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Walk through ancient-looking fields studded with stands of web-pocked monoliths, climb the stepping stool over a gnarled fence, and slither into the slippery throat of Organ Cave, the first of the three caverns, where you’ll walk shin-deep along 200 yards of a subterranean stream to a vast canvas of glowworms.Then head to the poorly marked Middle Cave to find fluted limestone stalactites and constellations of glowworms streaked across the ceiling like a green Milky Way.But first, take a short detour across Lone Kauri Road to the paradisiacal Karekare Falls, a 100-foot horsetail cataract that plunges into a shallow pool where you can soak your tired feet or take a swim.
—Nick Davidson Some 30 miles of golden sand beaches, granite cliffs, and subtropical bush line this coastal track, lapped by clear azure waters where fur seals amass in play.
Named for the first European to set foot on Aotearoa’s idyllic shores, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is perhaps the least strenuous of New Zealand’s iconic Great Walks but equally rewarding.
Follow the dune ridges, lined with emerald cliffs and craggy outcroppings, to a rock tunnel and the vast, empty black sands of Karekare Beach, where seals crawl onto high, rocky perches thrashed by the surf.
Just past the Karekare Surf Club, you’ll take the Zion Hill Track back up the steep forested slopes to your car (via the Zion Ridge and Buck Taylor tracks).
In moody weather the jagged volcanic rock and steep climbs over barren landscape evoke an eerie sense of foreboding. Ngauruhoe—otherwise known as Mount Doom—in full glory on this 12-mile, seven-hour hike.
Even better, once you crest Summit Crater, you can take the optional side scramble up the mountain, which has no ordained path, if time and weather permit (add 1 to 2 hours).
Drop last into Ivy Cave through a steep and bouldery descent alongside a rushing stream.
You’ll plunge deep into a room with dripping walls and a cavernous ceiling of speckled phosphorescence before trudging back through muddy grass to your car.
Then head down the ridge from Red Crater to bask at the edge of the neon turquoise, geothermally heated waters of the Emerald Lakes before your final descent, another six miles through lava fields and tussocked meadows, to the Ketetahi trailhead where you’ll catch your bus back to the start.