Thousands experience the Great Walks of New Zealand every year. Few finish it with local knowledge of why they're our Great Walks. A personal connection to the land you tread will leave those smells, sights and feelings with you forever. Our Bushmen & Women don't just guide, they educate, show you hidden trails and tricks that those you pass will never know. Hike in our world, a Bushman's world.
Why Do This Track?
Stunning alpine vistas, huge valley views and hundreds of cascading waterfalls. There is a good reason why the Milford Track is one of the finest walks New Zealand has to offer and one of the most sought after in the world. Follow your Bushman through ancient and magical rain forest, valleys carved by glaciers long vanished into our history, and alongside pristine alpine lakes, while soaking in the peace and solitude of our back country. You’ll also have the chance to admire the Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand (580m).
What To Expect
After a scenic ship cruise through breathtaking Fiordlands, the track will lead you over suspension bridges, a glorious mountain pass and through native beech forest, with cozy backcountry huts along the way. The track gradually climbs up over the first two days, allowing you to warm up for the steep section to the top of Mackinnon Pass on Day 3 (considered as one of the most breathtaking views in the Southern Hemisphere). Be ready for stunning views over Milford Sound and the surrounding valleys and soak it all in.
Is this suitable for families?
Yes. Many families enjoy the Milford Track each year due to its rolling hills and well-maintained tracks. It's important to always come prepared and ensure all your children have plenty of waterproofs (it rains 11 months of the year in the Sounds).
What will the weather be like?
Typically, the southern region is muggy, humid and hot in summer. There is a large quantity of water in the air here so it's advised to wear clothing that can dry quick. It also rains... a lot! But this has been said to be the Milford's best quality as waterfalls appear within hours over the rolling cliffs. It's not uncommon for days/nights to turn freezing though, be prepared.
Can I do this on my own?
Many hikers will walk this track on their own, but many miss hidden trails, caves and lookouts that only our locals know. It's suitable for people with moderate levels of hiking experience, but the knowledge and extra activities you will gain from our Bushmen make it extra special.
Will the track be busy?
Between October & April, The Department of Conservation only allows 40 people per day to head out on the track and all must walk in the same direction to reduce the environmental impact. Although you will likely pass people, this reduces congestion. The huts can get busy, but this is a good excuse to explore twilight creatures and meet locals.
Why do this track?
You will half expect a dinosaur of some sort to appear in the bush on your journey here. The Paparoa and Pike 29 Memorial Track embody our most pristine bush and wildlife - providing a clear reason why we check bio-issues at airports. This track has been labeled a "jewel in the crown" that once only the hardiest of trampers would find. The moss that hugs our native trees provides a look into a mystical land, while the smells and weather completely regenerate your senses. Two new huts provide a "room in the bush" - probably better than any you'll find during your trip here.
What to expect
This track is fantastic for those looking to do a Great Walk but intimidated by the effort possibly involved. Families and people new to hiking will get a good sense of multi-day trips, while not having to sacrifice time to enjoy it. Day one features a steady climb while the remaining time is spent heading back downwards to the car park. You will pass our most ancient forests, creeks and outlooks that have made this a Great Walk. This is our first Great Walk designed for both hiking and cycling, therefore the track is wide and steady.
Why is this track not available now?
By booking the Paparoa now, you'll be one of the first people to hike it! It's a brand new track and our newest Great Walk that has been in progress for a few years now. The team of people who have built this boast its incredible personality (see for yourself here), and by December 1st 2019, everyone will be able to experience our very latest Great Walk of Aotearoa, New Zealand.
What's the Pike29 Memorial track and can we do it?
If you opt for a two day hike on this Great Walk, you can do so by heading to the Pike29 Memorial Track. In November 2010, 29 of our fellow Kiwis lost their lives in Pike River (Mine). This track captures a mixture of epic lookouts and steady treks that tells the story of one of our worst disasters. Over 10.8km, this track goes between the Pike River Interpretation Centre and Pike Ridge turn-off.
Are there huts available?
With a new track, comes new huts! The passes to get into these have been on sale since March 2019, meaning there are not many left for the peak season and Christmas period. If you want a different sort of experience on a Great Walk, now is seriously the time to book! However, there are options to camp at the proximity of the huts.
RESERVE TODAY // Bookings live for High Season June 11th, 9:30am
Why do this track?
Of all the Great Walks, this ancient Māori trail offers the biggest contrast. Ranging from lush forests, grasslands and mountain ranges to the roaring West Coast sea, nikau palms and limestone arches. The Kahurangi National Park is famous for its bluffs, natural arches and contains the largest cave system in New Zealand. Keep an eye out for the great spotted kiwi, takahe and the nocturnal, carnivorous land snail! Apart from unique wildlife and breathtaking, ever-changing scenery, you’ll also find traces of the past on the Heaphy. The river mouth seen on the last day lays at the junction of two pounamu (greenstone) trails, used by Māori pounamu hunters to access the jade rivers of Westland from Golden Bay.
