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Visitors will soon be spoilt for choice when taking a stroll along the scenic shores of Lake Wanaka - with the opening of three new river and lakeside walking tracks.
The Glendhu Bay Track, Hawea River Track and Clutha River Track will link Lake Hawea with the region of Luggate, in the Queenstown-Lakes district. Lake Wanaka has over 750km of recreational tracks, catering to everyone from gentle strollers to seasoned hikers.
Sections of the new network will cross into Te Araroa, a 3000km nationwide walking and tramping trail which extends from Cape Reinga in the north of the North Island to Bluff at the southern point of the South Island.
Te Ararao is scheduled to open early 2011 and, when complete, will be one of the world’s longest walking trails.
Paul Hellebrekers from the Wanaka Department of Conservation (DOC) says he hopes many visitors will take the opportunity to walk the tracks and sample some of Lake Wanaka’s best scenic highlights.
"The 45km of new tracks are a real conservation gain for the region," he says.
City of walks
Keen walkers will find plenty to keep them occupied in Wanaka - which already has a number of walking tracks suitable for all ages and abilities.
The Outlet Track, an easy walking track close to Wanaka township, winds along the banks of the Clutha River and takes visitors to some of the best trout fishing in the world. Brown and rainbow trout can be seen in the crystal clear waters of the river.
Another easy stroll is the Mt Iron track, set in a rocky, glacier-carved knoll that rises above the surrounding countryside, giving 360-degree views of the Clutha basin.
More adventurous hikers can challenge themselves with the Motutapu Track, a 34km alpine walk which takes three to four days to complete. The track follows a historic route which linked Wanaka and Arrowtown during the gold mining era.
World heritage park
Mt Aspiring National Park is a short drive from Wanaka and home to hundreds of walking tracks, rock climbing routes and trout fishing rivers. The park is part of Te Wahipounamu / Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area - and is considered a walker’s paradise.
At the heart of the park is Mt Aspiring, named ‘Tititea’ or ‘glistening peak’ by early Maori. It is located in the Southern Alps, bordered by Wanaka, Queenstown, Glenorchy and Te Anau.
One of the most popular and also challenging trails within the park is the Routeburn Track, which straddles both Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks. Guiding company Ultimate Hikes holds the only DOC-approved permit for overnight guided walks along the track during peak walking season.
Walking / hiking around New Zealand
New Zealand’s reputation for sustainable tourism is backed by its world-renowned ‘Great Walks’ - nine tracks dotted in scenic locations around the country.
The nine walks include the Milford Track in Fiordland, the Routeburn Track, the Kepler, Stewart Island's Rakiura Track, Tongariro National Park, Whanganui Journey and Lake Waikaremoana.
However, there are also hundreds of other opportunities for walking or hiking in New Zealand. These range from walking tracks on public conservation and private land to heritage trails of up to a day's duration in urban areas.
All New Zealand cities have great native bush walks nearby, making it easy to get off the beaten track. The New Zealand outdoors offers suitable walks for people of all fitness levels.