Winter tramping destinations in New Zealand

By: Esha Chanda

With winter rolling in, NZMCD takes a look at some easy (and not so easy) tramps in New Zealand


Routeburn Track

Charming Creek Walkway

If you want to get away from snow and alpine walks, head to the West Coast for one of the best one-day walks. This all-weather trail follows an old coal railway line through the Ngakawau River gorge, and along the way, you’ll spot rustic relics, tunnels, and the Mangatini Falls.

Suggested track options:

  • Ngakawu track end to Watson’s Mill (1 hour 15 min)
  • Watson’s Mill to Charming Creek mine entrance/car part (1 hr 45 min)

Rangitoto Island Loop

This one is a hot climb even in winter. The youngest—created 600 years ago—but the largest volcanic cone is easily reachable via a short ferry ride from Auckland city centre. The easy climb makes for a great day trek with well-formed paths through lava fields. If you’re keen to explore more, take a side trip to the Lava Caves or head to the Wilson Park Track.

Suggested track options:

  • Lighthouse walk to McKenzie Bay (2 hours 30 min)
  • Rangitoto Wharf to summit to Islington Bay (2 hours 30 min)
  • Coastal Track from Rangitoto Wharf to Islington Bay Wharf (2 hours 30 min)
  • Inland route from Rangitoto Wharf to Islington Bay Wharf (1 hour 30 min)
  • Islington Bay Wharf to Home Bay (Motutapu Island) (1 hour 45 min)
  • Islington Bay Road to Wreck Bay (1 hour one way)

Karangahake Gorge

Pick a crisp winter morning, pack a lunch, and discover the mining history of Karangahake Gorge. You may have driven past it on your way to Thames or the Coromandel, but it is well worth a stop to explore the old walkways and tunnels. Choose from different walks and tracks that include the historic walkaway—a path that follows the old Paeroa to Waihi railway line—and the tunnel loop walk—along the Ohinemuri River and over the Waitawheta River.

Suggested track options:

  • Rail Tunnel loop (45 min return)
  • Historic Walkway to Waikino (4-hour return)

Great Barrier Island

With many tracks and trails crisscrossing Great Barrier Island, there is a walk to suit everyone, depending on your fitness level and time availability. Discover the mountains on the 25km Aotea loop track that takes you deep into the forest and then upon mountaintops or take the shorter and easier track to Kaitoke Hot Springs for a warm soak after the walk.

Suggested track options:

  • Kaitoke Hot Springs (45 min one way)
  • Mt Hobson Summit (30 min one way)
  • Whangaparapara Peak Track (2 hours)
  • Te Ahumata Track (1 hour)
  • Harataonga Coastal Walkway (4 hours)

Routeburn Track

You may have tackled this multi-day trek over summer, but it’s another story during the colder months. The 32km track in Fiordland National Park is not an easy outside the Great Walks season (24 October to 30 April), especially with seasonal restrictions, and should be tackled only if you’re an experienced tramper. But if you’re looking for something easier, there are some great day walks to explore to get a taste of the Routeburn track.

Suggested track options:

  • Full track (3 days/2 nights)
  • Earland Falls Track (6 hours)
  • Key Summit Track (3 hours)
  • Lake Howden Track (3 hours)

Tongariro National Park

From a track through forests to a loop that takes you Taranaki Falls, there are many options to choose from at Tongariro National Park. The one-day alpine crossing is a popular one but is a harder to tackle in winter, so it’s best to save this for a summer day unless you’re an experienced tramper.  

Suggested track options:

  • Ohinetonga Track (2 hours)
  • Ride Track (30–40 min)
  • Silica Rapids (2.5 hours)
  • Taranaki Falls (2 hours)
  • Whakapapaiti Valley (4–5 hours)

Coromandel Walkway

The 10km coastal walk between Stony Bay and Fletcher Bay is well worth the effort with spectacular views of Sugar Loaf Pinnacles and Great Barrier Island. It’s an easy walk albeit a long one (seven hours return) and you’ll spend a day to complete the return hike, or alternatively, you could arrange for shuttle transport.

Suggested track options:

  • En route from Stony Bay to Fletcher Bay, look out for a signpost for a shorter walking option (1 hour 15 mins)
  • Coromandel mountain bike track (8km) if you’re looking for something more challenging

Twilight – Te Werahi Loop Track

If you’re making your way up north—all the way to Cape Reinga—this 16km round-trip walk is worth checking out. It meanders through beaches, coastal forest, manuka scrubs, and over sand dunes and is mostly flat and easy-going, with options to either head to Werahi Beach or Twilight Beach.

Suggested track options:

  • To Werahi Beach (30 min one way)
  • To Twilight Beach (1 hours 15 min one way)

Note: If you’re looking at tackling alpine walks, make sure you carry winter essentials, good hiking boots, the right gear, and be sure to check the weather before you leave.

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