8 great national parks in New Zealand

NZ is home to 13 incredible national parks, all offering something different depending on what you want to see and do. Here is a sample of 8 from both the North and South Islands.


Kahurangi National Park

Located in the northwest corner of the South Island, Kahurangi National Park’s most famous and accessible treasure is The Heaphy Track. The track is followed by more than 4000 walkers each year and covers 78km of subtropical rainforest, tussock high country, river valley and coast.

For hundreds of years the route was used by local Māori on their way to the pounamu (greenstone) resources of the west coast. The Heaphy Track is served by four Great Walk huts. Hikers following the Wangapeka Track will find seven huts along the way. Camping is allowed, but is restricted to designated sites along the tracks.

Whanganui National Park

Located in the central North Island, Whanganui National Park has a distinctive landscape of river valleys, steep slopes, razor-sharp ridges and an almost complete cover of native lowland forest. The park is at the centre of a large sedimentary basin, so the rocks are mostly mudstones and are easily sculpted by the river into fascinating shapes.

There are large numbers of native birds in the area including the whio (blue duck) which is part of a Department of Conservation (DOC)recovery programme. DOC provides three Great Walk hikers’ huts and a large number of campsites along the path of the Whanganui Journey.

Egmount National Park

The walking track network in Egmont National Park is extensive, ranging from a 15 minute stroll along the Kamahi Track to the three-day Pouakai Circuit. There’s a great selection of tracks around the Dawson Falls area, including the walk to Wilkies Pools, a series of eroded rock pools connected with gentle waterfalls.

The ‘Goblin Forest’, on the mountain’s middle slopes, takes its name from the gnarled shape of the trees and the thick swathes of trailing moss. Within the park there are eight DOC hikers’ huts linked by the excellent track system. DOC also provides two hikers’ lodges – Konini Lodge at Dawson Falls and the historic Camphouse at North Egmont.

Rakiura National Park

Stewart Island or Rakiura has a land area of nearly 2000 square kilometres, and 85 percent of it is included within the boundaries of Rakiura National Park, an enchanted world of unmodified ecosystems and habitats.

From dense coastal rainforests and freshwater wetlands to vast sand dunes and granite mountain ranges, the park provides an exceptional opportunity to see native wildlife and primeval landscapes. DOC provides more than 25 hikers’ huts within the park, including a few Great Walk huts that offer a higher-than-usual standard of accommodation.

Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park protects the northernmost area of the awe-inspiring Southern Alps and offers everything from easy lakeside walking tracks to challenging alpine hikes.Spanning 102,000 hectares, the park is also home to the beautiful alpine lakes, Rotoroa and Rotoiti.

DOC provides hikers’ accommodation in the park – a mix of Serviced, Standard and Basic huts. Serviced huts have bunks or sleeping platforms with mattresses, water supply, heating, toilet and hand washing facilities – some have cooking facilities. There are also two camping grounds in nearby St Arnaud. 

Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman National Park is an easily-accessible coastal paradise. Explore the park from land, on the water, or in the air, with a range of tour operators offering cruises, water taxi services, kayaking options, heli-tours and sailing catamarans. The park is popular during summer, although the shoulder seasons are particularly special with crisp mornings, calm waters and quiet beaches.

The park is accessible from Marahau and Kaiteriteri in the South, and from Golden Bay and Totaranui in the North. DOC provides four Great Walk hikers’ huts along the Coastal Track and four standard huts on the inland tracks. These huts have mattresses, water and toilets - some have cooking facilities. Campsites with water, toilets and fireplaces are also available within the park. Bookings are required in peak season.

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro became New Zealand’s first national park in 1887 and is a spectacular showcase of volcanic wonders including emerald lakes, old lava flows, steaming craters, colourful silica terraces and peculiar alpine gardens. The 80,000-hectare park is an environment of staggering beauty and diversity.

A series of short nature trails around Tongariro’s lower slopes take in the various habitats home to fascinating and diverse native flora and fauna and are a great way to get to know the park’s special places and stories. The walk known as the Tongariro Northern Circuit is served by four DOC Great Walk huts.

DOC also has a number of Serviced and Basic huts in other parts of the park. Various types of accommodation including campgrounds can be found in and around the nearby towns of Tūrangi, National Park Village and Ohakune, Raetihi, Taumarunui.

Paparoa National Park

This fascinating national park, towards the northern end of the South Island’s west coast, runs all the way inland from the ocean to the rugged ice-carved Paparoa Mountain Range.

By following the historic Inland Pack Track, formed originally by gold miners, visitors can discover some of the park’s most special places. Camping under a natural rock shelter – the Ballroom Overhang – is an unforgettable experience.

Hikers walking the Inland Pack Track can park their tents at the Ballroom Overhang campsite.The seaside village of Punakaiki offers a choice of accommodation styles including a campground. 

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