We’ve put together a list of the most common questions we are asked about the TA. For comprehensive tips and guidance on planning your TA hike, visit our ‘Tips for planning your TA hike’ page.

How much road walking really is there on the TA?
How does the TA compare to the PCT?
Should I only walk the South Island? / Is the North Island worth it?
How difficult really is it?
How cold does it get on the trail?
What is hitchhiking like in New Zealand?
What shoes did you wear and how long did they last you?
What’s with the ‘hazard zones’?
Do you need to carry a tent on the South Island?
How did you resupply along the trail?

How much road walking really is there on the TA?
The amount of road walking will vary from year to year. When we hiked the trail in 2018/19, a large section of Northland forest had been closed due to Kauri Dieback disease and the Trust had no option but to re-route the trail onto roads. These forests re-opened for the 2019/20 season. Expect such changes year on year as the trust deals with complex issues such as conservation and relationship management with landowners. We don’t have an exact km number for you but we expect we encountered over 300 km of road in 2018/19. The trust made a commitment in 2019 to reduce the amount of road walking to under 5% of the total trail but as it stands today there are stretches of road piecing together most sections of the North Island.

We encourage you not to let the roads deter you from hiking the TA. We hitchhiked a number of the long road sections and had a wonderful experience meeting kiwis and tourists which we never would have had the chance to meet otherwise.

If you do plan to walk the whole trail end to end, including the road sections, be aware that roads are hard on your feet and joints, not to mention hot to walk on and in some sections, dangerous with narrow shoulders and fast moving traffic.

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How does the TA compare to the PCT?
The TA and the PCT are like chalk and cheese. While I don’t like to compare the two trails because they are so different we are asked this question a lot so we have written a separate blog post about it.

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Should I only walk the South Island? Is the North Island worth it?
This is a question we asked ourselves when we were planning our hike. We had read many negative opinions about the North Island, its road walking, close proximity to developed areas, bushwhacking through forests and battling with electric fences and farm animals. In the end, we decided there were more sections of the trail on the North Island that we wanted to experience than those which we didn’t, and decided to hike both Islands. We decided that we would start from Cape Reinga with the objective not to walk every km, but to enjoy ourselves. If we came to a section of trail we didn’t think we would enjoy, we would skip it. In the end, this approach worked very well for us. People hike long trails for a myriad of reasons so we understand this approach isn’t for everyone but I would encourage you to really think about why you want to hike the trail and what you want to get out of it when deciding what sections you do or don’t want to hike.

Everyone has a different opinion and everybody has different tastes and preferences so we encourage you to read as many different opinions as you can but here is what we LOVED about the North Island:

  • Cape Reinga. Starting the trail at the most spiritually significant place in New Zealand is pretty special.
  • Spotting wild horses and New Zealand fur seals along 90 mile beach
  • Slogging through the Northland Forests was an initiation, right of passage and insight into the fun yet to come.
  • Puketi Kauri Forest.
  • Kerikeri, it’s delicious citrus fruit, friendly locals and local packers market.
  • Paddling through the stunning Bay of Islands, from Paihia to Punaruku.
  • Hiking up stream through the beautiful Russell Forest.
  • The innumerable opportunities to stop for ice cream.
  • Walking through a Manuka honey farm on the Helena Ridge Track.
  • Walking out of Whananaki on the longest foot bridge in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Taking in Tane Moana. At 11 meters in circumference it the largest Kauri Tree remaining on the East Coast.
  • Spotting seal pups on Ocean Beach.
  • Spectacular ocean views from Bream Head.
  • Unbelievably blue ocean views from the Cliff Walkway to Mangawhai Heads.
  • The incredible hospitality of trail angels and camp hosts at Nikau Bay, Tidesong, the Green Bus Stop, Dragon Spell, Stillwater Motor Camp, the Bartlam’s Family Homestay, and Paekakariki Holiday Park just to name a few.
  • Puhoi Pub and General store and a paddle down the Puhoi River.
  • Sunrise crossing of the waist-deep Okura River in our underpants.
  • Long Bay Coastal walkway into Auckland.
  • Playing tourist for a few nights in Devonport.
  • Walking across the country in one day on Auckland’s Coast to Coast Walk.
  • Cathy’s pies at Rangiriri, placing in the top 10 pie shops in the country 3 years running!
  • Hakarimata Walkway and the Kauri Forest.
  • Summiting Mt. Pirongia and taking a reprieve in a mountain top hut.
  • Underground tubing with the glowworms of Waitomo Caves.
  • Cycling the Timber Trail, one of New Zealand’s Great Rides.
  • Walking through New Zealand’s oldest National Park and dual world heritage site on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
  • Paddling from Taumarunui to Wanganui on the Whanganui River Journey, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Visiting the Bridge to nowhere and staying at Flying Fox retreat.
  • The Black sands and petrified driftwood of Turakina beach.
  • Traversing the spectacular Tararua Ranges.
  • A week long coastal holiday in Paekakariki, slackpacking the Kapiti Coast, Escarpment Track and into Wellington’s CBD.

