More than one-third of New Zealand's land area is protected in reserves or regional and national parks.
More specifically, New Zealand's 14 national parks cover almost 12% of the country. They contain everything from volcanic plateaus, to snow-capped mountains, white sand beaches and native bush. Here is a brief rundown on each national park so you'll know what to expect.
Established in 1887, the Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's first and the world's fourth national park. It's home to the world-famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing - often ranked the best one-day walk in the world. You can look forward to volcanoes, geothermal lakes, and excellent skiing in the winter months.
This national park is famed for its remote and rugged forested ridges and valleys. It's home to one of the Great Walks - the Lake Waikaremoana Track.
Located on the southwest side of the North Island, Egmont National Park is home to the iconic Mount Taranaki. This cylindrical and often snow-capped volcano can be seen from hundreds of miles away in the Tongariro National Park. It's a hugely challenging climb to its summit, however there are a variety of other walks on offer in the park.
The Whanganui National Park is split in half by the mighty Whanganui River - the longest navigable river in New Zealand. While there are walking opportunities here, the drawcard is a kayak or canoe journey down the river - complimented by expansive bluffs, bush clad valleys and nights spent sleeping under the stars.
Famous for its golden beaches, clear water and the hugely popular Great Walk the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, this national park is a must see. You can kayak, walk or just enjoy the sun and white sand beaches.
Home to the Heaphy Track, the Kahurangi National Park is immense and rugged with wild rivers, sub-alpine tussock fields and dense coastal bush. The multi-day Great Walk, the Heaphy Track can be walked - or if you're especially keen, tackled on a mountain bike.
The Southern Alps start in the Nelson Lakes National Park, 102,000 hectares of mountains and freshwater habitats found south of Nelson City. Two beautiful alpine lakes, Rotoiti and Rotoroa, form the heart of the park and both are surrounded by steep mountains and fringed to the shore by native honeydew beech forest.
This is the heart of New Zealand's Southern Alps. A huge contrast of landscapes are on offer - from wide braided rivers to soaring mountains. The mountains and valleys of Arthur's Pass National Park were heavily glaciated during the ice ages, and the land has retained many distinctive glacial features including tarns, cirques and hanging valleys. About ten small glaciers remain, mostly in the headwaters of the Waimakariri River.
The Paparoa National Park includes lush native forests, pancake rocks, delicate cave formations, underground streams, limestone canyons and rugged West Coast beaches. This park can be enjoyed through caving experiences - some are suitable for beginners, others are only for experienced cavers - or by simply driving down the SH6.
The Westland Tai Poutini National Park features dense rainforest, wind-swept beaches, towering mountains and glaciers at near sea level - all in an extremely compact space. Whilst exploring these glaciers is a highlight of a visit to the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, there is excellent walking to be had on a variety of trails through the bush.
Found west of Wanaka, the Mount Aspiring National Park is home to towering snow-capped mountains, glacial valleys and miles upon miles of excellent walking opportunities. Mount Aspiring is the highest peak in the park, and the only peak over 3000 metres outside Mount Cook National Park.
Home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers, the Mt Cook National Park (often referred to as Aoraki National Park) is alpine in the purest sense - with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snow fields. Mt Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand, helped Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for the summiting of Everest.
The Fiordland National Park features dramatic fiords, spectacular waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. It's one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand, the power of Fiordland’s scenery never fails to enthrall visitors to New Zealand's South Island. Waterfalls tumble hundreds of metres into massive fiords, ancient rainforest clings impossibly to the mountains and shimmering lakes and granite peaks look the same today as they did a thousand years ago.
The subantarctic Stewart Island lies 30 kilometres south of the South Island and has a land area of almost 2000 square kilometres - 85% of this is included in Rakiura National Park. The newest national park in New Zealand, Rakiura is a place of unmodified ecosystems and habitats. From dense coastal rainforests and freshwater wetlands to vast sand dunes and granite mountain ranges, the park provides an exceptional opportunity to see native wildlife and primeval landscapes.
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