New Zealand backpacking has lots to offer an outdoor enthusiast. A modern, first world country that still offers huge tracts of beautiful wilderness country to explore—and fun experiences, like glacier walking, that are far from your everyday norm.
If you’d like to do a day hike, consider walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on North Island. This is a 19.5 kilometer hike through beautiful mountain country: get to enjoy rugged and majestic mountain peaks, tranquil alpine meadows and clear-as-glass turquoise crater lakes.
The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is a lovely place for a short hike on the South Island, especially for a wildlife enthusiast: you’ll get to see some wonderful bird and seal colonies while enjoying some ocean views and grand mountain backdrops. This 11.7 km trail is just five minutes from the town of Kaikoura, so easy to get to. The trail is well-managed, with stairs up the steep bits.
An easy-to-intermediate rated several day hike is the Abel Tasman Coast Track on the north end of the South Island. This trail covers 51 kms, so expect it to take you three to five to walk. You’ll get to see lots of wildlife, along with beautiful coastal scenery: white sand beaches and quiet ocean bays. Don’t be surprised if you wander into a group of seals, or make a sighting of a flock of penguins or pod of dolphin from some distance away: it comes with the territory.
If you’re from the northern hemisphere you may find the weather in New Zealand backward. Summer is from December to February, and you can generally expect temperatures between twenty and thirty Celsius. Autumn, a little cooler, is March and May, and by June winter is well underway. Winter extends through to August, and then September is spring.
Weather in New Zealand tends to be changeable, so for New Zealand backpacking clothing layers are often a good idea: then you can take off one if you get too hot, or add something if you’re getting chilly. If you’re backpacking in New Zealand during the summer months you’ll want adequate sun protection: a hat and good sunscreen is a minimum.
If you go out in the New Zealand wilds, you’ll want to plan things out well in advance and tell someone else of your plans as well. Take everything you need with you—food and water aren’t things you should skimp on. Check the weather forecast, too, just because it’s beautiful today doesn’t mean it’ll be the same tomorrow. Here are some more things you should keep in mind:
• Rivers can be treacherous, and in New Zealand tend to rise faster than other places, so if you need to take a ford, do it carefully.
• If backpacking on mountain trails, be aware that avalanches are a very real danger in both summer and winter
• They don’t look big on the map, maybe, but New Zealand’s natural areas are plenty big enough for you to get very lost in. Keep track of your surroundings, use a compass wisely, and consider carrying a personal locator beacon if you’re traveling off the beaten trail.
New Zealand backpacking: an adventure waiting to happen. Get out there and start experiencing!