Mark Weatherall, the executive director of Te Araroa Trust, nominates his favourite sections of the trail
New Zealand’s national trail is packed full of truly amazing sites. Picking a top 10 along its 3000km length is a difficult task, but here are some of my absolute favourites.
1. 90 Mile Beach, Northland
Walking this amazing stretch of coast is well worth the sore feet you will likely have at the end of this unique stretch of the trail. Follow the footsteps of those who came before you and enjoy views of sand, sea and skies as far as the eye can see. The seemingly endless Ninety Mile Beach stretches 88km from Scott Point to Ahipara.
2. Whananaki, Northland
For spectacular views over the eastern coastline and excellent photo opportunities of Whananaki Estuary and Poor Knights Islands, don’t miss this section. The track begins with a 400m footbridge, said to be the longest in the southern hemisphere, which connects the Whananaki settlement to Sandy Bay. There is a range of magnificent lookouts along the path that winds through protected bush, up hills and over farmland.
3. Whanganui River, Whanganui
Rest your feet and work your arms on the only kayak or canoe section of Te Araroa. Take an epic journey down the beautiful Whanganui River, cruising calm waters and conquering roaring rapids through a region steeped in Māori history. For a break from the water, take the short walk to the Bridge to Nowhere.
4. Tararua Range, Wellington
One of the toughest hikes on the trail, the Tararua Range boasts sections of enchanting goblin forest, rolling hills, stunning alpine areas and valleys. The track starts 150m above sea level and reaches its highest point, 1462m, at Mount Crawford. Steep climbs and descents mean this track is not for the faint-hearted, but efforts will be rewarded with unparalleled views.
5. Paekakariki Escarpment Track, Wellington
The four-hour Paekakariki Escarpment Track is one of Wellington’s best walking experiences and is a popular choice for day walkers. Known by some as the region’s own ‘Devil’s Staircase’, walkers will discover sweeping views of Kapiti Island from high above the coastline after they defeat the 1500 stairs. The track features two 40m swingbridges, a kohekohe forest, abundant native birdlife and Māori archaeological sites.
6. Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough
The first South Island section is the famous Queen Charlotte Track. It’s in the heart of the Marlborough Sounds and takes in picturesque views of both Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru sounds. The well-formed 72km trail passes through lush native forest and historic bays, and walkers can look out over beautiful beaches.
7. Richmond Range, Nelson
This is one for the fit, experienced and well-equipped tramper. The rugged Alpine Route is among the finest along Te Araroa. The challenging trip above the bushline in Mt Richmond Forest Park is unformed in places, with exposed ridges and river crossings. Large parts of the track are out of mobile coverage. But if you are skilled enough to brave the ranges, you will see some superb landscapes, including the Waimea Plains and Inland Kaikoura Ranges.
8. Stag Saddle, Canterbury
At 1925m, Stag Saddle, in the Two Thumb Range, is the highest point on Te Araroa. For sublime views across the crystal-clear turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo to Aoraki/Mt Cook, this is the place to be. The steep climb to the top is for walkers who are confident in navigating and should not be attempted in poor weather.
9. Breast Hill, Otago
Breast Hill provides trampers and overnight walkers with mountain and water views. Look out across to the Southern Alps, including Mt Aspiring, over Lake Hāwea, and across the Wanaka and Hāwea Basins. The challenging 14.5km track starts by Lake Hāwea and heads steeply up the hillside. It is Te Araroa’s memorable entry into Otago.
10. Bluff, Southland
The southernmost end of the trail has plenty of character and a rich and varied history. It’s truly awe-inspiring to stand at the bottom of the world, beneath the famous signpost at Stirling Point and overlook Foveaux Strait all the way to Stewart Island. In Bluff, you can enjoy a famous Bluff oyster and a beer to celebrate the end of your journey (or the start, if you are going north).