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10 Best New Zealand Hikes – North Island Day Hikes

New Zealand is home to some of the most unique and incredible hiking and tramping sites in the entire world. On New Zealand’s North Island, the diversity of hikes is amazing, you’ll be able to hike a mountain one day and to a hidden beach the next. You’ll see a beautiful waterfall, a beach connected by a natural archway, a perfectly shaped mountain with a reflective pool, free hot springs, and SO MUCH MORE! To be honest, it was difficult to narrow all of the hikes down to the 10 best hikes in New Zealand’s North Island, but we did it. We made a countdown from number 10 all the way to the very best New Zealand hike, one that will take a full day and will leave you in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds you in New Zealand.

If you would like to read about the 10 best hikes in New Zealand’s North Island and watch an awesome (we are biased) video on it, check this out! We made a video detailing all 10 of these awesome hikes in order from 10 to 1:

Now, without further ado, let’s get to it. Here is our countdown of the best 10 hikes in New Zealand’s North Island, starting with number 10: New Chums Beach.

#10 – New Chums Beach

The hike to New Chums Beach is low effort, high reward. The hike takes you along the New Zealand coast, where you will have to do one shallow water crossing and a little bit of walking over seaside rocks. However, all of this is SO easy compared to the incredible beach that awaits you at the end of the hike.

After a short hike along the coast and a jaunt through the forest, you’ll come out to the hidden beach known as New Chums Beach. This beach is huge, with so much space for you to spread out a blanket and claim your spot for the day. On top of the huge size, due to the fact that the beach is hidden, it is not busy AT ALL!

New Chums Beach Hike Details

  • Distance: 3 km out & back
  • Time: 1 hour roundtrip
  • Trailhead: Whangapoua Beach

#9 – Karangahake Gorge – The Windows

Coming in at number 9 on our countdown of the best hikes in New Zealand’s North Island is the Karangahake Gorge, specifically the hike to The Windows. This hike starts at a beautiful swimming area alongside the river that cuts the Karangahake Gorge in half.

From the start, you’ll cross a beautiful swing bridge across the river, and follow signs for The Windows trail. The Windows takes you inside the canyon, literally, where there are train tracks and a network of tunnels leading every which way. At a few points, there are windows (where this trail gets its name) that peer out into the Karangahake Gorge beautifully.

Bonus: at the end of the hike, head to Owharoa Falls for a beautiful swimming hole and set of cascading waterfalls!

Karangahake Gorge Hike Details

  • Distance: 2.5 km loop
  • Time: 1 hour roundtrip
  • Trailhead: Karangahake Gorge Reserve

#8 – Wilkies Pools – Mount Taranaki

Located right in Egmont National Park along Mount Taranaki is the incredibly unique and wonderful Wilkies Pools. The hike to the Wilkies Pools is relatively short, just a few kilometres each way, but the reward at the end is stupendous. You’ll get a set of cascading pools and small waterfalls all in perfect view of Mount Taranaki!

The best part about the Wilkies Pools is the natural slide that has formed over time between two of the pools. This slide was a BLAST to slide down, and splash into the largest and deepest of the Wilkies Pools. One warning: the water can be COLD! It would be best to visit the Wilkies Pools on a hot day when the water will be refreshing, and you can heat up in the sun after your slide!

Wilkies Pools Hike Details

  • Distance: 2.5 km loop
  • Time: 1 hour roundtrip
  • Trailhead: Dawson Falls Visitor Centre

#7 – Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls is one of the most beautiful single sites on New Zealand’s North Island. The falls themselves are incredibly huge, seemingly falling straight from the sky into a huge pool below. However, though the waterfall is beautiful, the surrounding area and the hike itself add to the experience of Bridal Veil Falls.


Photography Equipment


We absolutely LOVE photography, and sharing pictures! These are the cameras we use on all of our adventures. The drone and GoPro help us get cool new perspectives (underwater, in the air, wide angle) and the Rebel we use on a day-to-day basis for most of our shots!


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The first view you’ll get of Bridal Veil Falls is from the top, where you can see the river as it flows over the enormous cliff. From this vantage point, you’ll get a great view of not only the falls, but of the surrounding natural landscape.

Hike down a ways and you’ll get a view of the falls from a viewpoint halfway up, which we thought was the most spectacular. Continue down, and you’ll get the view of Bridal Veil Falls from the bottom. From here, you’ll get a great view of the unique cliffside that appears as though it was painted with a brush. Make sure Bridal Veil Falls is on your itinerary.

Bridal Veil Falls Hike Details

  • Distance: 2 km out & back
  • Time: 40 minutes roundtrip
  • Trailhead: Bridal Veil Falls Trailhead

#6 – Paekakariki Escarpment Track

The Paekakariki Escarpment Track is one of the most singularly special hikes in New Zealand. There is truly not another hike like this one in all of the land. Also called the Stairway to Heaven, the Escarpment Track earned that nickname one hundred percent.

