Trail Logistics

Before you set off, you will need to plan well and have a good understanding of what lies ahead. The information below will help you get started.

If you have specific questions that aren’t answered here, the Te Araroa Facebook group is a great place to ask for advice. This community of past and present walkers and passionate volunteers is always ready to help.

Which direction should I walk?

Many thousands of people walk sections of Te Araroa in both directions throughout the year. Te Araroa provides detailed southbound (SOBO) trail notes for both islands, making it easy to plan your walk in this direction. This means northbound walkers will need to translate the southbound notes to suit.

Most people who walk the entire trail usually start at Cape Reinga in October and November and walk southbound. This means they can walk most of the South Island during the best summer weather, and they will most likely, avoid snow and snowmelt and the Southland lambing closures. Northbound (NOBO) through walkers must start later in the year, from November onwards, for this reason.

There are a number of options for getting to either end of the trail.

To get to the northernmost point of Te Araroa – Cape Reinga, you can:

  • Bus from Auckland to Kaitaia, then tourist bus or transport service to Cape Reinga.
  • Bus from Auckland to Paihia, then tourist bus or transport service to Cape Reinga
  • Fly from Auckland to Kerikeri or Kaitaia, then a tourist bus or transport service from Kerikeri, Paihia or Kaitaia to Cape Reinga


To get to the southernmost point of Te Araroa – Bluff, you can:

  • Bus from Christchurch to Invercargill, then change buses to Bluff
  • Fly from Auckland to Invercargill, then bus to Bluff
  • Fly from Christchurch to Invercargill, then bus to Bluff

A list of providers and their contact details can be found in the trail notes for Northland (for Cape Reinga) and Southland (for Bluff).

Northland Trail Notes

Southland Trail Notes

When can I walk Te Araroa?

There is a wide window of opportunity to walk Te Araroa. We have provided some broad guidelines below, but please treat every section individually and study the detailed trail notes carefully, section by section.

If you’re not comfortable in wet/cold weather, the safest approach is to aim for the middle of the walking windows.

If you are planning to through walk Te Araroa, the latest start dates are only suitable for those with the fitness and experience to walk very fast. If you start early expect plenty of spring rain in the early stages

South Bound (SOBO) both islands through walk

Earliest start: late September
Latest start: December
Latest finish: April

North Bound (NOBO) both islands through walk

Earliest start: November
Latest start: January
Latest finish: May

NOBO / SOBO South Island only

Earliest start: November
Latest start: February
Latest finish: April

SOBO North Island only

Earliest start: late-September
Latest start: February
Latest finish: April

NOBO North Island only

Earliest start: November
Latest start: February
Latest finish: April

Some of the lowland and urban sections of the trail are safe to section walk throughout the year, however if you are intending to through walk, we do not recommend walking outside of these windows. In particular, the majority of the South Island, the Tararua Ranges, and Tongariro Crossing in the North Island should not be attempted between May – October due to snow on the passes, avalanches and heavy rains.

Many sections of Te Araroa cross private land have seasonal closures for lambing that affect the trail between August and November. These sections must be bypassed during these closures, which could impact the continuity or enjoyment of your walk.

What fitness level do I need?

Some of Te Araroa’s tracks are very accessible, but many need the bushcraft skills of an experienced backcountry tramper.

These skills include trip planning, navigation, and river crossing skills. You need all these skills to make good decisions in the outdoors. You also need to know what survival equipment to carry and how to avoid getting hypothermia.

Practical experience is the best. So before heading out, take a course or spend time in the backcountry with experienced trampers.

You can read more about keeping yourself safe on our Walker Safety Page

You need at least a moderate level of fitness to attempt to walk all of Te Araroa. The fitter you are, the better chance you have of finishing.

So long as you don’t get injured, you will get fitter during the first weeks of the tramp. Fitness is cumulative and builds in the first weeks of a through tramp. If you are fit before you start it will reduce the physical demands and your risk of injury. It will also increase your enjoyment. Good fitness also gives you more flexibility in your schedule. It allows you to forge ahead to take advantage of good weather and to make up time if you are delayed.

 

What permits, fees and visas do I need?

You must register with us if you plan to walk the whole trail, cover a single island or section walk. Registering ensures you have the most up to date information for your walk. Having visibility of who is walking the trail is also crucial for our planning and helps us seek funding to enhance the trail.

We also ask that every walker makes a donation when they register. As a registered charity, Te Araroa Trust relies heavily on donations from walkers like you to care for and enhance the trail. Every dollar donated is spent directly on trail maintenance and development. 

You must purchase a DOC Backcountry Hut Pass or Hut tickets to stay in most DOC Huts (see ‘Where will I stay?’).

