- Car park to Wainui Hut via Evans Ridge, 3-4hr; Wainui Hut to car park via Wainui Saddle, 1.5hr
- Wainui Hut, four bunks
- From Nelson, head west over the Takaka Hill. Near the top, take the 11km Canaan Rd to the Harwoods Hole car park
Wainui Hut circuit, Abel Tasman National Park
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is the most popular, and crowded, Great Walk. The allure of the coast means fewer trampers frequent the interior of New Zealand’s smallest national park, which features gentle rolling ridges and interesting marble rock formations.
While the Inland Track will take three days to negotiate, this simple circuit to Wainui Hut will provide an adequate taster of what the park has to offer.
From the tops of Takaka Hill, the remote Canaan Road meanders across the marble mountain, past the site of the annual Luminate Festival, eventually reaching a large car park and camping area at the road-end. The track to Harwoods Hole also begins here, as well as the Rameka mountain bike trail.
Wainui Saddle is an expansive grassy clearing, no more than an easy 30min amble via Pages Saddle. From here, the rolling grasslands are punctuated with the blackened stumps of dead trunks; a legacy of when farmers broke in the backcountry more than a century ago. After an hour you will arrive at a sign-posted junction of the Inland Track. A lookout here provides a grand view to the mountains of Kahurangi National Park: Iron Hill, Snowdon, and Devil River Peak.
Evans Ridge is a delightful romp through stunted beech and mountain neinei. Heading northward, this section of the Inland Track is a day’s journey, past Awapoto Hut, to the idyllic golden sands of Totaranui Beach. However, an hour is enough to get the general feel of this area, before a steep link track drops you down to the valley floor. A hop, step and jump over the Wainui River puts you into a large clearing, where the four-bunk hut is sited. It’s a frosty spot in winter, so you will need to crank up the open fireplace.
The return journey is merely a matter of following a gentle track up to Wainui Saddle and down to the Canaan Road. You will enjoy the exercise and be impressed with the prolific birdlife in these parts.
A café at the top of the road is a great place to check out local history, pat the pet lamas and black sheep and get liquid refreshments for the journey home.