> Skip to content

Article  •  4 September 2018


Choosing the right track

A guide to choosing the right Great Walk for you and your group, from New Zealand's Great Walks.

Which track to do

If this is your first Great Walk and you are not particularly experienced at tramping, perhaps choose an easier track like the Abel Tasman. There are no big hill climbs and the terrain will let you test your fitness and finetune your outdoor skills before you try one of the more mountainous tracks. The Abel Tasman is also child-friendly, with lots of camping choices spaced all the way along the track.


For the uninitiated, carrying a heavy pack (especially uphill) can be physically draining. If possible, do some training in the hills around home (yes, wearing a fully laden pack) before you venture on to the track. If there are no hills nearby, any form of aerobic training that uses your legs and core is worthwhile. Even an elevated walking machine at a gym will help; you might get funny looks from the other gym users if you are wearing a pack, but it’s worth it. Being fitter and stronger will make your Great Walk experience that much more manageable and enjoyable.

Skill level

Although the Great Walks are well maintained and have lots of facilities, learning the correct skills for travelling in the outdoors is still a good idea. Things like pitching a tent, reading a map, lighting a cooker, dealing with (or, better yet, preventing) blisters, managing more serious first-aid situations, and understanding the changes in weather in the mountains are fundamental to a safe trip in the back country. See if there is a walking or tramping club nearby to where you live and enquire if it runs basic outdoor courses. Find out if any of your family or friends are experienced trampers and, if so, get them to show you what they have learnt. Staying safe in the outdoors should always be your main priority.


Some of the Great Walks are open only during certain times of the year, usually because of the threat of avalanches in the higher mountain sections. Other tracks are open all year round and, while colder during the winter months, they are likely to be less crowded. The weather in New Zealand is very changeable and sometimes quite unpredictable (see more in the Weather section on page 27), and you may experience poor conditions during any time of the year. Check the DOC website (www.doc.govt.nz) for updates, such as whether the open season for a particular walk has changed.


You will need to book your bed or campsite online with DOC well before you decide to do the trip. The online process is easy, but don’t delay: some of the Great Walks become booked out very quickly, especially during the more popular summer months.

This is also a good time to consider what transport you will require getting to and from each end of the track (the chapters on each of the Great Walks will spell out any transport requirements and options). You may need to book this well in advance also.

New Zealand's Great Walks: The Complete Guide Paul Hersey, Shelley Hersey

The ultimate guide to exploring New Zealand’s Great Walks, fully revised and updated.

Buy now
Buy now

More features

See all
Beyond Hairy Maclary

Hairy Maclary and his friends are known and loved all over the world. But how familiar are you with Dame Lynley Dodd's other creations? There are plenty to discover, and just like Hairy Maclary, they all feature Lynely's uniquely exuberant artwork and gorgeously readable rhymes! Here are some suggestions to get you started.

A sneak peek at our 2021 kids books!

After an exhausting and unusual 2020, we’ve got plenty of reasons to be grateful for a new year, not least because of the stellar line up of children’s books we have coming your way over the next few months!Read on for a sneak peek at some of the best new children’s books we’re bringing to you in 2021.

Beautiful NZ Picture Books from 2020

Sometimes a story is best told alongside a beautiful picture, Here's a small selection of some of our favourite 2020 picture books from local creators. 

Sophie Gray's top tips for a cracker Christmas

If you’re planning to head to the shops for a last-minute Christmas here's what destitute gourmet wants you to think about! 

5 audiobooks for your summer road trip

If you’re new to the world of audiobooks and aren’t sure where to start or if you’re looking for the perfect book to listen to on your summer road trip adventures, we’ve got some great suggestions for you! 

Themes from A Promised Land

From the influence of family to his political rise and the world events that shaped his presidency, Barack Obama covers enormous ground in his Presidential Memoirs, Volume 1: A Promised Land. Here we break down some of the key themes and turning points.

A Promised Land: key events

From inauguration through to Operation Neptune’s Spear, take a look at the milestones covered in Barack Obama's riveting memoir.

Children's books loved by the Obamas

Here's a selection of children's stories that have received a big thumbs up from Barack and Michelle Obama. 

Meet Slinky Malinki and friends!

Ever wanted to know a bit more about Slinky Malinki's friends? 

Meet Hairy Maclary and his friends!

Meet the characters from the beloved children's series. 

Where to start with Rick Riordan's books

Rick Riordan's books are perfect for 12+ readers who love action, adventure, and a good dose of humour from their books. We've outlined some of Rick Riordan’s most impressive, imaginative worlds so you can decide which adventure to go on first. 

Real readers review: Breathless

What do NZ YA fans really think of Jennifer Niven's latest book?

Looking for more articles?

See all articles