You do not need a permit to walk Te Araroa other than for a short section of the Queen Charlotte Track at the top of the South Island.

Whilst you do not need a ‘permit’ to walk Te Araroa, it is privilege not a right to walk the trail. The indigenous Māori people of Aotearoa, New Zealand (tangata whenua), hold an ancestral authority, known as mana whenua, over the land. Te Araroa recognises the mauri, or life force, of Aotearoa’s lands, mountains, and forests. This mauri is integral to tangata whenua and mana whenua. Along the trail always remember you are manhuriri (a guest) and it is a privilege to walk through these areas of significance for local people.

If you are not a New Zealand or Australian citizen or resident, and you plan to spend more than three months in New Zealand, you will need a visitor visa. Immigration New Zealand can assist with this. 

Register to walk Te Araroa

Donate to Te Araroa

Queen Charlotte Track permits

Immigration New Zealand

Where can I find information and maps?

Before you go, make sure to take time to study our detailed trail notes and maps for the section you plan to walk first. 

Te Araroa – The Trail App is the trusted and official navigation tool for walking Te Araroa. The app provides you with official trail notes, maps, and alerts and information on trail elevation, campsites and huts, from your mobile phone. It also includes offline topographical maps which you can access without cell phone coverage to assist with navigation.

As long as it has permission on your phone, The Trail App gets pushed to sync any time we make changes to our notes, map, and alerts, so by using The Trail App, you will always have the most up to date information available.  Just make sure you connect to a cell network or wifi every once in a while.

What are the trail notes?

The trail notes are your guide for walking Te Araroa. They provide detailed information to help you plan your walk, section by section. They describe the trail, its conditions and helpful information about access, transport, accomodation and where you can buy food and other supplies. 

The trail notes are visible in Te Araroa – The Trail App and available to view or download from our website. 

Can I download and print maps?

You can also download and print trail maps for each section of Te Araroa from our website. We update our trail maps each year in early September, so if you are a through walker, we recommend you wait until then before downloading them. 

What are the trail alerts?

We regularly publish Tail Alerts when we hear of trail damage, temporary closures and other significant changes. The Trail Alerts appear in the App. They can also be viewed on our Trail Alerts Page.

How do I use the trail notes?

The trail notes provide detailed information to help you plan your walk, section by section. The trail notes are visible in Te Araroa – The Trail App and available for download from our website.

Trail Notes are organised by region, and are available for each section of Te Araroa written from a southbound perspective.  Sections vary in length, but generally start and finish at points where you can get on or off trail with relative ease to facilitate section walking.  Each section of notes is organised in the same manner: 

  • Intro
  • Description
  • Conditions
  • Access
  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Food and Supply

The notes are text based, with references to kilometre markers interspersed to connect with the map. In some cases they are wordy, but those words are there to tell you something important! The notes describe the route first and foremost, but also the hazards, challenges, and conditions you may encounter to keep you safe and out of trouble during your journey.  In some sections, you may learn a bit about the history, ecology, and mauri (life force; essence) of the place you are walking.

The last three sections (transport, accommodation, supply) provide you with information that will help you plan and organise your trip.  We do our best to keep it up to date with current information about public and private transport options, accommodation providers close to the trail, equipment hire, and shops that sell food or gear relevant to your walk.

The  trail notes are regularly edited and updated as required. Through the season this is almost daily as we gain new intel from walkers and supporters along the trail.  That means if you see something wrong, or feel something could be described better, don’t hesitate to contact us at info@teararoa.org.nz.

It is unfortunate, but at this time we do not offer trail notes from a Northbound perspective.  Trail notes are text-based. As such, they cannot easily be reordered and reversed like a waypoint based system could be. Given our limited staff resources and the time it would take to develop and then maintain with accuracy, it’s not something we can offer at this time, however there are other companies and past walkers who offer some resources for Northbound walkers. 

 

Where can I stay along the trail?

Accommodation along Te Araroa is a mixture of Department of Conservation (DOC) huts, privately owned huts, campsites, motels, lodges and B&Bs. 

We provide detailed trail notes which outline your accommodation options for each section of the trail along with contact information. Trail notes can be viewed within the Te Araroa App and can also be downloaded on our website. The notes are updated throughout the year, so we recommend using the app to ensure you have the most up to date information. 

DOC huts

We are fortunate to have an amazing network of Department of Conservation (DOC) huts along the South Island route and in some parts of the North Island. If you wish to use the Department of Conservation huts on the route, you must pay for your stay, either by purchasing hut tickets or a Backcountry Hut Pass in advance of starting your walk. If you are a through walker, we recommend purchasing the hut pass as it is much simpler and more cost effective than buying individual hut tickets. 

