Hiking in New Zealand: Te Araroa
Te Araroa is the longest walk in New Zealand and runs from the north of the North Island (Cape Reinga) to the south of the South Island (Bluff). It is a unique route that takes you through the amazing backcountry of New Zealand, as well as cities. The walking route is about 3000 km in total, which you can walk in one go or it is possible to do day hikes in several places. In this blog I talk about the preparations for a “thru-walk” as they call it, someone who will hike the entire route in one go.
Map New Zealand
How long does it take
It is useful to know in advance how long the hike will be, to see if you really want to do this. This is a hike for which you must be well prepared and that you cannot just do spontaneously. The “thru-walk” takes between 50 to 80 days per island, which means it will be around 3.5 to 5.5 months in total. How long you will take depends on your fitness level, tenacity, the weather and how quickly you want to progress. 50 days per island is very fast and for this you would need a high fitness level and a bit of luck with the weather. 80 days per island is leisurely, this would give time to for example spend more time in cities or build up your fitness level while walking.
How much is it
People who have done the thru-hike say that you need between NZ$ 7,000 and NZ$ 10,000 for 5 months. This includes equipment, accommodation and food, but not the flight to New Zealand.
It is free to hike this route, but they do ask for a donation to maintain the walking trails. They recommend a donation of NZ$ 500 per person for people walking the entire Te Araroa and NZ$ 250 for people walking one island. Click here for more information about the donations.
When is the best time to start
As explained below, you can walk the hike northbound or southbound. If you are going to walk southbound, it is recommended to start between the end of September and the beginning of December and finish no later than mid-April. Not only is the South Island very cold in the winter, some trails are also closed between April and October. If you are going to walk northbound, it is recommended to start between November and January. If you prefer not to run into cold / wet weather, it is recommended to start in the middle of these times. So late October / early November if you are going to walk southbound and December / early January if you are going to walk northbound.
Which way to walk
Most people start in Cape Reinga and hike southbound. This means you are on the South Island in the warm summer months. As a result, you will most likely avoid the snow and the Southland lambing closure (this is when they close some trails). If you walk southbound, maps and detailed information are also available for both islands. If you were to go northbound, you will have less guidance on the North Island and you must be able to navigate yourself.
Fitness level and experience
For this hike you’ll need at least an average fitness level, the fitter you are, the greater the chance that you can finish the hike. If you don’t get injured while hiking, you will get fitter during the first few weeks of walking. If you have a good fitness level to start with, the chances of injuries are smaller, it is less strenuous on the body and you will enjoy it more. A good fitness level also gives you flexibility with your schedule, you could take advantage of good weather days and possibly make up time if you are delayed.
In addition to a good fitness level, you will also need certain skills. These are skills such as trip planning, survival skills, navigation and river crossing skills. Practical experience is the best option for this, so try to do backcountry hikes with experienced hikers or take a course.
You do not need a permit for most of the trail. Only a small part of the Queen Charlotte Track in the north of the South Island requires a permit. Find out more about this permit here. In addition, you will be asked to register when going to hike Te Araroa (for safety reasons), you can do this here.
If you are not from New Zealand or Australia, you will need a visitor visa to walk the entire Te Araroa route. This is also the case for visa waiver countries, the NZeTA only allows you to be in the country for 3 months, which would not be enough time to finish this hiking route. The only exception is for residents of the United Kingdom who have a six-month visa waiver. A visitor visa allows you to stay in New Zealand for up to 9 months. Apply for your tourist visa here.
While hiking the Te Araroa you will encounter many huts where you can spend the night. If you plan to stay in these huts more than once, I recommend buying a “Backcountry Hut Pass”. You can buy this pass for a period of 6 or 12 months and with it you can spend the night in most serviced huts, standard huts and camping spots next to the huts. This pass can be purchased at visitor centers and selected retailers. You should always bring a tent, in case the cabins are full. Read more about staying in cabins here. Besides these official huts, it could also happen that a “Trail Angel” offers you a bed. Trail Angels are people who live near the route and like to help the hikers, they do this by offering water, food, a lift or even a bed.
Where does the trail takes you
This route takes you through many beautiful and different areas. You will, for example, walk the famous Tongariro Crossing and Queen Charlotte Track. But you will not only pass beautiful nature, you will also pass these destinations:
Curious about the exact route? View the detailed map here.
More information about Te Araroa can be found on the official website. Here you will find specific information about the route, maps and updates on the status of the route.
I am planning to do this hike myself in 2022 so I will be adding more information once I have done it.