What is the Te Araroa Trail?
The Te Araroa Trail (the long pathway) is an over 3’000 km long (depending on who you ask) walking track in New Zealand, which leads from Cape Reinga on the North Island to Bluff on the South Island.
It takes you between 120 and 150 days to walk the Te Araroa Trail. Normally, you walk from north to south, but the opposite is also possible.
The Te Araroa Trail is a bit different to other long distance hikes. Instead of mostly walking on a hiking track through the wilderness, you experience New Zealand in a mix of natural, cultural and historical variety. The trail runs like a golden threat through settlements and cities, forests and valleys, along lakes and beaches. New Zealand spans through more than 13 parallels of latitude (ca. 1’600 km) and the Te Araroa Trail covers all of its incredible variety.
History of the Te Araroa Trail
With the founding of The New Zealand Walkways Commission in 1975, the first stone for a long distance hike was laid. It took some time but finally, in 2011, the Te Araroa Trail was officially opened. However, the routing is still in process and may change slightly every year.
For more information about Te Araroa Trust (TAT) and its eight regional trusts, which handle the sections of the Te Araroa Trail, visit their Website.
What to expect of the North Island
Lots of roads. That pretty much defines half of the walking on the North Island. Between 40 and 50 percent (750-800 km) of the trail is walking on dirt roads, farm roads, gravel roads and even on the highway! Not really a “wilderness” experience, but an experience in its own way nevertheless. Quite a few hikers skip big parts of the road walks – we will probably do that with the highway part as well – but on these backcountry roads, which might not be very enjoyable to walk on, you have the chance to meet the locals and get an insight into the NZ culture.
Apart from the roads, you walk on beaches, in forests, on the muddiest hiking tracks, over volcanos (Tongariro Crossing) and through two cities (Auckland and Wellington). You even paddle for several days on a river (Whanganui).
To us, all of this sounds very promising.
What to expect of the South Island
Now we talk about the real deal. Some hikers decide to walk the Te Araroa Trail only on the South Island and skip the entire North Island. Because on the South Island you find that pure wilderness experience with very remote areas where you have to be self sufficient for up to +8 days.
Surely, it doesn’t come without roads (ca. 20%), but most of the time you will spend in the backcountry. And there lay the most challenging parts of the Te Araroa Trail. First of all, because of the proximity to the New Zealand Alps, the weather conditions are more severe.
Secondly, lots of New Zealands tramping tracks don’t belong to the category “well maintained footpath”. According to other hikers, the tracks are better on the South Island. But you will also encounter tussock country with no trails at all.
And then, there are the rivers. They probably the worst and most dangerous parts on the Te Araroa Trail: the river crossings. There are a lot of rivers to walk through or in and when there is a bridge, it may only be a daring looking swing bridge with three steel ropes. And on two occasions you have to hitch around impassable rivers.
But once you’ve overcome all these obstacles, you find yourself admiring stunning views and magnificent nature and enjoying one of the best hut networks in the world. Lots of previous hikers rave about the huts. Back in 2009 we did some Great Walks in New Zealand and can confirm that. There are some huts on the North Island, but the best and most numerous opportunities to stay in one of the huts is on the South Island.
Again, it sounds… ah challenging.
Where to start, if you want to do the Te Araroa Trail
On the website of the Te Araroa Trust (TAT) you find all the information you need, including their history, information about the trail and hundreds of pages with track notes.
Website TAT: http://www.teararoa.org.nz/
The Te Araroa Wiki: http://tawiki.org/wiki/Main_Page
The walking guide from Geoff Chapple: A Walking Guide To New Zealand’s Long Trail: Te Araroa
The travel book from Geoff Chapple , the visionary behind the Te Araroa Trail: Te Araroa The New Zealand Trail: One Man Walks His Dream
Facebook Page Te Araroa: https://www.facebook.com/TeAraroaNewZealandsTrail
Public Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/26638669574/?fref=ts