New Zealand, an outdoor wonderland

Friday, April 27, 2018 2:47 PM

From glaciers to fjords and mountains to beaches, there is no shortage of geographical beauty and outdoor adventure opportunities in New Zealand.

I spent almost a month there mostly traveling around the South Island in a camper van with my friend Gail Harriss.

New Zealand is stunning and incredibly diverse; it is also one of the cleanest countries I have been to, and the locals everywhere are friendly and helpful.

This was not a running trip, although we did a fair amount of running and even entered a night race. The extensive “tracks,” as they are called, are amazing and offer many opportunities to get into the back country.

One of the coolest experiences was being helicoptered onto the Tasman Glacier and hiking through it’s myriad glacial features while hearing and seeing ice falls on the high peaks.

Hiking, or “tramping,” was the main event during this trip, and Gail and I did many day hikes and one four-day trek in Abel Tasman National Park.

This popular spot on the South Island was breathtakingly beautiful and so accessible and hiker friendly that it is understandably a very popular place.

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is within reach of most ability levels because of the availability of water taxis to take you from point to point, if necessary.

It is around 32 miles long or longer if you add on the view sites. We opted for a four-day trek that included many side trips and covered about 47 miles.

Each day offered up spectacular vistas along the beaches and cliffs overlooking the Tasman Bay.

We hiked to Cleopatra’s Pool, a natural water slide, saw glow worms at Awaroa and got to stay in the “haunted” Whariwharangi Hut, one of the many that abound in New Zealand for backcountry trampers.

After leaving the South Island, we ferried across Cook Strait to the North Island and spent a few days exploring the Lake Taupo region and the Tongariro National Park, where we were able to do the one-day, 19.4-kilometer Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The weather made this a challenging and adventurous experience with everything from fog and rain in the beginning miles to extremely high winds at the summit.

Luckily, the clouds dispersed and the sun came out just as we started our descent so that we could see the spectacular cerulean sacred pools and volcanic vents.

This was Gail’s favorite active experience.

“It was a total adventure, and so much fun to climb up with the wind, low clouds and precipitation moving in and out. It was a great feeling of accomplishment,” she said.

Our last few days on the North Island were spent at the base of Mount Maunganui where we had great running trails, water sports and beach access right from our campground.

We even entered a race while there called “We Run the Night,” which followed the beach road so we could hear the sound of the waves while running.

It was so much fun to experience a New Zealand race and interact with the local runners, many of whom were dressed in festive attire and ready for a running party.

I am already envisioning my return trip and thinking about the many new adventures I will have.

Reach Marjorie Brinton at