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Best huts on the Great Walks

Image of the September 2020 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
September 2020 Issue

Though they come with an inflated price tag, Great Walk huts tend to be a cut above the rest. Here are our favourite huts from each of the classic tracks.

Waihohonu Hut – Tongariro Northern Circuit – 28 bunks
Huts don’t come much more modern than Waihohonu. Not only does it feature a massive living space with an efficient wood burner and stunning picture frame windows that offer views to Mts Ruapehu and Ngāuruhoe – two of the North Island’s most iconic mountains – it has solar-powered electric lights.

Take in the comforts here and then wander to the nearby Old Waihohonu Hut to get a feel for what the peasantry had to put up with back in the day.

Tieke Kainga – Whanganui River Journey – 20 bunks
The only marae accommodation to be found on any Great Walk, Tieke Kainga is an unforgettable experience. A large deck envelopes the kitchen/dining area and separate sleeping quarters, and a beautiful lawn provides views to the river below. If whanau are present, visitors will be welcomed to the marae with a powhiri, so if you’re unsure, brush up on tikanga Māori protocol before visiting – and remember to leave your shoes outside.

Waiharuru Hut – Lake Waikaremoana – 40 bunks
Resting on the shore at Upokororo Bay, Waiharuru Hut is a secluded paradise a stone’s throw from the water’s edge. A spacious interior gives the hut more of a hall vibe, and a lawn dotted with daisies and punga offers plenty of space for kids to play, or for lounging on summer days after a dip in the lake. The hut is popular with trout fishermen, and if you’re lucky on your stay, you may get to indulge in some real tramping kai.

Whariwharangi Hut – Abel Tasman Coast Track – 20 bunks
Historical Whariwharangi Hut is a world apart from the other huts on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. It’s a restored two-storey farmhouse originally built in 1896 and restored in 1980. Arrive early to enjoy a snore-free sleep in the twin room upstairs.

James Mackay Hut – Heaphy Track – 28 bunks
There’s a distinct feeling of starting a new chapter upon reaching James Mackay Hut. Sitting at roughly the halfway point of the nearly 80km Heaphy Track, the hut marks the beginning of the coastal segment of the walk, and the first views to the mouth of the Heaphy River and Tasman Sea. The new hut, built in 2014, is luxurious, with a spacious and well-lit kitchen and living space. A nearby swimming hole is well worth the visit – especially at night for a chance to spot powelliphanta. Best of all, there are slightly less sandflies than at Heaphy Hut.

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Waihohonu Hut features solar-powered lights and large windows to show off the view towards Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngāuruhoe. Photo: Rachael Hockridge

Pororari Hut – Paparoa Track – 20 bunks
As one of the newest Great Walk huts (it was built in 2019) in the country, expect warmth and mod-cons like lighting. You’ll find bike racks outside, four gas cookers inside and plenty of tables and bench seats. The hut sits on a knoll overlooking one of the oldest native forests in the country and boasts 360-degree views – from sea to mountain range.

Routeburn Falls Hut – Routeburn Track – 48 bunks
Few views on the Routeburn rival those from the outstanding Routeburn Falls Hut, perched on stilts amongst mossy beech alive with kākā, titipounamu and robin. Behind roars the impressive falls, which provide a constant flow of freshwater and a wonderful spot to enjoy a meal or hot bevvy. From the deck, the Humboldt mountains are towering and inspiring, especially with a dusting of snow. This is a hut you’ll be sad to leave.

Mintaro Hut – Milford Track – 40 bunks
At the foot of the climb to Mackinnon Pass sits Mintaro Hut, the quaint second hut on the famous track. With beautiful views of the often waterfall-scattered Clinton Valley, it’s the perfect possie to relax before the gruelling third day over the pass. Its sheltered deck will be a welcome sight after a battle with Fiordland rain. A short walk leads to Lake Mintaro, a good spot for an icy dip or for views of 1847m Mt Balloon.

Luxmore Hut – Kepler Track –56 bunks
There was only ever one competitor in the running for the Kepler Track’s best hut. With staggering views over Lake Te Anau and the Murchison Mountains, Luxmore Hut was built to impress. Visitors not content to chill out and take in the superb views are spoilt for side trip options. In fine weather, a half-hour climb takes trampers to the summit of Mt Luxmore, 1472m, and Luxmore Cave – a 10min walk away – takes explorers as deep as they dare to delve.

North Arm Hut – Rakiura Track – 24 bunks
Careful, you may miss this hut: painted forest green and with a tin roof that perfectly matches the waters of North Arm on a cloudy day, you’d be forgiven for accidentally walking by. But for those lucky enough to stay here, it’s the likelihood of hearing kiwi calling at night that is the main attraction (actually seeing the national bird is strictly for the lucky). The location is also hard to beat, situated as it is overlooking North Arm.