In summary, would we recommend hiking the North Island? Yes. Not only will you experience some incredibly beautiful scenery you will also get an insight into Kiwi lifestyle and Maori culture which you won’t get from passing through the tourist towns of the South Island.

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How difficult really is it?
The TA is no walk in the park. Over the 3,000km from Cape Reinga to Bluff you will encounter everything from concrete coastal footpaths to forest trails of thigh deep mud, electrified cow paddocks to foot wide mountain goat tracks. Whilst the TA is physically challenging anyone with an average fitness baseline can take on the adventure, it is the mental challenge of dealing with difficult trail conditions, unpredictable weather and unplanned setbacks which will make or break you on a thru-hike.

To put it in perspective, we are both accountants, desk dwellers. Leading up to our hike Adam had little time to train due to a heavy workload and was feeling under-prepared starting out in Cape Reinga. Leigh had spent 4 months living and working in Phnom Penh before the hike where the access to hiking trails is pretty much non-existent. To address our under-preparedness we started slow, with low km days and built up to walking longer distances. We listened to our bodies, took multiple breaks throughout the day and took rest days in town whenever we needed them. Starting slowly and easing our way into trail life let our bodies adapt. You will be amazed at how quickly your body can adapt to hiking day after day after day.

Daily km
We get asked this a lot, how many km’s did you walk each day on the TA? This really depended on the trail conditions. An average day was around 25km. A good day walking on flat, well maintained trail was up to 35km. On a day we were dealing with thigh deep mud, difficult river crossings or steep rocky mountain goat tracks it could be as little as 8 – 10km. We would move anywhere from 1km per hour to 4km per hour.

Terrain / trail conditions
In general, other than their Great Walks, expect trail conditions in New Zealand to be rugged. They are not well groomed and some sections of the TA are largely un-maintained due to a number of reasons, lack of funding and extreme weather conditions to name a couple.

You can expect the forests to be muddy. Very muddy, up to your thighs and unable to pull yourself out level muddy. Expect little more that rugged goat tracks through some of the more mountains regions, coupled with unpredictable weather and strong winds.  Through paddocks and farmland expect to deal with ankle twisting potholes, countless electric fences and angry bulls. Statistically, you will get a shock from an electric fence at some point during your hike. Unless you hitch the roadwalks you will encounter a number of near misses from trucks and cars and, if it’s raining, be constantly sprayed with runoff water. On the beaches, be sure to time your hike to low tide or you could be walking for hours in soft sand dodging rouge waves.

Basic navigation skills are a must for the TA, the trail is often unmarked and can be confusing to follow in sections. This can be due to a number of reasons, washouts, dense forest or in some cases there is no trail and you are expected to make your way up a riverbed.

Our primary method of navigation was Guthooks. You can read more about our approach to navigation here but in short we found Guthooks to be invaluable. Often the TA will intersect with multiple trails, unmarked on your topo maps but marked in real life with the same orange triangle. This makes compass and map navigation difficult for even the most skilled navigators and for that reason, we suggest some sort of GPS. We still carried paper maps and the trail notes as a back up and relied on them heavily for our planning but using a tool such as Guthooks makes access to difficult to navigate terrain such as that which you will encounter on the TA, much more accessible. We met people hiking the trail relying solely on map and compass but they found it difficult. Make sure your nav skills are on point if you do decide to take on the TA without some form of GPS.

As mentioned above, you will encounter plenty of hazards along your TA journey. These range from the humorous electric fences and raging bulls to the dangerous, river crossings, motor vehicles and high speed winds. Read more about the unpredictable New Zealand weather , ‘hazard zones’, and river crossings you are likely to encounter on the TA on our post here.