Please note that, whilst the DOC Backcountry Hut Pass covers the vast majority of huts along the trail, there are some exceptions. Most notably, it does not cover the serviced huts found along Great Walks (The Tongariro Crossing and Whanganui River Journey), the huts in Nelson Lakes National Park, and private or club owned huts. You’ll find this information in the trail notes for the relevant section of Te Araroa. The Backcountry Hut Pass does not in any circumstance work for DOC campsites.  You can pay for these either paid through the DOC booking system, honesty boxes, or the DOC Campsite Pass.

Even if you plan to stay in DOC huts for the entire section of trail you plan to walk, you should also carry a tent as some huts will be full during the summer season. Carrying a tent is also an important safety precaution, providing shelter if conditions change or you are unable to reach your planned hut due to injury.  

If you purchase a Backcountry Hut pass, make sure to make a note of your hut pass number and write this in the Intentions Books in every hut you stay in. Hut intentions books are primarily there to assist Search and Rescue should you become missing, but DOC also use the statistics to justify maintenance of the huts and tracks.

Camping

There are many designated campsites along the trail in the North Island in particular, both public and private. Stealth camping on private land or prohibited places is not acceptable in Aotearoa New Zealand even when you believe that no-one knew or will ever know that you had been. Te Araroa Trust has worked hard to establish relationships with private land owners, councils and many organisations to develop this network of trails. Please do not risk put the trail in jeopardy by ignoring this advice. 

The trail crosses a lot of private land by the generous agreement of the land owners. It is important that this access is respected, and rules adhered to at all times or continued access is put at risk. Unless otherwise stated the following rules should be assumed: daylight access only, no camping, no fires, no dogs, no firearms and stick to the marked route at all times. Consider your timeframes before entering a section that is daylight access only and/or no camping. Are you sure that you will have enough time and energy to get through that section, or should you camp beforehand?

Freedom camping is permitted on public Department of Conservation (DOC) land, except in areas where it is expressly prohibited or restricted. 1,800km of the trail passes through public DOC land.

On DOC land, camping nearby ‘standard huts’, ‘basic huts’ or ‘bivvies’ is free. Camping nearby to ‘serviced huts’, such as those in the Nelson Lakes National Park, has a fee that is covered by the Backcountry Hut Pass.  The exclusion here are the two ‘Great Walks’ (The Tongariro Crossing and Whanganui River Journey) which must be booked through the Great Walk booking system regardless of whether you plan to camp or stay in the serviced huts.   

Please pay honesty box charges for use of private campsites whether this is a set fee or a donation. 

Trail Angels

In addition to formal accommodation, there are many “Trail Angels” along the route. A Trail Angel is someone who provides an awesome service to a weary hiker, whether it be a spot to camp for the night, a hot drink, a shower or a lift in their car. Te Araroa Trust does not operate this independent service.

Their generosity should not be taken for granted, nor should their service be expected for “free”. There are many ways you can say thank you. 

Trail Angels

Koha

You may see and hear the term ‘koha while in Aotearoa New Zealand. Koha is a way of saying thank you. There is no expected amount, it is just what you can give. It may be loose change or $20 for the same service. It does not need to be money. It could be a bottle of wine or flowers. It could be doing some weeding, reading to or playing with the children when the parents are busy. Koha is not buying or trading, it is a gift.

What clothing and equipment do I need?

When deciding what clothing and equipment to pack, think about function, safety, and weight. The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council website has an excellent checklist to help you choose the right gear. 

Mountain Safety Council supplies advice

How long does it take?

Sections of Te Araroa vary in length from a few hours to 10 days. The trail notes for each section give you an indication of how long each will take to complete. 

Walking the whole length of Te Araroa takes somewhere between 50-80 days per island. The time depends on fitness, tenacity, weather, and how quickly you want to progress.

50 days is quick and would need a high degree of fitness and some luck with the weather.

80 days is leisurely. This would give leeway to walk slower and for shorter distances on most days. It would allow you to build fitness levels as you go, extend town stays, and allow greater margins for weather-related variables.

You’ll be passing through some of the most beautiful and fascinating places in Aotearoa, so we recommend taking your time, so you can get to know our people, history, environment and culture and truly enjoy the experience.

What is the hut etiquette?

