic tourism industry needs support from locals this coming year as international tourism is still out of action, and a part of classic New Zealand tourism is a good old-fashioned hike. Throughout all the islands, there is no shortage of scenic walking tracks that showcase native nature. It’s hard to narrow down all of the options this stunning country has to offer, but we’ve curated a neat little list of must-see tracks in 2021.
Tanekaha Walking Track (Mangawhai, North Island)
If you find yourself situated around the upper north island, take some time to get in touch with mother nature on this scenic walk. The trails around this track hold a diverse range of treasures along the way, bright green pastures and fantastical waterfalls to satisfy your senses. The tracks vary in difficulty, so if you’re looking to wander around bring a sturdy pair of shoes and make sure to fill a few water bottles.
The Tanekaha Falls track is one of the longer options, leading you over a small bridge and along the stream towards the picturesque waterfalls – that’s right, there’s at least three main waterfalls that this track will take you to. This track would be perfect for a hot day, as you can keep cool under the damp canopy surrounding the falls.
The forest track diverts away at the beginning of the falls walk, and leads you into a lovely wood forest towards the trig point. Along the way you will be greeted with a stunning view of the landscape that exposes the gorgeous area surrounding the tracks, all the way to the coast.
Linking these two racks together is the more recent botanical track, which takes you on a lovely expedition through valleys and over streams. This track merges the falls walk and forest walk into a magnificent loop track, so if you feel like walking for a bit longer, start with the falls walk and take this track down to meet with the forest.
Taranaki Falls (Mount Ruapehu, North Island)
Tongariro national park has always been known for its mesmerizing mountainous landscape, encompassing three active volcanic mountains. The Taranaki Falls walk is a 6-kilometer loop that takes explorers past shrubland, mature forests, and streams. You’re bound to spot some native wildlife along the way, so bring a camera to snap a picture. Once you reach the falls, you can stop and take a moment to bask in it’s beauty as 20 meters of water descends from an ancient lava flow. This track will leave you astounded by the diversity of the native landscape, and glad that you made the trip to experience the beauty in person. While you’re on this track, take moments to listen to the nature around you – the birds chirping and the crashing of the falls will certainly ground you in the environment. The mountains can be unforgiving despite their serene appearance, so wrap up warm and bring out the hiking boots for this day trip.
Kawatiri Railway Track (Nelson, South Island)
Moving on down to the South Island, we have the lovely Kawatiri Historic Railway Walk in the Tasman region. This trek is a little easier than some of the others on this list, but it is a must-see if you’re in the area. The track takes you through to some charming historic sites through forest and along the Hope River. You’ll get to cross over an old railway bridge and then through a tunnel, following the old train tracks that have been taken back by nature since their closing. The river compliments the lush landscape and guides you as you step back in time. This route serves as a sweet reminder of Aotearoa’s history, showcasing the early infrastructure that helped build the country we know today.
Luxmore Cave (Te Anau, South Island)
This destination is a little different from the others on this list, as part of the walk isn’t quite outdoors. Luxmore Cave is located just off of the Kepler Track outside of Te Anau, boasting an intriguing limestone structure as well as an underground river within the caves. The deeper parts of the cave are more suited to those familiar with caving, so if you’re a beginner don’t wander too far! Don’t worry though, the first hundred meters of the cave are easy to navigate and absolutely breathtaking to explore once you reach them, plus the walk to get to these caves is just as stunning. Don’t forget your torch and jacket for this one, as these caves are hidden from daylight for most of the day.
Bannockburn Sluicings (Otago, South Island)
This rugged landscape holds within its hills the history of New Zealand’s goldmining era, allowing you to navigate through the abandoned dams, tunnels, and cliff faces that exist as a result of mining. The loop trail around the area isn’t such a strict one, as the bare landscape makes it difficult to get lost around these parts. Like some other locations on this list, Bannockburn Sluicings contains parts of New Zealand history that we should take some time to admire. While the gold rush was short lived here, it’s markers live on today. You might even be fortunate enough to spot some fruit trees that have stood since the late 1800s sprouting some fruit ripe for the picking. In the summer, the trail can get hot as it’s exposed to the elements, so be sure to keep your hydration levels high and apply sunscreen regularly.
Leaving the stress behind
There's no doubt you'll have a blast as you go on these treks however you want to make sure that you can make it from A to B without stress. While getting out into the wilderness can be a great way to unwind, you do need to make sure you’re eliminating as many potential risks as possible.
Before you venture off into the great unknown, make sure you’re checking the weather forecast to ensure you have the right gear in case things get muddy. While the forests of Aotearoa are magnificent, they are slippery when wet. When you’re planning your journey, inform friends and family of your whereabouts and a timeframe of when you expect to return from your adventure. On that note, whether you’re travelling alone or with a group, have a medical kit on hand and an emergency beacon in case of any unexpected accidents along the way. If such an emergency occurs, it’s vital that your kin are aware of any existing insurance cover you have out.
So make sure to pack all of your gear, water, and some tasty trail mix to accompany you on your journey. If you have any concerns regarding travelling domestically, we have some excellent information available about domestic travel insurance HERE.
Most of us have found ourselves disconnected from the world around us since COVID. Traversing the New Zealand landscape is a sure way to give yourself some space and reconnect with the nature you’ve been missing out on. Take advantage of what is left of summer and get on out on the treks available to see what your country has to offer and support the local tourism industry while you’re at it!