Aotearoa-New Zealand has hundreds of walks and hikes for all members of the whānau, no matter how old they are. For young families easing into the hobby of family tramping, an day hike with the kids can be a great start.
Whether it’s a stroll nearby, up to the bushline, or even an overnight tramp, knowing how to choose the right trip for the family is important.
To ensure it’s a safe, enjoyable adventure, the planning and preparation before heading out is an essential step.
Plan My Walk is the best way to discover overnight hikes and to quickly see if they’re the right fit for your family. Developed by the NZ Mountain Safety Council, it has the country’s largest database of public walks. It also has trail descriptions accompanied by filters to find the right length and difficulty, track alerts, customisable packing lists, weather forecasts, reviews from other walkers, and an easy-to-use plan builder that sends your intentions to a trusted contact.
Here are six day hikes, suggested by the NZ Mountain Safety Council, perfect for young families venturing into the great outdoors.
** Auckland/Central North Island/Waikato/East Cape tracks have not been suggested due to potential and on-going Cyclone Gabrielle damage and assessments.
Butterfly Creek Track, Wellington
Starting from suburban Eastbourne, the well-maintained Butterfly Creek track boasts views spanning across Wellington Harbour on the initial climb, before descending down through native bush into Butterfly Creek. Pack lunch and snacks to carry in and enjoy at the picnic tables overlooking the creek, about an one hour walk from the start. This is a great walk for the family if you’re living or visiting Wellington, with the easy access from Muritai/Eastbourne.
Note: There is a toilet at Butterfly Creek.
Donnelly Flat Loop walk, Tararua Forest Park
An easy option that the kids will enjoy is the Donnelly Flat Loop that passes through some of the best mixed podocarp and broadleaf forest in the forest park. The 2.5km mostly flat walk begins at the Mt Holdsworth carpark and is complete with a picnic area and stream.
Tip: If your group is feeling up to it, take a side trip up to the Rocky Lookout for a stunning view of the valley and enjoy a rest and lunch.
Gordon Park Loop track, Manawatu/Whanganui
The easy, flat and well-formed Gordon Park Loop track passes for families with young kids or buggies. Only 550m, it’s a great way to get some fresh air while easing young kids into walking on tracks. Taken on a journey through native forest they will spot a variety of birds – with a picnic table at the start, it’s a good, easy option for families with buggys and wheelchairs.
Wooded Gully Loops, North Canterbury
Take your pick of the many loop walks in the Wooded Gully area for the ultimate day trip. Pack a picnic and take to the rural hotspot of Wooded Gully, only an hours’ drive inland from Christchurch city. Starting at the picnic area, choose from the Kereru Loop (2.5km round trip), Forest Loop (3km round trip), and the Red Pine Loop (6km round trip). Each loop weaves through beech forest with some steep sections but are suitable for families. The track has recently reopened following upgrades, so is ready for a busy walking season.
Tip: Stick together as a group, especially if you’ve got young ones keen to race ahead, or a group with varying walking speeds. If you want tips on walking as a group, check out this handy video.
Hooker Valley Track, Aoraki/Mt Cook
The Hooker Valley Track is action packed with two incredible swing bridges coupled with views of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mueller Lake. If you’re lucky you can even hear avalanches or spot a few kea (New Zealand’s native mountain parrot).
Tip: Being near the the country’s tallest mountain means the weather is very changeable, so check the latest weather forecast and track conditions.
Forks Flat Track, Southland
For those on a Southland road trip, or even locals, the Forks Flat Track is a rural, 3.6km loop track, north of Invercargill. It is a a well-formed easy hour loop taking the family through native forest of matai and kahikatea alongside the Dunsdale stream and passing a small waterfall.
Tip: The first section of the track to the waterfall is buggy friendly.
Take the basics to keep the family comfortable and safe on a day hike
Even for a short walk when the sun is shining, be prepared for the unexpected and pack appropriately. What you take with you will make all the difference if something were to go wrong such as getting lost, delayed or injured.
- Waterproof Jacket
- Warm Clothing (Not Cotton)
- Hat and Gloves
- Sturdy Footwear
- Packliner + Pack
- Water and Food
- First Aid Kit
- Map and Compass or GPS
- Emergency Communications Device (Personal Locator Beacon – PLB)
- Sun Protection
- Walking Poles
Find more kid-friendly hikes
Narrowing down this list was hard work! These are just a few of our favourite family-friendly walks across the country, but there are so many other incredible trails to explore.
Check out Plan My Walk or download the app to find a walk near you. It’s completely free to use and was developed to help you plan safe and successful outdoor adventures. Happy walking!