Maori for the long pathway, Te Araroa is truly an epic trail. Linking the north and south islands of New Zealand, the trail begins at Cape Reinga, the northwestern tip of North Island, where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet, and finishes at Bluff, the southerly point of the South Island. A mix of old and new tracks, walkways and road links, it runs for 3000 km (give or take) and tramping it; the local word for hiking, will take around 4 months.
The trail consists of 300 sections of varying length and winds along coastal paths, cuts through grand forests, covers farmlands and national parks and passes by volcanoes, showcasing the variable, beautiful landscape that New Zealand has to offer; think Lord of the Rings scenery and you won’t be disappointed. The trail is as diverse as its landscape; towns will sometimes be passed within a couple of days of each other, other times you may find yourself in the wilds for over a week. Best tackled from north to south, leaving in late spring ensures that the mountain passes in the southern island are free from snow by the time you get there.
Although a relatively young trail; it opened in December 2011, its popularity is increasing yearly. National Geographic named it as one of the ‘top 10 hikes to blow your mind’ in 2017. In 2018/19 1200 thru-hikers attempted the trail, up from 350 the year before. It is not made for beginners, however. The diverse landscape makes for very challenging conditions; high cliffs, steep forest paths with huge tree roots, knee-deep mud, rivers to cross, constant undulating paths and also variable weather; the blazing sun, rain, wind, sleet and snow, so be prepared to get wet and often! As well as having a fair bit of rain there isn’t a part of New Zealand more than 80 miles from the sea so the air is rather humid and dews are often heavy.
Campsites are frequent on the North Island which is more populated. On the South Island, there are backcountry huts, complete with toilets and water, which can be used although you will need to purchase a hut pass, (around $90 USD for a 6 month one). Wild camping is only permitted on conservation land, mostly found on the South Island. On the North Island the trail often crosses private land and in the past landowners have threatened to disallow access due to flouting of the rules on their land, wild camping being one of them; campsites must therefore be used and are usually around $15 a night.
There are some long sections on the South Island where it is not possible to resupply so many send food parcels to themselves here. Food can be rather expensive in New Zealand, as is hiking gear so try and prepare your kit well beforehand. Also transport for when you have to leave the track to resupply is pricey but other than having to pay $18 to hike the Queen Charlotte track, it crosses private land, there is no fee or permit required to walk the Te Araroa. However, the TA trust does suggest a donation of $500 per person for a thru hike, these donations are used to maintain the trail and run their operations.