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Best 1 day hikes and walks in the North Island

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Always fancied exploring some of New Zealand’s nature on fantastic walks and hikes, but not so keen on the idea of lugging around a heavy pack and camping? The North Island of New Zealand has some incredible shorter one-day walks. This means you can park up your campervan at nearby campgrounds, DOC sites, or a freedom camping spot, then get out and explore our fantastic trails and coastlines. And when you’re done, head back to the luxury of your warm bed and well-stocked fridge!

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At Britz, we’ve got a wide selection of campervans and motorhomes to suit every budget and travel style. Choose from the 2-berth Venturer – an affordable option for couples, to the 6-berth Frontier – ideal for groups of friends or families.

Pick up your Britz campervan hire from our Auckland branch at Manu Tapu Drive, Auckland Airport, and then head off to enjoy some of the best hikes in the North Island. Here are our top 8 to get you started!

First, be prepared 

Remember, before heading off on your walk, even if it’s just a short walk, it pays to be prepared for outdoor safety. Make sure you’re well equipped with weather appropriate clothing (remember, the weather in New Zealand can change very quickly!), food and water, and a fully charged phone. Be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you’re due to arrive back.

1. Te Whara Track - Whangarei 

Distance: 7.5km one way

Estimated walk time: 5-6 hours

What to expect: Winding its way through the beautiful coastal forest of the North Island’s Bream Head Reserve, the Te Whara Track follows an ancient Māori trail from Ocean Beach to Urquharts Bay. Take in panoramic views stretching from Cape Brett (Motukokako) in the north to Cape Rodney (Tawharanui) in the south. Around 45 minutes into your hike, you’ll come across a historic World War Two radar station built in 1942. The station sits on a cliffside with clear views across the ocean, which allowed radars to pick up enemy ships entering the Whangarei Harbour.

You can walk the trail in two directions, from the Ocean Beach carpark on Ranui Road, or from Urquharts Bay carpark.

For an overnight stay in the area, park up at the Whangarei TOP 10 Holiday Park.

2. Rangitoto Summit Track - Auckland 

Distance: 7km

Estimated walk time: 2 hours return

What to expect: It may be New Zealand’s largest city, but Auckland is also home to some spectacular one-day walking tracks, including the Rangitoto Summit Track. Park up your campervan in the city and board a ferry for the short 25-minute journey across the harbour. Rangitoto is a dormant volcano and last erupted around 600 years ago. There are plenty of options for walking the island, but one of the most popular is the Rangitoto Summit Track which takes just under two hours. Along the way, take a short detour to see the lava tunnels and caves (remember to bring a torch if you want to explore inside). Much of this track will take you over broken lava fields, so it’s a good idea to have good footwear.

For a great night’s stay, book into the Takapuna Beach Holiday Park.

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3. Mount Maunganui - Bay of Plenty 

Distance: 3.4km

Estimated walk time: 40 minutes one way

What to expect: Also known as the Mauao track, the Mount Maunganui summit track is fairly steep, so it takes a good level of fitness. But the 360-degree views at the top are very much worth the effort! Standing at 232 metres above sea level, the summit overlooks the Western Bay of Plenty. You’ll see the white sands of Papamoa and beyond, and north across Matakana Island towards Waihi Beach. For a truly magical experience, plan your hike up the summit just before dawn, then relax and watch the sunrise.

After your hike, enjoy dinner as you put your feet up at the Mt Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park. It’s right at the base of Mauao and has great campsite facilities on offer.

 

Mt Maunganui  - Have You Ever - Camilla Rutherford (6).jpg Image source: TNZ visual library - Camilla Rutherford

4. Tarawera Falls Track - Bay of Plenty 

Distance: 700m return

Estimated walk time: 40 minutes return

What to expect: If you’re keen to enjoy a short but incredible scenic North Island walk with a spectacular waterfall, be sure to add the Tarawera Falls Track to your North Island itinerary. This easy track takes just 20 minutes each way. The track begins at the Waterfall Road carpark and winds upstream along the Tarawera River. Cross a bridge over the river and continue along the track until you arrive at the waterfall viewing area.

For an overnight stay, head to one of Kawerau’s great freedom camping spots.

