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  • Writer's pictureRach Stewart


One of the questions I get asked a lot about regarding photography in New Zealand, is where I go to get the best views. My answer is always the same .. those places that require a little more effort to get to.

5 Must Do New Zealand Day Hikes North Island

So for this blog, I have put together a list of the Top 5 Best New Zealand Hikes in the North Island you shouldn't miss when you visit this beautiful part of New Zealand, and don't worry the South Island version will be coming soon! If you want to see the real North Island New Zealand, it's stunning coastal areas, volcanic mountains and incredibly diverse forests, this is where you need to go.

New Zealand's Day Hikes have a bit of everything. They can be just a 45 minute trek up a small mountain, or a 10 hour one way trip across an active volcano field .. you can take your pick! There is something for everyone and you don't have to be extremely fit to complete the easier ones.

In this blog you will find my 5 favourite New Zealand Hikes in the North Island for photography, where they are located, their difficulty level, elevation gain, tips and photography advice.

NZ Prints and Canvas

Let's start at the top of North Island New Zealand and work our way down:




For incredible views above the Whangaroa Harbour and beyond, the Dukes Nose hike in Northland would make you believe you've been transported to some far off islands in Thailand or South East Asia. This is one hike that really shows just how diverse New Zealand is, with tropical blue water, dense North Island coastal forest and dotted islands around the harbour.

The Dukes Nose Kairara Rock Whangaroa
Sunset from The Dukes Nose Whangaroa looking east

There are two options available to reach the Dukes Nose.

  1. Walk in: Take the Wairakau Stream Track from Totora North and hike the 5.6km to the Lane Cove Hut (approx 2 hours). This is the option we took and I highly recommend it. The track starts off up an old 4wd track but you will soon be walking through beautiful coastal New Zealand forest, towering volcanic valley walls and along the stunning harbour's edge. We saw our first Ruru (NZ Native Owl) by taking this option! Once you reach the Lane Cove Hut, have a rest/drink/refuel, and then continue on up the 500m to the top of Kairara Rocks (approx 45 minutes). This part is not for the faint hearted and includes 2 x steep climb grab rails up vertical cliff face. It is very much worth it for the views however!!

  2. Water taxi in: To skip the first part of the hike, catch a water taxi from Whangaroa Harbour to Lane Cove Hut, then continue the rest of the track up to the Dukes Nose Kairara Rock path (45 minutes).

Location: End of Campbell Road, Totara North, Northland (parking available), North Island

Distance: Wairakau Stream Track - 5.6km, Dukes Nose Track - 500m

Time: 5-6 hours return

Elevation gain: 409 metres

Difficulty: Intermediate

Hut booking: If staying overnight, Lane Cove Hut must be booked prior

Dogs: No

Check out my full blog on Hiking the Dukes Nose Track in Northland New Zealand

NZ travel map and guide


The Pinnacles Coromandel is my favourite New Zealand day hike in the North Island, and one of the first I ever did when I was starting out in landscape photography. The view from the summit of The Pinnacles Coromandel is one that you just wont see anywhere else in New Zealand .. it is another hike where you could swear you had been transported to a different country and were suddenly a top some mountains in Hawaii.

The Pinnacles Coromandel hike is an historic packhorse route used by Kauri logging bushman back in the 1920's. The summit overlooks incredible views of the eastern side of Coromandel Peninsula , including vast native bush, mountains and then out to sea. The hike can be done in one day, or you can book a night at the Pinnacles Hut which is an 80 Bunk hut with stunning views just 40 minutes from the summit. Well worth it if you'd like to catch first light at sunrise, which is what we did.

Location: Kauaeranga Valley, Coromandel, North Island

Getting there: Follow Kauaeranga Road (gravel) to the end and park in the carpark. The track starts from here. Take the Webb Creek route for the quickest way to the Pinnacles Hut and summit. This is another hike where the track to the summit is not for the faint hearted - use of ladders and steep climbing is required.

Distance: Kauaeranga Road end – Hydro Camp via Webb Creek Track – Pinnacles Hut - 6km, Pinnacles Summit - 1 km

Time: 6-8 hours return

Elevation gain: 973 metres

Difficulty: Intermediate

Hut booking: If staying overnight, the Pinnacles Hut must be booked prior

Dogs: No

Check out my Top 5 Places to Visit in Coromandel blog for more spots to photograph

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The Mount Maunganui summit New Zealand day hike is right on my back doorstep and boasts one of the best views in the Bay of Plenty in my opinion! I have climbed 'the Mount' many many times and it never ever disappoints.

