The spectacular Cathedral Caves. © jimfeng

Eight Must-Do walks to check out around New Zealand this summer


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From short city strolls to more challenging coastal climbs, we’ve picked eight walks around New Zealand to check out before the end of summer.  

1. Cape Brett Track, Northland

One of Northland’s most exhilarating walks, the Cape Brett Track winds along coastal paths before arriving at a DOC hut where you’ll find an elegant 113-year-old lighthouse. Cape Brett juts out into the Pacific Ocean at the eastern end of the Bay of Islands. With two ways to attack this walk, you can either do the eight-hour, 16km hard way from Oke Bay in Rawhiti or arrange for a water taxi to take you from Russell (or Paihia) and start at Deep Water Cove. This second option means the walk to the lighthouse will be a much more leisurely two-and-a half-hour walk.

Where is it?

Set off from Rawhiti in the Bay of Islands and walk 16km on an advance tramping track over undulating, sometimes steep terrain through regenerating bush. For a shorter option, you can take a water taxi from Russell to Deep Water Cove and do a 6km hike.

Need to know

A permit, available from Russell Info Centre, is required to walk this track. Bookings are essential if you want to stay at the 23-bed DOC hut. No dogs are allowed. 

2. Cathedral Caves Walk, Southland

Explore the cliffs at the north end of Waipati Beach on the Catlins Coast and discover two passages carved by the ocean, close to 200m long and 30m wide. Access to Cathedral Caves is only possible one and a half hours either side of low tide from late October through to May. The walk is 30 minutes each way on a 2km return track and is suitable for most fitness levels.

Where is it?

Chaslands Rd, The Catlins. 15km south of Papatōwai Village, 2km from the main road.

Need to know

Adults $5, children $1, no EFTPOS. Be sure to take a torch. Insect repellent can also be handy. No dogs are allowed.

3. Hamilton Lake Walkway, Waikato

From gentle strolls to lakeside jogs with dogs in tow, Hamilton Lake provides an inner-city walk that everyone can enjoy. The route is comprised of flat boardwalks and open pathways with toilets and water fountains along the way. On the one hour, 3.8km route you’ll pass vast, tree-dotted parkland, a bustling café, picnic area and fantastic playground. Dogs are welcome here, though they need to be on a lead.

Where is it?

In the very heart of Hamilton city and 1.5km from the CBD. The walkway can be accessed from various points, with the main car parks situated by Ruakiwi Rd and Lake Crescent (Innes Common). 

4. Truman Track, West Coast

With forest trails and coastal views, this is an easy West Coast walk with excellent information panels. The 1.4km (return) Truman Track takes you on a 30 minute walk through pristine subtropical forest where flourishing stands of rātā loom above the path. You will emerge at the fabulous cliff-lined coast with caves, a blowhole and a waterfall that thunders onto a rocky beach. Be aware that this is a very wild coastline and be respectful of the wildlife, as the coast is home to petrels, fur seals, weka, Hector’s dolphins and an abundance of birdlife. No dogs are allowed. 

Where is it?

From SH 6, the track starts 3km north of the Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre in Punakāiki.

5. City to Sea Walkway, Wellington

Perfect for finding your bearings in the capital city, the City to Sea walkway can be completed end-to-end or in small sections. Follow the orange trail markers from the historic Bolton Street Cemetery before crossing the motorway on the Denis McGrath Bridge. The walk will take you through the formal rose gardens of the Wellington Botanic Gardens and to the top of the Wellington Cable Car. You’ll pass through the grounds of Victoria University and down to Aro Valley past the heritage houses clinging to the hillsides. Other highlights include Central Park in Brooklyn, MacAlistair Park, the fringes of the Berhampore Golf Course and the views from Tawatawa Bridge. Dogs are allowed on a lead.

Where is it?

Start at Bolton Street Cemetery in the city and walk towards Island Bay on the south coast.

6. Lake Rotoiti Circuit, Nelson

A spectacular 7-10 hour, 23-31km loop walk that can be done in a day if you use a water taxi, or you can stay overnight in one of the huts. Begin at Kerr Bay and follow the markers along the eastern side of the lake which is fringed with mountains, notably majestic 1421m Pōrangahau (Mt Robert). About three hours of walking through beautiful bush and beech forest will take you to Lake Head Jetty. Twenty minutes later you’ll find Lake Head Hut, which isn’t far from a picturesque swing bridge. Follow the markers to Travers River, then join up with Lower Travers Valley Track which will take you to Coldwater Hut. This section is more challenging, with a steady and relatively steep climb heading away from the lake before reaching a gravel road which goes to West Bay. Joining the Peninsula Nature Walk, the trails become easier, until it reaches the western end of Kerr Bay, back where you started. No dogs are allowed and good fitness is required for this route.  

Where is it?

Start from Kerr Bay on Lake Rotoiti near St Arnaud.

7. Waiheke Art Walking Trail, Auckland

This relaxed two-hour (one way) 3km family-friendly amble offers plenty of stops at sandy bays, art spots and lookout points. Start this picturesque walk from the ferry terminal at Matiatia and stroll along the foreshore to the Atawhai Whenua bush reserve track. Emerge from the shady forest 15 minutes later on the main road where you can nip into Alison Park. Overlooking Blackpool valley, the fields are scattered with artworks from Sculpture on the Gulf exhibitions. Continue on to Oneroa village where you’ll find both the Toi Gallery and the Tivoli Art Gallery which is also a specialist bookstore. From here, drop down to Oneroa Beach and walk over the rocks to Little Oneroa Beach (low tide only). Dogs permitted but must be kept under control

Where is it?

The north-west coast of Waiheke Island. Accessed via a 40-minute ferry trip from downtown Auckland. 

8. Awaroa / Godley Head Track, Christchurch

This three-hour 9.3km loop on well-formed tracks includes beaches, coastal views and World War II relics. Head from Godley Head car park to Taylors Mistake beach and the Pilgrims Way track. The well-signposted paths above Mechanics Bay take you to remnants of the Second World War, including the battery observation posts that overlook the entrance to Lyttelton Harbour. This walk offers gorgeous views of Christchurch City, the Heathcote and Avon estuaries and New Brighton Beach. You may also spot dolphins, seals and whales along the way. Dogs are permitted on a lead, but not on the beach during summer.

Where is it?

Start at Godley Head car park in Sumner about 50 minutes drive from Christchurch.

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