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New Zealand’s Great Walks

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Ever wanted to take not just a walk, but a Great Walk. Well, if you are in New Zealand, you are in luck! In NZ you are able to take a Great Walk through some of New Zealand’s most awe-inspiring landscapes on premier walking tracks.

New Zealand’s Great Walks are premier tracks that pass through diverse and spectacular scenery. From native forests, lakes and rivers to rugged mountain peaks, deep gorges, and vast valleys…there’s a Great Walk for everyone! Great Walks tracks are well formed and easy to follow. While you might prefer to explore on your own terms, there are also guided trips available that offer a bit more comfort. Great Walks are accessible from major towns that are well serviced by local operators and accommodation and transport providers.

Today we are going to look at four different Great Walks and what it is like to walk them…

Let’s start with Lake Waikaremoana – a well-known part of the Great Walk family. This one is more of a backcountry, off the beaten track experience in which you are immersed into stunning natural wilderness and welcomed into the homeland of Ngai Tūhoe. Those who have walked it often say you leave with a sense of connection, rejuvenation, and wellness. Lake Waikaremoana will take you about 3-4 days to walk, an overall distance of 46 km. It is located in Te Urewera, east North Island, which is close to Wairoa, Gisborne, and Rotorua.

Next up we have the Tongariro Northern Circuit which is located in the Tongariro National Park in the Central North Island region. From late October to April, you can explore the volcanic heart of Tongariro National Park, a landscape of stark glacial contrasts and alpine views. From May to late October, it can be cold and wet, with ice, snow, avalanches, and short daylight hours – therefore you can only go if you have navigation and alpine skills. It is pretty incredible that you are able to journey through dramatic (and active!) volcanic landscapes, glacial valleys, native beech forest, alpine meadows, and emerald-coloured lakes. This walk also takes about 3-4 days at a distance of 43 km Location. It is easy to get here from the National Park Village, Tūrangi, Ohakune, or Waiouru.

A pretty special walk is up next – the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Most visitors only walk in one direction on the Coast Track and get a water taxi in the other direction. Luckily, both ends are serviced by public transport and water taxis stop at the main beaches! However, you can walk the whole track or kayak between different locations. While you are travelling you can enjoy the mild climate, golden beaches, and lush coastal native bush on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. This walk will take about 3-5 days at an overall distance of 60 km.

Finally, we are heading down south to look at the famous Routeburn Track. This track takes a little less time than the others – about 2-4 days at a distance of 32km. From November to April, you can weave through meadows, reflective tarns, and alpine gardens, and be rewarded with spectacular vistas over vast mountain ranges and valleys. However, from May to October, it can be cold and wet, with ice, snow, and short daylight hours – therefore you should only attempt it if you have alpine, navigation, and river crossing skills. The Routeburn is located in the Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks and therefore is often done by people visiting Queenstown.

So, what do you think? Time to plan your Great Walks adventure!

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. What is beneficial about going on a long walk?
  2. Why should we all do at least one of the Great Walks?
  3. What are some more benefits of having the Department of Preservation look after the Great Walks?

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. Ask your teachers at school how they would feel about getting the class involved in a class trip to one of the Great Walks near your school.   
  2. What Great Walk on this list would you most like to conquer?
  3. Research some of the other Great Walks of NZ – what else looks like something you would enjoy?

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