New Zealand is of course famous for its beautiful nature. But many people think that the North Island is mostly a culture destination and that you have to go to the South Island to find all the dramatic landscapes. We’re here to tell you that’s not the case and inspire you to take one or more North Island hikes to see it for yourself!
In this post we’ve selected our 6 favorite New Zealand North Island hikes, which show you it’s diversity and awesomeness. The hikes vary in length from an easy 1 hour walk to a full day intensive hike. There’s something there for everyone; even non-hikers will get their fill!
MANGAWHAI CLIFFS WALKWAY
The Mangahwai Cliffs Walkway was the first North Island hike that we did and it was a great hike to start with! This 2 – 3 hour loop walk takes you over the clifftops of New Zealand’s northern coast.
The hike starts at the beach near the Mangawhai Harbour. The first 20 minutes or so are the most difficult, as they have you climbing the stairs up the cliffs.
Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll follow a well maintained bush track without too many change in elevation. The walk is quite diverse as it has you walking through the fields one moment and through forest the next.
But as you keep to the edge of the cliffs, the amazing ocean views are always close by. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some whales or sharks in the water!
If you time your hike with low tide, you can return to to the start of the track via the stony beach. When we were there the tide was high, so we returned back the way we came. But we were not disappointed, because that just meant we got more of the amazing ocean views.
We highly recommend anyone who visits New Zealand to take this North Island hike. The views are awesome, and besides the climb at the start, the path is quite easy. A lot of awesome for little effort!
REDWOOD FOREST WALK
Not so much one walk as an array of walks, the Whakarewarewa Forest near Rotorua offers hiking opportunities for young and old. All tracks lead you through the impressive Redwood forest that was planted here over 100 years ago.
The shortest walk takes about 30 minutes to complete and is even wheelchair friendly, but we opted for a bit more challenge and followed the 1.5 hour loop of the Quarry lookout track.
This track starts out easy, but soon has you climbing up and down a steep hill via a bush path. There’s a nice viewpoint at the top to complete this North Island hike.
TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is (in our humble opinion) the most epic of all North Island hikes. Though this was the most challenging hike we did in New Zealand, it was also definitely the most rewarding.
The route takes you right through Tongariro National Park, between volcano’s, past crater lakes and lava flows. The landscape is truly otherworldly.
Though this hike is not for the faint-hearted, anyone with a reasonable amount of fitness should be able to complete it. For most of the 6 to 8 hour hike you’ll be either climbing (over 700 meters) or descending (over 1100 meters), so you’ll get a good work-out.
The track is mostly well-kept. There are even some boardwalks. But the steepest part of the hike, when you’re crossing the summit, is mostly loose rocks and sand.
Arrange your shuttle the day before (we recommend starting as early in the morning as possible, to avoid the crowds and the heat), so you’ll have transportation from the finish back to the starting point.
HARURU FALLS TRACK
The Haruru Falls Track is an easy North Island hike that’s nice to do if you’re staying in the Bay of Islands and have a morning or afternoon to spare.
The track runs from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to the Haruru Falls. In the 2 to 2.5 hours it takes to complete the one-way track, you’ll mostly walk through the native bush along the Waitangi river, accompanied by a variety of bird species.
About halfway, you’ll come across a boardwalk that leads you through a mangrove forest. During low tide you’ll hear the sounds of snapping shrimp that hide in mud and see small crabs scurrying about. We considered this part to be the highlight of the hike.
The track terminates at the Haruru Falls. Though the track is named after them, the falls themselves are actually not that impressive. They’re nice, but we’ve seen a lot nicer.
KARANGAHAKE WINDOWS WALK
The Karangahake Windows Walk between Paeroa and Waihi combines natural and man-made scenery in an outstanding way. The track is mostly flat, very easy to complete and only takes about 1 hour, which makes this a great North Island hike for anyone.
For the first half of the hike, you’ll be walking through the remnants of a former goldmine. There’s rail tracks, mining tunnels, suspension bridges and even an old mining cart. Great fun!
The walk was named after the “windows” that open up from the mines, giving you great views of the Karangahake gorge and river below. You’ll follow this river back to the start of the track, once you’ve emerged from the mines.
The Coromandel Peninsula’s Cathedral Cove is actually a quite famous New Zealand attraction. But what many people don’t know, is that it’s a 45 to 70 minute walk to get there (depending on where you start). And the walk is almost as beautiful as the destination!
The 45 minute walk to reach Cathedral Cove starts just outside of Hahei. However, to get to the starting point you need to either take a $5 shuttle bus or walk from the car park for another 25 minutes. It’s up to you.
Now, like I said the walk itself is very beautiful. You’ll walk through native bush and get spectacular views from the clifftops out to the ocean and the beaches below.
The path is paved and it’s impossible to get lost. But there are some steep sections and quite some stairs at the end. So either be fit or take your time!
So, there you have it. Our favorite New Zealand North Island hikes. Hopefully we’ve inspired you to visit this beautiful part of the country and shown you that it’s not just the South Island that has amazing nature. Enjoy the North Island to the fullest by going out in nature and exploring the diverse landscapes it has to offer!