5. Pouakai Crossing - Taranaki 

Distance: 19km one way

Estimated walk time: 7.5 hours – 9.5 hours

What to expect: If you’re keen to try out one of the North Island’s longer hikes, the Pouakai Crossing is a great option. The track can be walked in around 7.5 hours or longer if you fancy taking some of the side trips along the way. Wind your way across the lower slopes of Mount Taranaki and take in the views of towering cliffs, a spectacular waterfall, and unique wetlands.

The track starts from either Mangorei Road or the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre, and you can walk it in either direction. Although, there is less climbing if you start from the visitor centre.

If you want to stretch out this walk to 2-3 days, plan a stop at the Pouakai Hut along the way. Remember, the weather in this region changes quickly. Be well prepared with warm, suitable clothing and footwear and check the weather forecast before heading off.

For an overnight stay in a local campground, head to the Oakura Beach Holiday Park.

6. The Goblin Forest - Taranaki 

Distance: 600m loop

Estimated walk time: 15-30 minutes

What to expect: The Kamahi Loop Track in the North Island’s East Egmont area is home to the beautiful Goblin Forest, a lush rainforest that looks like it could be straight from the pages of a fairy tale or fantasy movie! With its thick ferns, mosses and twisted kamahi trunks, this beautiful forest is a sight to behold. While you’re in the area, take a walk to nearby Wilkies Pools, a series of natural plunge pools formed over thousands of years by the scouring action of sand and gravel against lava. Don’t forget to bring swimming gear if you visit over summer.

To extend your visit and enjoy more New Zealand nature, plan a stay at one of the region’s freedom camping sites.

7. Tongariro Alpine Crossing - Central North Island 

Distance: 19.4km one way

Estimated walk time: 7-8 hours during the warmer months, 9 hours during the colder months

What to expect: Looking for the best hike in New Zealand’s North Island? Many agree that you simply can’t go past the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This popular hike is in the Tongariro National Park – New Zealand's oldest national park and a dual UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hike your way across the unique volcanic alpine landscape where you’ll see steaming vents and ancient lava flows one minute, then glacial valleys and crater lakes the next.

This challenging track begins at 1120m and climbs the Mangatepopo Valley to the saddle between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe. The track then continues through South Crater before climbing again to Red Crater, the highest point on the crossing at 1886m.

From there, you’ll head down a volcanic rock scree track to the vivid Emerald Lakes, known as Nga Rotopounamu (greenstone-hued lakes) and the Blue Lake, also known as Te Wai-whakaata-o-te-Rangihiroa (Rangihiroa’s mirror). The track then winds its way around the northern slope of Mount Tongariro, before descending to its endpoint.

Note, although this track is beautiful and attracts hikers from all over the world, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing can be dangerous if you’re not properly prepared – even in summer. Due to its alpine environment, the weather can be changeable at any time of year. It is common to experience very cold temperatures, strong wind, heavy rainfall, and poor visibility in summer. Plus, snow can fall at any time of year. To ensure you’re safe and well equipped, it’s a good idea to plan your crossing with a Tongariro Guided Walk.

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8. The Pinnacles - Wairarapa 

Distance: 1.5km give or take, depending on the route you take

Estimated walk time: 2-4 hours return depending on which route you take

What to expect: The spectacular Putangirua Pinnacles along the Pinnacles Track are located in the Wairarapa at the bottom of the North Island. These formations were formed over thousands of years when the Putangirua Stream exposed ancient layers of gravel to the erosive forces of rain and floods. Some of the sediments stayed concreted together, while others washed away. The resulting rock formations are the Putangirua Pinnacles.

Lord of the Rings fans will recognise the scenery here. The Pinnacles were backdropped in scenes from The Return of the King as Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli ride along the Dimholt Road to meet the Army of the Dead.

 

Ready to experience the best North Island hikes?

From coastlines to forests, rivers to mountains… the North Island has a walk, hike, or tramp to suit everyone. And there really is no better way to discover Aotearoa’s fantastic walks than to plan a campervan trip. Spend all day out in New Zealand nature, then head home to cook up a warm meal before heading to bed and driving to another great destination the next day.

Ready to tick a few of these awesome North Island short walks off your list? Dust off your walking shoes, pack a backpack, and book your Britz motorhome online today. Then pick it up at your most convenient Britz branch.