Rotoiti Lake - Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand - Global Storybook

Top 10 National Parks to Explore in New Zealand

Bert Walston

Bert Walston

Bert Walston is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (New Zealand).

Bert was born in Albany and raised in Auckland, New Zealand. She loves to travel to different corners of her own country and share stories with the readers. She is mainly interested in culture and the natural attractions of New Zealand. Bert is looking forward to exploring more things and sharing them here.
Bert Walston

New Zealand is blessed with some of the most breathtaking landscapes on this planet.  Its national parks are not only worth seeing at least once in your lifetime, but they are also protected.  These places of great beauty are a huge tourist magnet for a good reason.  There is much to see and do at these incredible parks, including hiking or taking a fun cruise down a river on a boat or even a kayak.  Each park is unique and has something different on offer.  Here is a brief look at the top 10 national parks in New Zealand.

1. Tongariro National Park

This is the oldest national park in New Zealand.  Established way back in 1887, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which boasts of three well-known volcanoes.  Among the different things that you can do at this spectacular park, are the famous and iconic Tongariro Alpine Crossing which offers some excellent hiking opportunities.  Also, make it a point to ski on an active volcano, plus visit some charming local villages.

If you are looking for a nice place to stay in Tongariro, then check out the Ski Haus in the National Park Village or the Skotel Alpine Resort in Whakapapa Village.

Emerald Green Lake - Tongariro National Park, New Zealand - Global Storybook

The famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing at the Tongariro National Park

2. Egmont National Park

This magnificent park is well-known for its luscious forests which, besides being very dense, are also very dreamlike.  Furthermore, these enchanting woods are surrounding the no less spectacular Mt. Taranaki.  The Goblin Forest, in particular, is especially worth checking out.  Some of its other attractions include several lovely swamps and the Wilkies Pools.

Mt Egmont reaches a height of 2,518 meters, and it has been featured in several films.  It also has an excellent ski field, and it offers excellent hiking and mountaineering opportunities.  In fact, you can climb to the top of Mt Taranaki and take a hike on the fascinating Pouakai Circuit.

There are some nice places to stay here, including the Ducks and Drakes Hotel in New Plymouth and the Sunflower YHA Lodge.

goblin forest in Taranaki, New Zealand - Global Storybook

The enchanting Goblin Forest in Taranaki, New Zealand

3. Whanganui National Park

This park is very well-known and loved for its “Bridge to Nowhere” sight, as well as for its remoteness and exciting bushlands.  The Whanganui River is home to the famous brown kiwi and the blue duck.  There is a lot to see and do here at this national park including visiting the aforementioned “Bridge to Nowhere.”  Be sure to check out the native bush on a bike and also try your hand at hunting.

Owhango and Raurimu are the gateways to the north side.  In fact, Owhango is the place through which the 39 South Circle of Latitude runs and this point is marked by a sign.  Raimi is also well known for its Raurimu Spiral railway line which traverses some very steep inclines.  Also, make it a point to check out the T-rex and kiwi sculptures on site.

Some of the lovely places to stay here include the Blue Duck Station in Whakahoro and the Ski Haus at the National Park Village.

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Whanganui River, North Island, New Zealand - Global Storybook4. Abel Tasman National Park

One of the nicest things about this park is its picturesque location, where the pretty white sand beaches meet a beautiful forest.  The magical scenery here will make you want to come back over and over.  This site is quite small, yet it’s also one of the best known national parks in New Zealand.

There is much to do here, including skydiving.  You should also check out the Abel Tasman Coastal Track which is one of the country’s best hiking treks.  The mountain biking down the Rameka Track is another reason to visit this beauty, as well as the kayaking, paddleboarding and wakeboarding activities on the water.

If you are looking for a place to stay here, then be sure to check out the Hat Trick Lodge in Motueka, the Eden’s Edge Lodge or the White Elephant Backpackers Motueka.

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand - Global Storybook5. Kahurangi National Park

This park enjoys an excellent reputation since it’s the country’s second largest national park.  The main attraction here is the Heaphy Track which is the longest hiking trail in the state.  “Kahurangi” loosely means “treasured possession” in the Maori language and this is exactly what this national park is.

It has caves and arches as well as some unusual rock formations.  Taking a day hike to the top of Mt Arthur is another worthwhile activity.  Other than that, be sure to try out the Kill Devil mountain bike track.  A half-day rafting trip is also something worth experiencing.

There are several good accommodations here, including the Eden’s Edge Lodge in Motueka and the Kiwiana Backpackers in Takaka.

Sylvester Lakes in Tasman Mountains of Kahurangi National Park, South Island of New Zealand - Global Storybook6. Nelson Lakes National Park

What makes this fantastic park so unique and interesting are its crystal-clear lakes, especially the one called the Blue Lake.  It gives you a chance to enjoy the view from a distance of up to 80 miles.  In addition, this national park is great for multi-day hikes.  There are also ski fields, as well as short hikes available here.

