National Parks of New Zealand

Thirteen Natural Preserves on the North and South Islands

Now comprising 30 percent of its land area, New Zealand's national parks and protected areas are taonga (treasures) of irreplaceable value. Many contain features of great historic and spiritual significance to the Maori. In 1887 the Maori chiefs of the Tuwharetoa tribe gifted their ancestral volcanic peaks of Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe in the central North Island to all the people of New Zealand, creating the country's first and the world's fourth national park (Tongariro National Park). Today, there are 13 such areas that preserve forever some of New Zealand's most spectacular scenery, its rare and endangered flora and fauna and its archaeological sites.

New Zealand also has two World Heritage sites. One comprises parts of Westland, Fiordland, Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring National Parks; and the other is Tongariro National Park.Complementing the national parks are 20 forest parks that offer magnificent scenery and many recreational opportunities. The Coromandel Forest Park, easily accessible from Auckland, boasts more than 30 walking trails through luxuriant forests, old volcanic landforms and historic mining sites, as well as fishing, swimming, camping, diving and sailing. Pureora Forest Park, central North Island, has been called"the finest wildlife habitat for endangered forest birds ever surveyed on mainland New Zealand."

Four maritime and historic parks protect rare vegetation, animals and archaeological sites on some of the most beautiful islands, headlands and coastal lands in the world. While most of these areas are open to the public for recreation, a permit is required to visit some remote island reserves that have been set up to protect endangered species.

Among these, the Bay of Islands Maritime and Historic Park is a subtropical playground of islands, bays, beaches and tidal inlets with mangroves.

This beautiful park in the north offers forest and coastal walks, boating, fishing, swimming, diving, big-game fishing and camping. Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park is right on Auckland's doorstep. The waters around its 47 islands are a boater's paradise.

North Island Parks

Egmont National Park , encompasses Mount Taranaki, New Zealand's most perfectly symmetrical volcano. The walks in this park extend from lowland rainforest, through alpine herb fields, to snow and ice.

Te Urewera National Park , is located southeast of Rotorua and is the largest forested wilderness area remaining on the North Island. Its prize feature is Lake Waikaremoana, with good swimming, fishing, boating, bird watching and walking tracks.

Tongariro National Park , resting at the southern end of Lake Taupo, has a strong historical connection to the Maori people, who gifted it as the country's first national park. It boasts two active volcanoes, including Mount Ruapehu (the North Island's tallest mountain) and many walking trails. A World Heritage Area, it contains lava flows, active craters, hot springs, lakes, grasslands, forests and alpine herb-fields. It includes the North Island's most extensive ski fields.

Whanganui National Park , lies between Egmont and Tongariro National Parks and features mudstone cliffs, stunning waterfalls and extensive lowland forests. The 105-mile Whanganui River affords an extraordinary canoe trip.

South Island Parks

Abel Tasman National Park , located on Tasman Bay at the very top of the South Island, is the smallest of New Zealand's national parks. Its four-day walking track skirts a beautiful secluded coastline of unspoiled, golden-sand beaches and rocky coves, set against a backdrop of forested hills. The popular three- to four day coastal walk is suitable for people of all ages.

More on Abel Tasman National Park

Arthur's Pass National Park , a paradise for alpine lovers, lies west of Christchurch. From its towering mountains to its rainforests, it can be viewed from the big windows of New Zealand's most memorable train, the TranzAlpine

Fiordland National Park, is bigger than the rest of the other parks put together. Its vast area includes extensive walking tracks, lakes, rainforests and stunning fiords, including the famous Milford and Doubtful Sounds.

Kahurangi National Park ,in northwest Nelson, is the newest national park in New Zealand and home of the Heaphy Track. Walkers on this track will follow a stunning coastline and pass through a palm forest, rainforests and high country downlands before descending to Golden Bay.

Mount Aspiring National Park is in north Fiordland. Its main geographical feature is Mount Aspiring, often called the Matterhorn of New Zealand. The park's rugged beauty offers some of the best hiking in New Zealand.

Mount Cook National Park , straddles the Southern Alps and includes 22 peaks over 10,000 feet. The tallest is Mount Cook at 12,317 feet. Visitors have many options here, from a 10-minute walk in the forest to an eight-mile ski run down the Tasman Glacier.

Nelson Lakes National Park , south of Nelson, is noted for its alpine flowers and is the perfect place to explore craggy ranges, crystal-clear lakes, wild rivers and beautiful beech forests.

Westland National Park , also on the West Coast, has the classic New Zealand"mountains to the sea" landscape. It offers fine walking tracks through lush rainforests. Don't miss the famous Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, among the most accessible in the world.

Paparoa National Park , is on the West Coast, where the amazing "Pancake Rocks," wild surf and blow holes -- huge waterspouts -- can be seen. Inland trails lead through a limestone country of caverns, canyons and disappearing rivers.


The Department of Conservation, which administers these areas, provides and maintains facilities, such as huts, tracks, camping grounds and picnic spots, and offers assistance and advice on how best to enjoy them. Some parks also have special facilities for the disabled.

Parks are open all year round and no permits are required to visit. Most parks have a visitor center, with displays, maps and guide books. During the summer, many parks run programs for visitors, including guided walks.

There are no entry charges for the parks. A fee is charged for overnight stays in campsites and back-country huts. Contact any Department of Conservation office for details.

For further information write to:

Department of Conservation
P.O. Box 10420,
Wellington, New Zealand.
Phone: (011644) 471 - 0726
Fax: (011644) 471 - 1082.

Thanks to the New Zealand Tourism Board for providing us with this information.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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