Best Hikes on the North Island’s Te Araroa Trail with Jon Imhoof


The Te Araroa (Maori for “long pathway”) is the world’s newest long-distance hiking trail, from the northernmost tip of the North Island to the southern point of the South Island. If you were to walk all of it, it would take five months! With our inimitable Trip Leader Jon Imhoof, we’ve chosen the best sections on the North Island (we’ll do the South Island in 2020), starting at remote Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific, and where the Maori believe the spirits of their dead depart for their ancestral homeland in Polynesia. In the subtropical splendor of the Bay of Islands, we'll hike Moturua Island, with its Maori archaeological sites, and travel southward, passing remote villages, mystical kauri forests, and “Lord of the Rings” volcanoes, then ferry into Auckland, the City of Sails, to walk the Te Araroa Trail right through the city. On the central plateau, our hike brings us into the dramatic volcanic scenery of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a World Heritage Site, and when we reach the beautiful and sacred Wanganui River, part of the Te Araroa Trail, we’ll drift down as the Maori did before us—by waka (canoe). Our trail leads us into cosmopolitan Wellington, the nation's capital. This unique adventure is full of fantastic hikes, great food, world-class wine, craft beer, and easy-going Kiwi culture.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2
Kerikeri / Cape Reinga

Fly to Kerikeri and hike the Te Araroa Trail along Te Werahi Beach to the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, the northernmost tip of New Zealand. At the Cape's tip is a gnarled pohutukawa tree from which, according to Maori legend, the spirits of deceased Maori leap into the ocean to return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki. The final stretch of our hike brings us to the blue waters of Tapotupotu Bay.

Days 3-4
Bay of Islands / Russell Forest

On gorgeous Urupukapuka, the largest island in the Bay of Islands, we hike along sheltered bays and visit Maori archaeological sites. Our trail leads us through stunning native bush in the primeval Russell Forest, with its majestic kauri trees, and down to Whangaruru Harbour.

Days 5-8
Poor Knights Islands / Mangawahi Heads / Auckland

Our boat brings us to Poor Knights Islands, a pristine marine reserve, for a day of sea kayaking, cave exploration, and a chance to spot dolphins and whales. Back on the mainland, we hike the Mangawahi Heads on an ancient Maori path through coastal forests. The Te Araroa Trail brings us right into Auckland, with a trip the next day out to Waiheke Island, home to wineries, Bohemian artists, and beautiful beaches.

Days 9-11
Rotorua / Tongariro Alpine Crossing

In Rotorua, we watch a spine-tingling haka war dance and visit the Maori who live amid the unique geothermal landscape of Whakarewarewa. As we hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, we are immersed in a world of emerald lakes, lava flows, and steam vents amid spectacular volcanic scenery.

Days 12-14
Wanganui River / Wellington

A jet boat brings us to the trailhead for our hike through dramatic river gorges and native podocarp forest in Wanganui National Park, and we drift down the sacred Wanganui River by waka (traditional Maori canoe). The Te Araroa Trail brings us on foot into charming Wellington, New Zealand's urban jewel, we visit its famous museum, the Te Papa, before heading home.



Exhilarating hikes in spectacular coastal, mountain, and volcanic environments
Cape Reinga Lighthouse, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific
Ancient Maori sites of Moturua Island, spectacular haka warrior dance in Rotorua
Tongariro Alpine Crossing, with its volcanic scenery and emerald lake
Boat journey through the pristine marine reserve of the Poor Knights Islands for kayaking and cave exploration
Hike the best trails of the North Island, from north to south


Length: 14 days
Cost From: $7795  
Arrive: Kerikeri, New Zealand
Depart: Wellington, New Zealand
Lodging: 12 nights hotels and historic inns
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Wildlife & Natural History, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

Varied hikes of 3-8 hours, some sections on rough or rocky trails