Many of the wonders of New Zealand are found in its national parks. Starting with Tongariro National Park which was established in 1887, today there are now 13 national parks, most of them located in South Island.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation is responsible for the administration of New Zealand's national parks. New Zealand has thirteen national parks covering an area of approximately 25,000 km². The largest is Fiordland National Park.
The main act for national parks in New Zealand is the National Parks Act 1980 provides for the creation of national parks or reserves in areas where the landscapes are of particular quality, as well as territories whose terrain or environment is scientifically and ecologically important, deserving preservation of national interest.
- 1 Abel Tasman National Park – one of New Zealand's most isolated parks named after Abel Tasman which is a good spot for tramping and known for beaches – something that not many associate New Zealand with.
- 2 Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park contains some of the highest mountains in New Zealand with 22 of New Zealand's 23 3000-metre peaks located within the park. It's one of the earliest protected areas in New Zealand, and today a popular hiking destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site under Te Wāhipounamu.
- 3 Arthur's Pass National Park may be another one of South Island's mountainous parks, but it cuts through Arthur's Pass – one of the most impressive passes in New Zealand
- 4 Egmont National Park is surrounded on all sides by pasture, giving its distinctly circular shape. Established in 1900, it was New Zealand's second national park and contains the dormant Mount Taranaki.
- 5 Fiordland National Park is New Zealand's largest national park home to several fiords as the park's name says. The best known of all is Milford Sound, followed by Doubtful Sound but all provide many tramping opportunities. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under Te Wāhipounamu.
- 6 Kahurangi National Park is New Zealand's second largest national park to the west of Abel Tasman in the north of South Island, popular for tramping, rafting and caving.
- 7 Mount Aspiring National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under Te Wāhipounamu just north of Fiordland. The park is not known for anything in particular, but has the landscape that many characterise New Zealand of.
- 8 Nelson Lakes National Park is known for its beech forests, several glacial lakes, snow-capped mountains and valleys created by glaciers.
- 9 Paparoa National Park is home to the very impressive Pancake Rocks formation on the West Coast of South Island. It is a popular stopover for travellers travelling along State Highway 6.
- 10 Rakiura National Park – comprises 85% of Stewart Island
- 11 Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's first national park and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing three volcanoes, and a popular destination for tramping and skiing.
- 12 Westland Tai Poutini National Park has several of New Zealand's most visited glaciers, including the Fox and Franz Jozef Glaciers. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under Te Wāhipounamu.
- 13 Whanganui National Park in the Whanganui region of North Island protects the northern forests near Whanganui River, but unfortunately the river is not part of the national park. Strangely, the river is legally a person and has the rights of a person too.