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How cold does it get on the trail?
The temperatures you experience on the trail will largely depend on when you hike it. In 2018/19 we hiked the trail Southbound starting mid October and ending mid March. We only experienced a couple of nights where the temperature dropped below freezing, this was on the South Island. Before hiking the trail I had read a few blogs of previous hikers and formed the general opinion that the North Island would be warm every night. Coming from Australia and being a cold sleeper I probably have a different definition of what is warm than someone coming from the Northern states of America, however we experienced several chilly nights on the North Island. Whilst it didn’t ever drop below freezing or snow it was quite often in the low teens (Celsius).

If you are hiking Southbound between September to April you shouldn’t be experiencing snow or extremely harsh conditions but will likely experience a few nights where the temperature drops below freezing. You can read more about our approach to our sleep systems here. Please note however, the weather in New Zealand can change rapidly so you need to be prepared for cold snaps and severe rain.

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What is hitchhiking like in New Zealand?
Neither of us had hitchhiked prior to hiking the TA. It was one of myriad of first experiences we had on the trail. Our very first hitch was getting ourselves to the start of the trail.

As novices, New Zealand is a great place to hitchhike, Kiwis are friendly, open people and the country has a low crime rate so people are generally more open to helping out and picking up strangers. We were very nervous about hitchhiking but by the end of the trail learnt to enjoy the experience. to me it always felt a little like human lotto, you never knew who was in the car that would eventually stop for you. We met some incredible people whilst hitchhiking, from the overwhelming generous, to the salt of the earth Kiwi characters to the backpackers from all corners of the globe. Sure it was always a little nerve wracking wondering how long it would take you to get a ride but we never had any negative experiences hitchhiking in New Zealand.

The TA is a fairly young trail which means people are still learning about it. We found that small towns and communities knew about the trail and would look out for and pick up hikers, however, passing through larger towns and tourist towns, most people didn’t know about the trail. This in itself is a wonderful experience, to be able to share your experience and knowledge of the trail with people who haven’t yet learnt about it. It also means however, that we have a responsibility to leave make a positive impression on these people to ensure they continue to pick up TA thru hikers in the future.

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What shoes did you wear and how long did they last you?
Shoes are by far the most asked about piece of gear or clothing. For this reason we have written all about our shoe choices here on our planning page.

In short we both used boots and trail runners on the trail. The longevity of your shoes will very much depend on what type of shoe you are using. Because we both started in boots we went through less pairs than what we would have if we wore trail runners for the entire trail. Adam went through a total of 3 pairs and Leigh went through 2 pairs.

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What’s with the ‘hazard zones’?
Hazard Zones are areas which the TA trust deems unsafe to navigate on foot and has deemed a natural break in the trail. Aside from Cook Strait (where you will take a ferry from the North Island to the South Island) there are two major Hazard Zones on the TA, the The Rangitata and Rakaia rivers.

You can read more about the hazard zones and how we navigated them, here on our planning page.

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Do you need to carry a tent on the South Island?
Yes! Whilst the South Island has an incredible hut system you will not be able to sleep in a hut every night. When we hike the trail in 2018/19 it was experiencing a surge in popularity and there were many occasions where we arrived at huts to find them full.

South Island weather can be unpredictable and change rapidly so make sure you always carry a shelter.

You definitely need tent for the North Island as you will be camping most nights.

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How did you resupply and send yourself gear along the trail?
We took a flexible approach to our resupply strategy, primarily resupplying from the trail towns as we went. We only sent 2 resupply boxes the entire trail, both on the South Island and if we had our time over would have only sent one, to St Arnaud. You can read more about our resupply strategy here.

Bounce box
If you are an international hiker, a bonce box is a great way to store and send yourself extra gear which you may require intermittently along the trail. We used a bounce box to store extra warm layers, town clothes and extra toiletries. They can be a little painful to manage as you need to make sure you are in town when the post office is open in order to collect them and send them on but they are definitely helpful.

New Zealand has a great system called Poste Restante which you can use to send your self and collect packages from the post office network. It isn’t available at all post offices but major towns will offer this service. Read more about using bounce boxes and New Zealand’s Poste Restante system here.

You can read more about replacing gear along the trail on our tips page. It can be difficult replacing lightweight hiking gear in New Zealand, gear is generally more expensive than in the U.S. and Australia and the variety available from outfitters can be limited. We found using a bounce box or ordering online Poste Restante to be the easiest way to deal with this.

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