New Zealand’s hiking trails offer a catalogue of wonders

Kiwis work hard to make hiking attractive. The maintenance on the trails hiked is impressive: crushed-rock trail beds; comfortable clearance even in the most dense areas of the beech- and fern-dominated rainforests; boardwalks that meander over wetlands; and well-built, if sometimes unnerving, suspension bridges that span the roiling creeks.

Richard Davies, a recreation manager for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, says millions of dollars are pumped into the country’s park areas annually, much of it devoted to trail development and maintenance.

“It hasn’t happened by chance,” Davies says of the manicured trails. “All our staff are working on certain service standards – how much vegetation is cleared, the gradient of the track, whether the watercourses are bridged or not. We can provide a really consistent service. Wherever you go in the country you get a similar experience.”

From hikes in the Bay of Islands on the North Island, to the southern regions of Fiordland National Park on the South Island, you will find this to be true. And there is good reason for the effort. The spectacular scenery this island nation has to offer is unsurpassed. Peter Jackson didn’t just film his J.R.R. Tolkien epics here because he didn’t want to leave his home country. The vertical landscapes, whether they anchor themselves in mountain rivers, broad lakes or the Pacific Ocean, perfectly lend themselves to fantasy.

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