The Kepler Track is probably the one of the New Zealand Great Walks with the easiest access, right out of Te Anau.
Essentially, I walked the Kepler Track in two days, starting out from Kepler car park in the late afternoon after returning back from the Routeburn Track, and camped at the Broad Bay campsite 5 km into the walk. As there are no camping spaces around the Luxmore hut, the next day is necessarily a long one: +1400 meter (very gradual) ascent past the Luxmore hut, continuing over a long ridge (the highlight of the walk), followed by a long descent to the Iris Burn campsite. A total of 24 km and 10 hours of walking.
The next and final day then offered a mellow 22 km through forest to the Rainbow Reach the crossing the Waiau river (one of the Ànduin locations in The Lord of the Rings).
In all honesty, though the Kepler Track it is a fine walk, it does not, in my opinion equal the nearby Milford and Routeburn tracks: While the highlight of the Kepler Track is a fine ridge walk overlooking fiords and with great views, it does not offer the unique New Zealand wildlife and fauna encountered on both Milford and Routeburn Tracks.
Highlights: The ridge walk.
Itinerary, Kepler Track, camping, Februaru 2015: Kepler car park-Iris Burn Campsite- Rainbow Reach car park.
As with The Milford Track, the main challenge of The Routeburn Track for individual walkers is securing a spot in the Lake MacKenzie Campsite/Hut located 20 km into this 38 km walk.
However, contrary to the Milford Track, Routeburn Track offers possibility of legally camping on the Greenstone Saddle, 33 km into the track, no booking requried. Thus, failing to having secured a spot at Lake MacKenzie, I then essentially walked the Routeburn in one day:
Starting at 11 am (after a failed bus pickup in Queenstown); walking past the golden meadows and crystal clear rivers up to the Routeburn Falls Hut (1:00 pm); onto Lake Harris and Harris Saddle (3:30 pm); down to Lake MacKenzie (6 pm) through the ancient lakeside forest; past the Earland Falls (8 pm); and finally, completely exhausted, the Greenstone Saddle (9.45 pm) minutes before complete darkness. The second day was an easy 5 km walk up to Key Summit and then down to The Divide and the bus back to Te Anau.
In this glorious weather, and after having walked all the other mainland Great Walks, I find the Routeburn to be the greatest of all New Zealand Great Walks.
MacKenzie Lake and the surrounding forest; The Earland Falls; Lake Harris and Harris Saddle; The bluest, clearest rivers and golden meadows.
The Tongariro Northern Circuit is a three-day circuit in the Tongariro National Park, one of the Great Walks of New Zealand, of which the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is part the first day when starting from Mangantepopo car park. There is no doubt that the first days walk, essentially the Tongariro Alpine Crossing ascending to the Red Crater next to Mt Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom), then descending next to emerald-blue lakes while steam emerges from the ground is spectacular and the highlight of the Circuit. The remainder of the circuit continues through the barren, desert-like landshape circling Mount Ngauruhoe. An optional sidetrip, which I, due to a flat tire, arrived too late in day to take is the summit climb of Ngauruhoe.
The Red Crater; The emerald lakes; walking through lava-sculpted landshapes.
Itinerary, Tongariro Northern Circuit, camping, January 2016: Mangantepopo car park-Oturere Hut-Whakapapa village-Mangantepopo car park.
In brief: The Lake Waikaremoana Track is the least popular of the New Zealand Great Walks, probably due to the difficult access. On the contrary it is this relative remoteness, which none of the other Great Walks has, that makes the walk exceptional:
40 km (GPS, officially it is 46 km) between the Onepoto and Whanganui huts circling part of the Waikaremoana lake, the highest point being the Pankire Bluffs overlooking the lake. Most of the walk is undulating through ancient forests next to the lake side which is quite tough at times. The Korokoro falls side-trip is a must!
The Lake Waikaremoana track could probably be walked in two days, spending the night either at Waiopaoa or Korokoro Campsite.
The biggest challenge of this walk is organizing transport from the trailheads. Even with a car, it can turn out a nightmare as the last 50 km of the road driving from Rotorua is unpaved.
The view from the Panakiri bluffs; walking through the ancient forests; the Korokoro falls.
Lake Waikaremoana Itinerary, camping, January 2016: Onepoto Landing-Waiopaoa Hut-Tapuaenui Campsite-Whanganui Hut-Onepoto Landing (boat).