What to expect
The trail starts with a gradual climb up to the highest point of the track, offering panoramic views across the Aorere Valley. A deep swimming hole next to the first hut is the perfect spot for a refreshing swim! There is plenty to explore on the second day, while you slowly descend towards Gouland Downs. Explore numerous caves and waterfalls around a limestone outcrop, before hiking through flat tussock country and bush flats. On the third day you’ll reach the Heaphy River, walking through a stunning rain forest of kowhai, cabbage trees and nikau palms. Have we mentioned the huge 148m suspension bridge offering views of the river? It's an NZ must do. The last part of the track leads through native forest and also features some beautiful beach walking for those last few photos.
Do you organise the transport?
Yes, we organise the transfer to and from the track. Simply meet your Bushman at the Nelson i-SITE and you will also be dropped off here at the end of the hike.
The Heaphy Track starts in the Tasman region and ends on the West Coast - we recommend bringing some snacks for the bus, as the drive back can take up to 3h. The stunning, contrasting scenery along the way makes up for it though, we promise!
What will the weather be like?
The weather can change drastically here, especially the closer you get to the West Coast. Wind and waterproof gear is a must, as rain is possible at any time of the year. Annual rainfall averages over 4000mm! However, the cozy huts along the way are perfect to dry off after a long day of hiking and you will often have sunny and warm days in summer.
How busy is the track in summer?
Although the Heaphy Track is one of the more popular Great Walks, you won't see too many crowds here. This is mainly due to the location and the advanced difficulty, making this a very special and remote back country adventure.
VERY LIMITED SPACE // Due to demand, hut bookings are selling fast, reserve now.
Why do this track?
No day is the same on the Kepler Track – opened in 1988, it shows hikers all the best features Fiordland has to offer. Exposed mountain ridges contrast with a peaceful lakeside, cascading waterfalls, fragile wetlands, limestone formations and opportunities for Bushman to personally introduce you to our most stunning fauna and flora. Admire stalactites and stalagmites in the Luxmore Caves, before freshening up in the stunning Iris Burn Falls. Not to mention the panoramic views of the Te Anau Basin and surrounding peaks along the way. Fun fact: The track was named after German astronomer Johannes Kepler, as the stars are so mesmerising in this part of the world.
What to expect
After a stroll past Lake Te Anau and through native forest, a steady climb leads up to the first hut, followed by a day along the tops of the mountain range with stunning, panoramic views over surrounding peaks and valleys. The last day finishes up with a range of scenery, including a low saddle, a gorge and Lake Manapouri. Discover unique native birdlife with the help of your Bushman, like kea (the world’s only alpine parrot), kaka, bellbirds, fantails and our native owl, the ruru.
What are the side trips here?
The Kepler has the most side trips of all our Great Walks. These include the two main ones; the Luxmore Cave which includes an underwater river and cave systems (a good hour can be spent in here exploring); and the Iris Burn Waterfall that features a spot for swimming and cooling off after a good hot day's walk.
How is the weather?
The Fiordland ranges get many months of rain all year, close to 11 months! In the warmer seasons, this rain produces plenty of humidity, making it muggy and sticky. Quick drying clothes are recommended. On day two, the exposed landscape will require some extra gear preparation, but provides an opportunity to see the fog rolling in.
What makes this so special?
This track is specifically designed to "show off what we have". The other Great Walks had an original purpose like the Maori greenstone trails, or connecting national parks. However, the Kepler has been specifically built for locals and visitors to experience the astonishing beauty of New Zealand. It boasts the most variety of scenery in all of NZ.
VERY LIMITED SPACES // Due to demand, hut bookings are selling fast. Book now to get your spot.
Why do this track?
This short Great Walk connects Mount Aspiring National Park to Fiordland and is the perfect option for families and beginners, offering a variety of breathtaking scenery. Hike past crystal clear lakes, alpine tarns, stunning mountain peaks and rugged valleys, while admiring the unique wildlife along the way. Your Bushman will be able to point out the numerous native birds, including robins, fantails and, of course, the cheeky kea (the world's smartest bird and only alpine parrot).
What to expect
Starting on a swing bridge, the trail leads through native beech forest and open grassy flats before climbing steadily to the first hut. Huge views of the valley below make every step worth it, and after reaching the highest point of the track on Day 2, you’ll get the chance to admire the deep blue waters of Lake Harris on top of the saddle. After making your way down towards the Hollyford Valley and Lake Mackenzie, you’ll be able to admire the spectacular Earland Falls and to take in the panoramic views on Key Summit over the Humboldt and Darran mountains. Expect plenty of chat and education from your Bushman.
