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November 2014 Issue
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Best Tramping Towns: #4-10

Dragon's Teeth in Kahurangi NP. Photo: Mark Watson

Te Anau, Nelson and Wanaka were the three stand-outs in the poll. They were summit and saddle ahead of the other towns on the list. But that’s not to say others didn’t get a good share of support. Here are the ones that came close, each with tramping galore on its doorstep.

4. Arthur’s Pass

Towns don’t get wilder than here. Slap bang in the middle of its namesake national park, Arthur’s Pass offers a huge array of steep, energy sapping climbs through rugged, energy fuelling landscape. You don’t even need a car to start the climb to the likes of Mts Rolleston, Bealey and Avalanche. And the Southern Alps are rarely more scenic than on a winter’s day up the nearby Waimakariri River.

But perhaps the reason it fell just short of the top three is that it’s just a little too wild; snow would often block you in during the winter months and it’s 100km to your nearest supermarket.

5. Queenstown

It’s extraordinary to think that such a well-known adventure town spoilt for choice with epic tramps on all sides didn’t make the top three.

With the likes of the very achievable Ben Lomond, the impossibly beautiful Remarkables, the Richmond Mountains, Earnslaw Burn, Routeburn, Greenstone, Caples, Rees, Dart… phew!

But perhaps the town’s success is its downfall for this poll. For the many reasons you may choose to live in Queenstown, escapism is unlikely to be one of them.

6. Hokitika

This pretty seaside town was perhaps the choice for many who dare not live anywhere as remote as Arthur’s Pass. As well as having first class access to Hokitika Gorge and the extremely remote West Coast valleys, it’s also not far to the likes of Arthur’s Pass and Paparoa national parks.

The town itself has a good collection of cafes and pubs, not to mention excellent fishing and nearby kayaking. The house prices are pretty friendly too.

7. Taupo

At last – a representative from the North Island! Taupo’s probably better known for its fishing and mountain biking than for its tramping. But it has a surprisingly strategic location for the keen tramper. Not only is there an increasing number of trails around the lake itself, there is also a great choice of tramping around the Rotorua Lakes, especially with the newly-built Tarawera Trail less than an hour away.

And, of course, you’re within eyeshot of the great volcanoes of Tongariro National Park and the Kaimanawa mountains.

8. Ohakune

It would be hard to envisage a more appropriately placed town in the North Island, as far as access to mountains are concerned. Ohakune thrives in winter, as the skiers pile in, and has the feel of an alpine town. It’s far more sedate in the summer months, but as a tramper you’re already on the slopes of Ruapehu and the distance to Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and the eastern Kaimanawas is negligible. Imagine being able to decide each morning which summit to climb based on the weather!

9. Thames

The most northerly town in the top ten, Thames is in the prime spot for the best tramping in the Coromandel. Within minutes, you can be heading deep into the Kauaeranga Valley towards Pinnacles or Crosbies huts. You’re also pretty close to the tracks around Karangahake Gorge and the Kaimai Range.

Its proximity to the bright lights of Auckland and Hamilton, as well as to scores of gorgeous beaches, will certainly be a plus in some people’s eyes.


It’s hard to argue with this town as a true escape. Renowned for its relaxed, artistic vibe, Takaka has good access to the heart of Kahurangi National Park, via the Cobb Valley, Anatoki River and the Aorere River, which leads to the start of the Heaphy Track. It’s also not far to the northern end of Abel Tasman National Park with its gorgeous forest walks and golden beaches.

But it’s hard not to think about ‘that hill’ when considering whether you’d live in the town or not.