Alrighty folks, it’s time to lace up your hiking boots and grab your pack because we are going to head off on a wild adventure! What is a National Park you ask? New Zealand's National Parks are areas of land, countryside and occasionally water that's protected by the state for conservation purposes and for the general public to enjoy. Read on below to discover our native flora and fauna, note down some directions and if you're lucky, spot some wildlife!
1. Tongariro National Park
As New Zealand’s oldest national park and recognized by UNESCO as one of 28 mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Sites, this is not one you want to skip on! Located in the Central North Island on a volcanic plateau, three volcanoes are scattered due to tectonic plate movement over the past two million years. Hike the Tongariro Crossing year round, but remember your snow and mountaineering gear in winter! The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is an awesome day hike where you’ll see the famous Emerald Lakes, or loop the Tongariro Northern Circuit as a multi-day hike and check out all three active volcanoes and their historic lava flows.
Another day hike worth considering is Mount Ruapehu in summer! Well known for skiing during winter, the mountain transforms into a hiker’s paradise in the warmer months. Be amazed by the mountain’s crater lake from Dome Ridge at the summit or look around and spot Tongariro and Ngauruhoe! Mount Ruapehu is recommended for fit and experienced hikers, however if you’re unsure, travel with a local guide.
How To Get There: The Tongariro Crossing is easily accessible by road via private and public transport. It is approximately a 4-5 hour drive from both Auckland and Wellington. Whakapapa Village is the main entrance into the park, and daily buses run from Ohakune, Taumaranui, Turangi, and the greater National Park area. Further information can be found through the Department of Conservation website, as well as essential packing information.
2. Abel Tasman National Park
Located west of Nelson at the top of the South Island, if you’re roadtripping New Zealand in one of our JUCY campers, the Abel Tasman is a must-do! Famous for it’s golden sand beaches, this coastal wonderland is home to one of our great walks, approximately 3-5 days in length. The Abel Tasman is New Zealand's smallest National Park at 22, 530 hectares! Keep an eye out for wildlife, including gannets, blue penguins, and fur seals if you’re lucky! The unique granite rock formations, picture-perfect beaches and natural rock pools will have you wondering why you’ve never been before!
How To Get There: Bus services run from Nelson and local towns nearby, including Motueka, Takaka and Kaiteriteri. Water taxi services are also available. Further information can be found here.
3. Aoraki/Mount Cook National park
Home to New Zealand’s largest mountain, Mount Cook, Aoraki National Park is one of our most famous parks. With numerous activities for all ages and fitness levels, you can choose to do a day walk or multi-day hike, mountain bike, or relax and marvel at the star-studded sky. Rich with Maori history and legend, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park forms New Zealand’s only dark sky reserve!
How To Get There: Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is located in the central area of the South Island in the Southern Alps. It is approximately a 4-5 hour drive from Christchurch and approximately 3 hours from Queenstown. Find out more on the Department of Conservation website!
4. Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Not far from Aoraki Mount Cook National Park lies Westland Tai Poutini, home to two of New Zealand’s most well-known glaciers – Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. Stretching from the Southern Alps to the wild West Coast beaches, this World Heritage listed area showcases rare flora and fauna, as well as wildlife and our natural history. One of the most popular hiking tracks, the Copland Track, links the Westland Tai Poutini National Park with Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, with the Welcome Flat hot pools one of the key natural attractions along the track. If you’re heading down the West Coast or visiting Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, the Westland Tai Poutini National Park is worth a visit as well!
How To Get There: The park is located on the West Coast of the South Island and road access is via State Highway 6 via Hokitika or Haast. There are regular bus services along the West Coast, however we recommend checking the Department of Conservation site for alerts and closures.
5. Fiordland National Park
A must-do if you’re visiting Queenstown and the lower South Island, many of our great walks are in the Fiordland National Park. From mountain peaks to rainforest, waterfalls and lakes, the park is filled with history and some of the most spectacular sites in the South Island. The fourteen fiords that form the park have been forming for approximately 100,000 years, along with the most recent ice age around that time as well.
The 1.2 million hectare park houses endangered species such as the Takahe, looked after by the Department of Conservation. The Kepler Track, Routeburn Track and Milford Tracks are three famous great walks in Fiordland with unbeatable views, and the best time for hikers is over the summer months.
How To Get There: Fiordland National Park is accessibly via road, boat or airplane. Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland if you're travelling by road. If you're travelling from Invercargill, take State Highway 1 and State Highway 94, or if you're travelling from Queenstown, take State Highway 6 and State Highway 94. More information on alternative transport options can be found here.
6. Southern Scenic Route
Encompassing the Fiordland National Park, Invercargill, and Catlins Forest Park; the Southern Scenic Route is not technically a national park, but is one of the most stunning corners of New Zealand and links Queenstown to Dunedin via the South Coast. With plenty to do and see, the 601km route includes day walks, mountain biking tracks, fishing, hunting and boating, hiking and caving, as well as wildlife viewing! Many corners of the Scenic Route are located off the beaten track, but with many tours available in each place, rest assured you shouldn’t get lost!
How To Get There: If you're wanting to travel the Southern Scenic Route, chances are you're starting in either Dunedin or Queenstown. There are multiple routes depending on where you want to stop along the way! In order to make the most of your trip, we recommend driving the route in a JUCY camper! Check out the Southern Scenic Route site for further information on directions and where to stop!