Is the climb to Harris Saddle suitable for children?
You know your family best. Their health and determination is something you will need to work on with your Bushman on prior to leaving. Although this route has been hiked by many families, there have been occasions where fitness levels have meant staying in an extra hut (there are plenty more on the way). In good weather, the track is very accessible, and with a steady pace anyone can get up it.
Are there other huts we can stay in?
Yes, on many of our Great Walks, there are extra huts and emergency shelters we haven't noted on the map above. Our map is simply a guide, should you wish to stay in a different hut (as long as you have your pass), you are able to choose this with your Bushman.
How close will we be to wildlife?
We're an island of birds, therefore they'll come as close as they want. Fantails are known for their curious and bold flight paths where they will jump around the branches right in front of you. Kea, on the other hand, won't just come up to you, they'll even try taking your belongings! Always remember, all of our native birds are best viewed from a distance, never try to get closer during your trip (your Bushman will monitor this).
RESERVE TODAY // Bookings live for High Season June 13th, 9:30am
Why do this track?
Looking for a special adventure? Something you can only do in a few other places on Earth? Hike around New Zealand’s most active volcano in a 3 or 4 day loop in the dramatic Tongariro National Park. Follow the trail through volcanic landscape, beech forest, glacial valleys and past breathtaking, emerald blue lakes; easily making this one of New Zealand's best Great Walks. Ask your Bushman about the unique wildlife along the way, like the rare whio (blue duck) and the karearea (NZ falcon). The Park is known for its unique, contrasting landscape – from alpine grassfields, to native forest, ancient lava flow and desert-like plateaus. Optional: You’ll also get the chance to climb the iconic Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom for Lord of the Rings fans).
What to expect
Starting in the Whakapapa Village, the first day is easy-going, featuring fantastic views of Mt Ngauruhoe and allowing you to warm up for the steep climb on Day 2. Once you’ll reach the Central Plateau, it’s time to admire the Blue and Emerald Lakes and the panoramic views over the park. Optionally, you can join your Bushman on a climb up "Mt Doom" – after all, it’s not every day you get to ascent an active volcano! The last part of the trail leads through stream valleys and open fields, sidling around the foothills of Mt Ngauruhoe. After lunch, you’ll gradually climb up to Tama Saddle, with an optional side-trip to the stunning Tama Lakes (two old explosion craters that you should definitely do). From there on, it’s an easy stroll back to the Whakapapa Village.
What's the difference between this route and the other Tongariro Crossing?
The Tongariro Crossing is a day hike that gives you a small glimpse of the park, often backlogged with tourists taking thousands of photos of "Mt Doom". It can be done in a few hours and is good for people in a rush. The circuit provides an experience above and beyond a glimpse. Although longer, it's a chance to connect with the surroundings, rid the crowds and get much, much closer to the active volcano with a local, experienced guide who does it throughout the year.
Can I swim in the Blue / Emerald Lake? How do they get their colour?
The lakes and peaks in the Tongariro National Park are sacred to local iwi - please respect the Māori tradition and don't swim in them!
Their stunning blue colour is caused by volcanic minerals washing down from thermal areas. This unique collection of perfect circumstances is only found in a few other places on earth, but none that have a hiking track beside it.
Is this volcano safe?
No volcano is safe...but this one is monitored daily by the Department of Conservation and scientists who study it for research purposes. We are checking its current situation every day to the run up to our booked trips. If it's deemed too unstable, we will contact you - however, visitors have hiked safely in the shadow of this glorious giant for decades!
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Looking for the experience without the price tag?
Prices rise quick for our Great Walks due to the cost of booking huts through the Department of Conservation. That's why we wanted to show off two walks we believe provide the same experience as a Great Walk, without the big payments.
*Our starting prices include your Bushman, huts, and transport (where applicable) for a single. The cost of a single decreases the more visitors you book on this trip. However, this discount does not include the Department of Conservation's charge for each hut you stay in (per person), travel costs and food. These can be added at checkout. For more information on fees for Great Walks, visit this article.
**Due to demand from our international tourists, there is no guarantee you will get a place in a hut. In our busy periods over Christmas, you must reserve your spot on the Bushman Tours waiting list with a deposit for your huts and mandatory transport (i.e. the ferry to the Milford Track) only and be available to make a full purchase after this is booked on your behalf (within 14 days). Bushman Tours will act as your booking agent for these huts and secure these from the deposit you have provided. If you decide to cancel your booking after the opening dates, you will lose your deposit for the huts (Bushman Tours cannot obtain refunds for these from DOC).