Huts in Aotearoa New Zealand are traditionally a shared community, based on respect. Most huts are not booked so are first come first served. Always be respectful to other hut users by following the trail etiquette:

 

  • Make room for those coming in. Can another person fit on the mattresses? Consider swapping to a top bunk for someone less able to climb up.
  • A hot brew offered to cold, wet newcomers when they arrive is the ultimate courtesy. Always have a tent or alternative shelter in case the hut is full … or for some reason you don’t get there.
  • Remove your boots before entering the hut.
  • Keep your bunk area and personal belongings tidy and clean up after yourself. After cooking remove your gear or leave it in a corner if there is space. Clean up little chunks of food dropped, or water spilled. Do not leave food or trash out overnight. When retiring for the night, keep gear off unallocated bunks for latecomers.
  • After going to the toilet, leave the long-drop toilet seat closed and the door securely shut.
  • Early risers and latecomers should cook and pack/unpack outside of the bunkroom.
  • Avoid drying clothes over a fire, or stove that is being used for cooking. Hang your clothes on the racks provided, not the bunk ladder.
  • Exercise care with fires and candles in huts and damp down ashes thoroughly before leaving.
  • Replenish firewood for the next party, who may arrive in the rain.
  • Before leaving clean up your share: wipe benches, sweep floors, clean the fireplace, or stove, clean
    any pots used and leave upside down.
  • Pack out all rubbish, don’t leave it in the fire pit.
  • Before leaving close the windows and secure the door shut to keep possums and birds out.
  • Parties should report any facility requiring urgent attention to the DOC Safety Watch free-phone, 0800 999005. Structures requiring general maintenance should be reported by email to DOC
Where can I get food and supplies?

The trail notes for each section of the trail provide information about where to buy food and supplies. Additionally, in many places along the trail, a number of businesses will receive and hold packages for walkers.  This is particularly helpful in remote parts of the South Island such as Pelorus Bridge, St Arnaud, The Boyle Outdoor Centre, and Arthurs Pass where there are limited options to resupply.  Check the trail notes for further details about how to use these services.

Te Araroa – The Trail App

 

Can I leave the marked trail?

The trail passes through many ecologically sensitive areas and through private land. Te Araroa Trust has worked hard with private landowners, councils and many organisations to develop this network of trails. If you modify the route you risk entering private land or damaging sensitive ecosystems. It is often quite difficult to find this information out without local knowledge. Public access can’t be assumed on a road, track, river, beach or hut shown on a map.

The trail crosses a lot of private land by the generous agreement from the land owners. It is important that this access is respected, and rules adhered to at all times or continued access is put at risk. The route through private land is determined by the wishes of landowners, this may not be the shortest route or easiest travel. At no time take a shortcut or use accessways that are not designated. For safety reasons don’t approach buildings or operational areas. Use stiles when provided and leave gates as you found them – open or closed. Check latches are properly secure. If part of the track is closed you must respect this, there is always a reason (e.g. lambs may die if the ewe is disturbed soon after giving birth).

Whether you are on private or public land, leaving the marked trail can disturb vegetation and wildlife, cause erosion and weed plants or seeds may be introduced. For example, the trail follows a number of beaches and walking on sand dunes should be avoided as these are sensitive ecosystems. Many birds, lizards and invertebrates make their homes in the dunes. These animals or hatchlings can be disturbed or the eggs, nests damaged. Some of the beaches and dunes along the trail are home and nesting sites for rare birds such as the tara iti. In some places fences and/or signs have been erected, to protect areas, but this is not always the case, so please do stick to the marked trail. 

How much money do I need?

For section walkers the amount you need will vary section by section, depending on the accommodation you choose to stay in and the transport options to and from the trail head. The information provided in the trail notes will help you plan how much you need.

For through walkers, we suggest that you have a minimum of NZD$12,000 available.  Having enough money means you can safely enjoy your entire journey.

As well as the right clothing and equipment for your walk, you will need to pay for accommodation, food and transfers along the way. You should also be prepared for any extra expenses like having to replace equipment or staying longer in a town due to injury or weather.  

Do not try to save money by cutting back on essential equipment such as personal locator beacons or by freedom camping in unauthorised areas. Also, remember that by supporting local businesses, you’ll be helping to ensure they are still there for future generations of Te Araroa walkers to rely on.   

Please also factor in your donation when you register for Te Araroa; this helps us keep the trail in top condition for you and future walkers.

Can I use a drone while on the trail?

You must have a concession (permit) from the Department of Conservation (DOC) to fly a drone on public conservation land for any reason, including private and non-commercial use.

A concession (permit) ensures you:

– protect the local wildlife
– respect Māori cultural values by involving hapū and iwi
-let others enjoy the outdoors too
– consider people’s privacy
– prevent accidents and interference by following Civil Aviation Authority rules
follow relevant policies and plans.

Learn more