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DOC’s best huts

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

Six of the best newly-built DOC huts that are perfect for family getaways.

Some of the best-located and designed huts have been built over the last 15 years by DOC. Sometimes, these new huts replaced older ones; other times they were built in locations where no hut had stood before. Double-glazed, insulated, and often with cosy wood-burners and welcoming verandas, these huts have a lot to commend them – especially for family tramps. Here are six huts, spanning almost the length of the country and all are well worth a summer trip.

1- Pahautea Hut, Pirongia Forest Park
Pahautea Hut sits in a saddle near the summit of Pirongia, one of a series of extinct volcanoes that form an arc across the Waikato. The hut is the third on this site; the first was a basic shelter, and the second a small six-bunker – which now serves as a hut warden’s quarters, or overflow for the new 20-bunk hut which was opened in 2015. Te Araroa Trail hikers often write appreciative comments in the hut book, as this is the first public hut they encounter when walking southbound. Allow 3-3.5hr from Corcoran Road.

2- Crosbies Hut, Coromandel Forest Park
Coromandel Forest Park has only two huts, but both of them are distinctive. The 80-bunk Pinnacles Hut in the largest public hut in New Zealand and Crosbies has an unusual design unlike any other, with unconventional angles and corners which are not entirely square. The 10-bunk hut was opened in 2010. Several tracks lead to the hut from the Thames Coast, or from the Kauaeranga Valley, most of them taking 4-5hr.

3- Purity Hut, Ruahine Forest Park
I’ve spent a couple of nights in the draughty, cold confines of the old three-bunk Purity, which was stuffed into atiny clearing among the pahautea trees on the western flanks of the Hikurangi Range. I don’t miss the bad bunks, dirt floor or leaking roof one bit. Give me the new, comfortable, superbly-located Purity Hut which offers views towards the mountains of Tongariro and Taranaki. It was built in 2006. Direct access to the six-bunk hut crosses private farmland, and access issues mean you will have to secure permission well in advance and provide a koha to the farmer. Otherwise, tramp over the ranges from the east by way of the Waipawa, Waikamaka and Kawhatau Valleys.

4- Sylvester Hut, Kahurangi National Park
Sylvester Hut (12 bunks), perched at the bush edge on the flanks of the Lockett Range, provides grand views over the Arthur Range and Cobb Valley, and occupies one of those locations that, like Goldilocks’ porridge, is ‘just right’. Open tussock next to a copse of beech trees give it a sheltered feel and it serves as a good base to explore the Lockett Range beyond. Built in 2002, it replaced a dank hut that was situated on a shady slope below.

5- Nina Hut, Lake Sumner Forest Park
Unlike its predecessor, which was located in a frigid, damp and sunless location, the 2002 version of Nina Hut is wonderfully located amid a curiously stunted copse of beech trees and Dracophyllum shrubs, and overlooks the peaks surrounding the Nina Valley. It’s reached on an easy track beginning from the Lewis Pass Highway, which takes about 2.5hr. Look for riflemen flitting through the nearby canopy.

6- Green Lake Hut, Fiordland National Park
Green Lake has the distinction of being created from the world’s largest known landslide. Some 12,000 years ago, a colossal rupturing of the Hunter Range occurred, sending millions of tonnes of debris into the valley for over 2km, creating the dam behind which the lake formed. DOC built a pleasant 12-bunk hut near its shores in 2006. The hut can be reached on an easy track from Borland Road, but, when the weather allows, an even better route goes over the Borland Tops and passes a series of stunning tarns.