Mount Maunganui, or Mauao, is an extinct volcano which sits at the end of a peninsula and the town of Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty.

A short 40 minute hike up to Mauao summit brings you views to the north stretching out to the Kaimai Ranges and all the way to the Coromandel, and to the south you can see as far down as the Maketu headland along the 20 kilometre coastline that hugs this city.

If you are ever visiting the Bay of Plenty and Mount Maunganui, the short but rewarding Mount Maunganui summit hike is a must do for photography, especially at sunrise - the sun rises over the ocean and wakes up the city in golden light.

Location: Mount Maunganui Main Beach, North Island

Getting there: The two most popular tracks to the summit are:

  • The Waikorire track - steeper with well-formed staircases winding up the east side of Mauao.

  • The Oruahine track - takes you around the northern and western side of Mauao.

Distance: 3.8km

Time: 1 hour 10 minutes return

Elevation gain: 257 metres

Difficulty: Intermediate

Hut booking: No

Dogs: No



Stunning views of both Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe in the North Island's central plateau are on the cards with this amazing Tama Lakes New Zealand day hike in Tongariro National Park.

The Tama Lakes are situated in Tongariro National Park in the Central North Island, approximately 4.5 hours south of Auckland. The lakes themselves are situated in craters that were created around 10,000 years ago during an explosive eruption period in Tongariro National Park. There are two lakes, being the Lower Tama Lake and the Upper Tama Lake.

The best thing about the Tama Lakes hike is that it is flat for a good part of the journey, with the steepest climb being right at the end if you decide to go up to the Upper Tama Lake (highly recommend it!). The track is fairly exposed for most of the way, and because you are entering an alpine zone, it is recommended you check the weather forecast and take extra warm clothes just in case you get caught out.

Location: Tongariro National Park, Central Plateau, North Island

Getting there: Begin on the Taranaki Falls Walking Track, just behind the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre on Ngauruhoe Place. Once reaching Taranaki Falls lookout, carry on the Tama Lakes Track.

Distance: Upper Tama Lake return - 17 km

Time: 5-6 hours return

Elevation gain: 498 metres

Difficulty: Intermediate

Hut booking: N/A

Dogs: No

Check out my full blog on Hiking the Tama Lakes Track or my Exploring Ruapehu blog for more my Top places to visit in the Ruapehu area

Rach Stewart Photography NZ Landscape Print Store


For one of the best views of Mount Taranaki and if you're lucky some epic reflections to go with it, the Pouakai Tarns Track is right up there as one of the most scenic New Zealand Day Walks you can do.

There are a few variations to this Mount Taranaki hike, but the fastest route to the Pouakai Tarns is by taking the Mangorei Track from the carpark at the end of Mangorei Road. The track climbs steadily via a lot of steps through the forest until it opens up to tussock land. The 16 bunk Pouakai Hut is not far away after this point and is a great place to stop for a rest, or if you have previously booked, a good time to nab your bunk bed for the night.

About 5 minutes past the Pouakai Hut take the track to the left, follow another 10 minutes down and you will find yourself at the Pouakai Tarns. Enjoy the incredible view of Mount Taranaki and the photography!

I remember completing this New Zealand day hike for the first time and being absolutely blown away by the view of Mount Taranaki, it felt like I could reach out and touch the mountain! I chose to stay at the Pouakai Hut for the night, so I could make the most of the photo opportunities at sunset and sunrise, and tried out some astrophotography just after the sun had set.

Location: End of Mangorei Road (parking available), New Plymouth, Taranaki, North Island

Distance: 11km return

Time: 4-5 hours return

Elevation gain: 806 metres

Difficulty: Intermediate

Hut booking: If staying overnight, the Pouakai Hut must be booked prior

Dogs: No

Check out my blog on the Top 5 Mount Taranaki Photo Spots for more info on what to photograph in Taranaki.



I hope this blog might provide some inspiration to get out there and explore the North Island in some of those lesser popular spots .. the effort/reward ratio is well worth it!

Be sure the check out my Top 5 South Island New Zealand Day Hikes blog for your South Island Adventures!

If you are interested in prints of any of the New Zealand Landscape Photography seen in this blog, please feel free to head on over to my New Zealand Photography Print Store and have a little look around.


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