Ahh, New Zealand. The Māoris call it Aotearoa (ao meaning cloud, tea meaning white, and roa meaning long)—the Land of the Long White Cloud. One look to the skies and you’ll know what the indigenous people of the islands were thinking. Long, thin layers of stratocumulus clouds often sweep across the sky and over the horizon. It’s really something to see.
One of the best ways to get closer to the clouds is to use your feet on some of the numerous (and some famous) walking paths and hiking or tramping trails that crisscross the North and South Islands. You'll soon discover that among the many things to do in New Zealand, one of the most breathtaking is to simply take a walk.
Here are a few of the trails that carve up Kiwi country and are ideal for a day trip or a weekend getaway:
The Whirinaki Rainforest on the North Island is home to some of the most lush and magnificent conifer forests found anywhere in the world. With trails graded easy to moderate, Māori guides will take you on a four-hour trek through space and time. Stories about their tribal ancestors bring the forest to life and trampers discover ways the flora and fauna allowed the tribal people to live off the land.
Māori guides lead travelers into the forest with an ancient prayer for guidance to choose the right pathway for their walk. The surrounding mountains, the clear Whirinaki River, waterfalls, forest, bush tracks, wildlife and humans exist together in perfect balance. For some, the trek becomes more of a religious experience than a hike.
Milford Sound is another area that deserves all of the attention that it gets. This world-renowned natural wonder—the number one tourist destination in New Zealand—is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise nearly 4,000 ft (1,200 meters) into the air. Lush rain forests cling precariously to the cliffs, while seals, penguins, and dolphins frequent the waters. It’s not at all uncommon for visitors to be treated to a show from passing whales who often stop in to feed on the abundant marine life.
This trip is a combination of and two-and-a-half-hour unguided walking tour in the Hollyford Valley or Routeburn Summit, followed by a nature cruise on the Milford Sound. Canoeing and other water sports are available along with some overnight boat trips. With limited accommodation at the Sound, most tourists don't stay more than the day.
For a colder experience, meander through a native rainforest to the incredible frozen world of Fox Glacier. This 45 minute, steady uphill-climb provides stunning vistas and a fantastic opportunity to marvel at the features of the lower glacier. Guides lead visitors up the face of the glacier as they entertain and educate hikers about the delicate nature of the ice and its history in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
Fox Glacier Guiding also offers a unique heli-hike. This fly-in, fly-out experience combines the excitement of walking the glacier with the thrill of taking to the air. Flying in allows you to access and explore a part of the glacier with spectacular ice caves and arches. The nature of the ice ensures that no two experiences are the same, and that the guides will always have something new to show you.
Take a locum assignment in New Zealand and take a walk on the wild side. We assure you it'll be worth the trip.