Nothing beats jumping into a pristine glistening lake on a hot Summer day, and there are a lot of lakes to choose from here.  You can also enjoy boat cruises, kayaking and fishing activities.  Nature walks offer spectacular scenery, while the mountain biking will get your adrenaline pumping high.

The park’s main lakes are the Lake Rotoiti and the Lake Rotoroa.  Both are very large.  The first one is also perfect for jumping off a jetty.  What makes these lakes so spectacular is the illusion that the nearby mountains seem to be growing out of the water.

If you are looking for places to stay close to this national park, check out the Travers-Sabine Lodge and the Alpine Backpackers.

Lake Rotoiti. Nelson Lakes National Park, Southern Alps, New Zealand - Global Storybook

The spectacular Lake Rotoiti

7. Paparoa National Park

This beautiful park lies on the west coast of the South Island.  Its collection of rock formations, especially the one called “Pancake rocks” at Punakaiki, make it one of the most intriguing national parks in all of New Zealand.  There are rocks everywhere including some that even shoot water while others are overhanging.  One rock rises to a height of 300 meters.

This may be one of the smaller national parks in New Zealand, but there is plenty to see here.  Among the many activities which you can do here, are the thrilling short walks on the Truman Track, from where you get a magnificent view of the overhanging rocks plus a stunning waterfall.  The Inland Pack Track is another option worth checking out, as too is kayaking down the Pororari River.

There are plenty of accommodation options here, including the Punakaiki Beach Hostel and the Te Nikau Retreat in Punakaiki.

Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, Paparoa National Park, West Coast, New Zealand - Global Storybook

The famous “Pancake rocks” at Punakaiki

8. Arthur’s Pass National Park

This is the oldest national park on the South Island.  Nothing quite beats driving down the highway or taking a railway ride up here.  The wonderfully clever Kea parrots are ready to peel anything they can get their beaks around.  This part of New Zealand is one of the most scenic places in the country and is worth a visit.

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Lastly, you can also bike down the popular Poulter Valley Track or ski and snowboard on the slopes of the Temple Basin’s ski field.  A stroll close to the waterfalls is also highly recommended, as too a hike around some truly spectacular peaks.

There are two great accommodation options here: The Sanctuary and the Mountain House YHA.

Arthur's pass National Park in Autumn , South Island of New Zealand - Global Storybook9. Westland Tai Poutini National Park

This particular park includes a UNESCO World Heritage Site called Te Wahipounamu.  Close by there’s the Franz Josef and the Fox Glaciers, plus the Lake Matheson and the Mirror Lakes.  One of the main reasons why many choose to visit this place is the excellent hiking opportunities.  Nothing compares to walking on a glacier.  Plus, there are thrilling mountain bike trails, or if you are interested in bird watching –  there are ample opportunities to take in some rare as well as native birdlife.  However, the best part is that you can also view these birds from aboard a kayak.

For the adventure seekers, there are also spectacular hiking opportunities here that will take you to natural pools, dwarfed by snow-covered mountains.  Many people choose to take a helicopter ride to the glaciers, while others decide to hike the glaciers’ valleys.  White herons are a birdwatcher’s delight, especially when viewed from a kayak on the Okarito Lagoon.

There are four accommodation options here, at Franz Josef: the Glow Worm Cottages, the Rainforest Backpackers, the YHA Franz Josef and the Chateau Franz Josef Backpackers.

Franz Josef Glacier. West Coast, South Island, New Zealand - Global Storybook

The stunning Franz Josef Glacier

10. Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park

What makes this park stand out is the fact that it’s home to the highest mountain peak in the country – the Aoraki Mt Cook.  The park also touches the Te Wahipounamu, which happens to be the South Westland’s World Heritage area.  This unique national park not only has the highest peaks in the country but it’s also home to the longest glacier (the Tasman Glacier) and some truly dark skies.  In fact, a good part of this national park is covered entirely by glaciers.

The breathtaking Aoraki Mt Cook alone is worth visiting this park.  The nice thing about this mountain is that it is equally spectacular when viewed during the day as well as at night.  This beautiful park lies in the middle of the South Island and offers some truly stunning and exciting hiking opportunities.  From spectacular glacier lakes to icebergs to skiing runs, this national park has much to offer.

Milky Way Galaxy Rising Above Snow Capped Southern Alps Mountain Range At Mount Cook National Park - Global StorybookA short walk is perfect for warming up after which why not take a day-hike to view some truly amazing scenery of the Hooker Valley and the Aoraki Mt Cook?  Many visitors come here to explore the Tasman Valley while others prefer kayaking on the glacier lakes passing by some phenomenal icebergs.  There are also skiing opportunities available here, plus a hike on the longest glacier in New Zealand is highly recommended as well.  Best of all, you can look up at the heavens at night as the skies here are the clearest than anywhere on the planet.

As for overnight options, there are two places worth checking out: the YHA Mt Cook and the Mt Cook Backpackers Lodge.

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