This hike starts right near the road in Pukerua Bay. You’ll begin the hike by taking a route under the road, and beginning with a hike through the bush. After a few sets of staircases, you’ll emerge from the treeline and be hiking along a mountainside!

Along the mountainside, the Paekakariki Escarpment Track has tons of staircases connected together like links, leading to the top of the track and the absolutely incredible views. This track has wonderful viewpoint all along the mountainside, however the best is of course at the top.

If you’d like to, you can continue the hike forwards and make this a point-to-point track. However, you’d better organize a ride back to your car (or get dropped off at the start) if you want to do this. We chose to turn around at the summit (about halfway through the track) and hike the return trip to our van.

Escarpment Track Hike Details

  • Distance: 10 km one-way
  • Time: 4 hours one-way (train back to start)
  • Trailhead: Pukerua Bay

#5 – Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove, like New Chums Beach, is a beach you have to hike to! Unlike New Chums Beach, Cathedral Cove is really 2 beaches rolled into one, and connected by an enormous natural stone archway!

The archway at Cathedral Cove is the main reason that this is such an incredible destination. However, on top of that, there are many things that make this a wonderful adventure. First off, Gemstone Bay, which is along the path to Cathedral Cove, is an incredible snorklening and swimming area, among the best in New Zealand.

Also, at Cathedral Cove is a large rock platform about 100 metres off shore that you can jump off of! Check the water depth before jumping of course, but then go wild climbing and jumping off the rock! Finally, the beach itself is fantastic to hang out at. Bring a picnic and a book, and spend the day relaxing, you’ve earned it after hiking all the way out there.

Cathedral Cove Hike Details

  • Distance: 5 km out & back
  • Time: 1.5 hours roundtrip
  • Trailhead: Hahei

The Cathedral Cove hike can be done two ways. The first way is to park in the parking lot, pay a small fee for a shuttle service to bring you to the trailhead and then continue on the trail by foot to the beach. If you rather not pay for the shuttle (like we didn’t) you can use your own two feet as your own private shuttle service. This will add about 2 km each way to your hike, but it’s great exercise and will save you some money!


Hiking Gear


Hiking is our number 1 favorite activity. You get outside, get exercise, see amazing things, and don’t spend a lot of money. It is literally the perfect activity! You do need to have the right gear to go though. Here is all the best gear we use for our hikes.

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#4 – Rainbow Mountain & Kerosene Creek

Coming in at number 4 on the 10 best hikes on New Zealand’s North Island is a double hike: Rainbow Mountain and Kerosene Creek. This hike forms a large letter ‘Y’, as the trails start on the same track, and then divert to their respective destinations. We recommend doing Rainbow Mountain first, then hiking back to the fork in the road and making the trip up to Kerosene Creek.

The hike up Rainbow Mountain is a bit of a challenge, as you’ll be hiking a few steep ascents on your way to the summit. Along the track, there are a few wonderful lookouts including one over a red cliff. At this lookout, look closely and you’ll be able to see steam rising from some geysers in the mountainside!

Atop Rainbow Mountain you’ll be able to see for miles and miles, especially on a clear day. If you are a mountain biker, this is a great place for you, as there are mountain biking trails along the backside of the mountain, which in fact will take you right to Kerosene Creek!

On the return hike from Rainbow Mountain, at the fork in the trail, turn for Kerosene Creek, the best free hot spring in New Zealand! As you hike along, if you are hiking during the Summer you’ll see blackberry bushes lining the trail. If they are ripe, go ahead and have a little snack! Or even better, bring along a baggie and save some for later!

Kerosene Creek is an awesome free hot springs. It is really incredible. The hot springs are an entire river, complete with flowing current and cascading waterfalls. And somehow, all of that water is as hot as a hot tub! Lucky for you, you can find a place to hang out and relax. You may be tired after the Rainbow Mountain hike, and no better way to unwind than at New Zealand’s best free hot springs.

Rainbow Mt Kerosene Creek Hike Details

  • Distance: 9 km out & back
  • Time: 5 hours roundtrip
  • Trailhead: Rainbow Mountain Trailhead

#3 – Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui comes in at number 3 on our countdown. This hike, located on the East Coast of New Zealand just south of the Coromandel Peninsula, is awesome for many reasons. First off, Mount Maunganui is located in an interesting little stretch of land. The mountain is at the end of a peninsula that is bordered on both sides by enormous beaches. Therefore, you can start & end your day with a little rest & relaxation on the beach!

On your hike up the mountain, which takes you from sea level to 232 meters above sea level, you’ll pass a few sheep farms where you can get an up-close-and-personal view of some of New Zealand’s famous sheep!

