DOC Short Walks

DOC Short WalksExperience some of New Zealand's highlights in easy-to-manage, bite-sized pieces.

Great Walks are well, great, but we don't always have a few days spare to fully immerse ourselves deep in the wilderness. In come the Department of Conservation (DOC) with a variety of Short Walks and Day Hikes around the country. Choice!

A Short Walk, in Kiwi terms at least, is considered anything from half an hour up to three hours long. They're usually not too technical and require low to moderate levels of fitness, but as always, you should bring a backpack filled with provisions juuust in case disaster strikes (it's highly unlikely, but you can never be too safe).

We've put together a selection of tips about our personal favourites from the full list, and - as luck would have it - we know some pretty excellent hostels nearby...

Rangitoto Summit Track


Rangitoto Island Summit by Emma Crequer
2 hours return  |  Moderate fitness required

Start your journey with a picturesque ferry ride across Auckland Harbour to the base of this inactive volcano. Once you've alighted, your trek will take you over boardwalks and forest floors, up a gentle slope through many stages of vegetation. You'll see lava flows, scrub, and pohutukawa trees thriving in the rich volcanic soil on your way to the summit. Parts of the island are exposed to the elements, so sunscreen is a must, even on cloudy days. BYO food and water as there are no shops on the island.

YHA Auckland City interior

Stay YHA Auckland

With two hostels in Auckland's CBD, there's plenty of room for you to put your feet up once you've returned to civilisation. At the hostel you'll find clean and comfortable communal facilities, and likely no shortage of volunteers to join you on your trip! The ferry terminal is located at the bottom of Queen Street, a 25 minute walk down the gently sloping main street.

 YHA Auckland International    YHA Auckland City

Cathedral Cove Walk


Cathedral Cove
1.5 hours return  |  Moderate fitness required

This popular coastal track is famous primarily for the stunning (and now filmset - thanks Narnia!) view at the end. Cathedral Cove is only accessible on foot or by water, so it's a pretty special wee spot. You're greeted by spectacular views out over the nearby coast and islands even from the carpark; the track heads downhill and round a couple of other bays before eventually ending at its namesake. You'll need a swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, plenty of water, snacks, and some dry clothes for the climb back up. It's tiring work frolicking in the sunshine so allow for a relaxed time frame down at the beach before commencing the return journey.

YHA Whitianga exterior

Stay YHA Whitianga

YHA Whitianga On The Beach Backpackers represents the best of cheerful, comfy bach (beach house) hostels. A 15 minute walk along the beachfront brings you to the town's conveniences, or make the most of the kayaks available onsite if you fancy something a bit more active than lazing on the sand.

 YHA Whitianga 

Devil's Punchbowl Track

Arthur's Pass

Devils Punchbowl by Emma Crequer
1 hour return  |  Low to moderate fitness required

The highlight of the Devil's Punchbowl Walking Track may be the spectacular closeup with a waterfall at its very end, but the trail also yields a delightful snapshot of lush native New Zealand bush and the chance to encounter some cheeky locals en route. The world's only alpine parrot, the Kea is often spotted in the carpark at the bottom of this trail, and the Otira Gorge lookout just up the road. They're famous for both their attitude, and their penchant for nibbling at rubber fixtures on the vehicles of unsuspecting visitors.

Once you've left the carpark, meandered across a river and spotted the waterfall from the bridge, you'll progress up a large number of stairs before emerging at a wooden viewing platform directly beside the second tier of the Punchbowl. The steps can be slippery when damp so make sure you have appropriate shoes. If you're into photography, bring a lens cloth with you to combat the spray!


Stay YHA Arthur's Pass

The aptly named Mountain House holds both lodge accommodation and dormitories for the budget conscious. This hostel is located right in the middle of the route through Arthur's Pass so it's hard to miss. The spacious kitchen is well equipped and cosy living areas upstairs are perfect for snuggling up in after your trek. There are a number of walks through the Pass so chat to our friendly staff if you want more!

 YHA Arthur's Pass 

Kura Tāwhiti Access Track


Castle Hill
20 minutes return  |  Low to moderate fitness required

This flat, easy walking trail may only take 10 minutes to lead you to these giant rock formations but we guarantee you'll want to spend plenty of time amongst them climbing and exploring. They're deceptively large but relatively accessible from the rear side - pick your way through these natural sculptures and emerge at the top of a steep drop. There are great views out across the valley to be had from the top, not to mention some excellent photo ops for those unafraid of heights (take caution though)! Paths through the rocks are steep and can be slippery, so shoes with a good sole are recommended.

YHA Springfield interiorStay YHA Springfield

YHA Springfield is well-situated not just for walkers to Kura Tāwhiti but also for those keen on climbing it! Bouldering mats are available to hire at the hostel and you can even practise on their mini climbing wall. The popular Japanese restaurant on site is a great place to refuel after a day scrambling around the rock face, or relax a book from their extensive library.

YHA Springfield 

Te Ara Kairaumati Walk

West Coast

YHA Franz Josef scenic Lake Matheson
1.5 hour loop  |  Suitable for all fitness levels

We hope you're ready for a good ol' dose of mountains and reflective lake goodness! Lake Matheson is known for it's stillness, which makes it a great mirror for the back of Aoraki Mt Cook and Mt Tasman which are visible in the distance. The ample carpark is an indication of how popular this track has become in recent years (blame Instagram, we say!), partially due to its beauty and partially because it is a very accessible track. The loop takes you through beautiful West Coast bush around the lake, leading to the piece de resistance - a wooden viewing platform jutting out over the lake for your Alp-viewing pleasure. Dawn and dusk are the most popular visiting times.

YHA Franz JosefStay YHA Franz Josef

The lively common areas at YHA Franz Josef make for a welcoming atmosphere on your return to the hostel after a dawn lake mission! Walking enthusiasts adore the free sauna facilities; the pool table, DVD library, and fireplace are usually fully appreciated as well.

 YHA Franz Josef 

Blue Pools Track


JLtour 2016 Blue Pools 08345
1 hour return  |  Low fitness required

This is a popular track for a number of reasons. First is its accessible location on the road between the West Coast and Wanaka. Alight in the car park and meander through 20 minutes of pleasantly airy beech forest in support of a second popularity factor - it's a lovely and very easy walk. Two swing bridges are the notable man-made feature of the track (unsurprising, given New Zealand's apparent love of them). These take you over the main attraction - water so clear and ice blue that you can see the bottom. The brave can stop for a dip here while the sane satisfy their desire for the perfect photo.

YHA WanakaStay YHA Wanaka

This remains one of our most popular hostels - given the commanding view of Lake Wanaka and the Alps from the lounge window, we can't say we're all that surprised! Just an hour's drive from the Blue Pools Walk, this hostel is also a great base for exploring Roy's Peak and Mt Aspiring National Park, among other beautiful places.

 YHA Wanaka 

As always, check the weather, take recommended precautions and gear, and make sure someone knows where you're going and when to expect you back. The DOC website is full of awesome resources so we wholeheartedly recommend checking it out!

Routeburn track

Great Walks Hostels

Nelson biking

Mountain Biking Hostels

Tim Marshall - Raglan

Surf Hostels