The national parks of New Zealand are 14 protected areas administered by the Department of Conservation “for the benefit, use, and enjoyment of the public”. These are popular tourist destinations, with three-tenths of tourists visiting at least one national park during their stay in New Zealand. Although the national parks contain some of New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery, the first few established were all focused on mountain scenery. Since the 1980s the focus has been on developing a more diverse representation of New Zealand landscapes in the national parks. New Zealand’s national parks are all culturally significant; many also contain historic features. Tongariro National Park, in particular, is one of 27 World Heritage Sites that is of both cultural and natural significance, while four of the South Island national parks form Te Wahipounamu, another World Heritage Site.
List of national parks and national forests in New Zealand:
1. Te Urewera National Park and national forests
Te Urewera National Park is one of fourteen national parks within New Zealand and is the largest of the four in the North Island. Covering an area of approximately 2,127 km², it is in the north east of the Hawke’s Bay region of the North Island. On 28 July 1954, the catchment areas of Lake Waikaremoana, Lake Waikareiti and other Crown reserves were gazetted as a national park, and by 1957 proposals were well underway to add the rest of the Crown land in Te Urewera north of Ruatahuna. This proposal was formalised in November 1957 when an additional 1,350 km² were added.
2. Tongariro National Park and national forests
Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand, located in the central North Island. It has been acknowledged by UNESCO as one of the 28 mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Sites. Tongariro National Park was the fourth national park established in the world. The active volcanic mountains Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro are located in the centre of the park.
3. Egmont National Park and national forests
Egmont National Park is located south of New Plymouth, close to the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is named after the mountain which dominates its environs, which itself was named by Captain Cook after John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont, the First Lord of the Admiralty who promoted Cook’s first voyage. Taranaki has been the Māori name for the mountain for many centuries, and the mountain itself now has two alternative official names, “Mount Taranaki” and “Mount Egmont”.
4. Whanganui National Park and national forests
The Whanganui National Park is a national park located in the North Island of New Zealand. Established in 1986, it covers an area of 742 km² bordering the Whanganui River. It incorporates areas of Crown land, former state forest and a number of former reserves. The river itself is not part of the park.
5. Abel Tasman National Park and national forests
Abel Tasman National Park is a national park located at the north end of the South Island of New Zealand. The park was founded in 1942, largely through the efforts of ornithologist and author Perrine Moncrieff to have land reserved for the purpose. With a coverage of only 225.3 square kilometres, is the smallest of New Zealand’s national parks. The park consists of forested, hilly country to the north of the valleys of the Takaka and Riwaka Rivers, and is bounded to the north by the waters of Golden Bay and Tasman Bay.
6. Kahurangi National Park and national forests
Kahurangi National Park is a national park in the northwest of the South Island of New Zealand. It was gazetted in 1996 and covers 4,520 km². It is the second largest of New Zealand’s fourteen national parks. It was formed from what was called the North-west Nelson Forest Park. Kahurangi Point, regarded as the boundary between the West Coast and Tasman Regions, is located in the park, as are the Heaphy Track and Mount Owen.
7. Nelson Lakes National Park and national forests
Nelson Lakes National Park is located in the South Island of New Zealand. It was formed in 1956 and covers some 1,020 km². It is centered at two large lakes, Rotoiti and Rotoroa. The park also includes surrounding valleys (including Travers, Sabine, and D’Urville, upper reaches of the Matakitaki) and mountain ranges (Saint Arnaud Range, Mount Robert). The park is a popular area for camping, tramping and fishing. The park is administered by the Department of Conservation who operate a Visitors Centre in Saint Arnaud that provides up to date and reliable information on all aspects of the National Park.
8. Paparoa National Park and national forests
Paparoa National Park is on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It was established in 1987 and encompasses 306 km². The park ranges from on or near the coastline to the peak of the Paparoa Ranges. A separate section of the park is to the north and is centered at Ananui Creek. The park protects a limestone karst area. The park contains several caves, one of which is a commercial tourist attraction. The majority of the park is forested with a wide variety of vegetation.
9. Arthur’s Pass National Park and national forests
Arthur’s Pass National Park is located in the South Island of New Zealand. It was established in 1929, becoming the first national park in the South Island and the third in New Zealand. It is bisected by State Highway 73. The road passes through Arthur’s Pass village and the mountain pass with the same name over the Southern Alps at a height of 920 metres above sea level. The park is administered by the Department of Conservation and operate a depot, administration and information centre in Arthur’s Pass village.
10. Westland Tai Poutini National Park and national forests
Westland Tai Poutini National Park is located on the western coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Established in 1960, the centenary of the European settlement of Westland District, it covers 1,175 km², and extends from the highest peaks of the Southern Alps to a wild and remote coastline. It borders the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park along the Main Divide. Included in the park are glaciers, scenic lakes and dense temperate rainforest, as well as remains of old gold mining towns along the coast.
Other National Park and national forests in New Zealand
There’re some other national parks and national forests in New Zealand, that we don’t have enough time and information to list them here. They are:
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park: An alpine park, containing New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook (3,754 m) and its longest glacier, Tasman Glacier (29 km). A hotspot for mountaineering, ski touring and scenic flights, the park is an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Mount Aspiring National Park: A complex of impressively glaciated mountain scenery centred on Mount Aspiring/Tititea (3,036 m), New Zealand’s highest peak outside of the main divide.
Fiordland National Park: The largest national park in New Zealand and one of the largest in the world, the park covers the southwest corner of the South Island. The grandeur of its scenery, with its deep fiords, its glacial lakes, its mountains and waterfalls, make it a popular tourist destination.
Rakiura National Park: Covering about 85% of Stewart Island/Rakiura, this is the newest of the national parks.