Fun Fact: New Zealand sheep outnumber New Zealand people by over 8 to 1! For every one person in the country, there are 8 sheep.

Mount Maunganui offers the chance to get some great exercise while seeing an incredibly beautiful view. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of the beaches and resorts in Mount Maunganui and see the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean all the way to the horizon. It is truly a breathtaking site.

Mount Maunganui Hike Details

  • Distance: 3.8 km out & back
  • Time: 1.5 hours roundtrip
  • Trailhead: Mount Maunganui

#2 – Pouakai Reflective Tarns – Mount Taranaki

The Mount Taranaki Pouakai Tarns comes in as the second best hike in New Zealand’s North Island. The Pouakai Reflective Tarns are a set of small alpine ponds that are located in a perfect place to view Mount Taranaki in all her glory. If you get lucky enough to do this hike on a calm, clear day, this is the view you’ll be treated to.

Photo from Where in the World is Nina

Unfortunately for us, our time in Mount Taranaki was a combination of cloudy and windy. Therefore, our view from the Pouakai Tarns wasn’t the perfect reflection, however it was still INCREDIBLY beautiful! The tarns offer the perfect foreground, and Mount Taranaki is a better background than any mountain there is. The mountain is a perfect cone shape, almost perfectly symmetrical the entire way around.


Camping Gear


Who doesn’t love camping?? Getting out into the great outdoors, enjoying Mother Nature’s beauty, it is the best! We love waking up with a cup of coffee after camping by the lake under the stars. Here is all the camping gear we use and love!

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The Pouakai Reflective Tarns hike is a bit of a challenge, and will take the better part of a day to complete. We recommend packing along a picnic to enjoy at the tarns, or at the Pouakai Hut that is located a short distance from the tarns. If you’d like to, you can even stay overnight in the hut! That may be an awesome experience, as the best opportunity for seeing the tarns at their calmest would be at dusk and dawn.

Pouakai Tarns Hike Details

  • Distance: 12 km out & back
  • Time: 7 hours roundtrip
  • Trailhead: End of Mangorei Road

#1 – Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The number 1 best hike in New Zealand’s North Island is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing! This absolutely incredible hike really knocks everything out of the park, as it is an entire day full of wonderful sites and adventure, with everything you could ever hope to have on a New Zealand hike.

For starters, Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings) is enormous and visible throughout much of the hike. If you begin the Tongariro Crossing hike early in the morning, you’ll even be treated to a sunrise directly over Mount Ngauruhoe, which is a beautiful site.

As you hike by Mount Ngauruhoe, you’ll walk through a huge crater, and up an incline with a 360 degree view that will leave your jaw on the floor. In one direction, you’ll have that epic Mount Doom. In another direction, you’ll see the Red Crater, an incredible rock formation that seems to have been masterfully designed and placed in the perfect place. And finally, you’ll get a first glimpse at the stunning Emerald Lakes that are the crown jewel of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

If you hike on a cloudy day, there is a good chance you’ll be hiking ABOVE the clouds! Cloud inversion!

The Emerald Lakes (and Blue Lake) are so wildly beautiful that you must complete this hike just to see them. These stunning colored lakes are somehow located high in the mountains, with a beautiful backdrop of mountains and bright blue sky. The Emerald Lakes make for a perfect photo opportunity, and a great place to enjoy a picnic you may have packed along for the hike.

This hike is a challenge, at just under 20 km, and will take a full day to complete. Also, the hike is one-way, so there are shuttle services that assist with transportation. The best way to do it is this: drive to the end of the track, get a shuttle to the start, hike to the end. That way you’ll be able to hop in your vehicle once you finish the hike!

We wrote a full blog about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, complete with a shuttle guide, packing list, and full guide to the hike. Check it out here:

Tongariro Alpine Crossing Hike Details

  • Distance: 19.4 km one-way
  • Time: 7 hours one-way (shuttle to start)
  • Trailhead: Mangatepopo Carpark

Thank you SO much for reading our blog on the 10 best hikes in New Zealand’s North Island! We sincerely hope you enjoyed it, and hope we gave you some ideas for awesome hikes to do in this beautiful country! If you enjoyed this article, please use the below images to Pin It on Pinterest.

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6 thoughts on “10 Best New Zealand Hikes – North Island Day Hikes”

  1. You picked some really good places to hike (some are favourites of mine). I think everyone should do the Tongariro crossing if they are able to. Karangahake Gorge and the surrounding area is also quite interesting.

  2. Thanks for these new ideas for hikes. I’ve done the Tongariro Crossing but I’m looking for other ideas for my next visit. So this is perfect.

  3. All your hikes and photos look absolutely incredible! NZ is so high on my bucket list and hopefully we will be able to do some of these hikes!

  4. Pingback: 9 Expensive and Free Must-Dos in New Zealand | Cheap Holidays in NZ

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