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August 2012 Issue
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Five family-friendly NI tramps

Stella Pegram, Lexi Stanton-Barnett, Will Pegram beneath pohutukawa, Peach Cove, Bream Head Scenic Reserve, Northland. Photo: Shaun Barnett

Peach Cove, Bream Head Scenic Reserve, Northland

Northland boasts some wonderful coastal tramps – and don’t just think sandy beaches and gnarled pohutukawa: at the Whangarei Heads spectacular peaks rise directly out of the sea; the eroded remains of basaltic volcanoes.

Peach Cove Hut, originally built by the Whangarei Tramping Club and now managed by DOC, is an excellent family-friendly destination for a day trip or overnighter. The easy track is gravelled and benched, and most kids will manage the walk in 1.5-2hr.

Nearby Peach Cove offers great swimming. A pohutukawa beside the hut has grown atop an enormous boulder, its roots snaking down over the sides. Book and pay for the hut in advance through DOC Whangarei (P: 09 470 3304) in order to get the code for the keypad lock.

Waihohonu Hut, Tongariro National Park

Some people have been disparaging about the size and elaborate design of this newest Tongariro hut, but I think it’s great. Built in 2010, the 27-bunk hut occupies a fine position on the Tongariro Northern Circuit and can be reached in a simple 2-2.5hr walk from the Desert Road.

There are two large bunkrooms, separated by an extensive living area and because it is fully-insulated and with a wood-burning stove, Waihohonu is warm. There are a number of decks and picnic tables to ensure there’s plenty of space even when full.

The hut is the third Waihohonu Hut – the original built in 1903-04 is a 10min stroll away.

Pouakai Hut, Egmont National Park

Mt Taranaki from Pouakai Range, Egmont NP, Taranaki. Photo: Shaun Barnett

Mt Taranaki from Pouakai Range, Egmont NP, Taranaki. Photo: Shaun Barnett

The Pouakai Range, the remnants of a once-perfect volcanic cone, offers outstanding views of Mt Taranaki. Easiest access to the 16-bunk hut lies on the Mangorei Track, an all-weather route from Mangorei Road. It’s a steady climb, but most school-age children of reasonable fitness should be able to handle it in 3-4hr.

Like many huts in the park, Pouakai is a comfortable Lockwood and boasts a wood-burning stove.

Get up early, wander onto the range and watch dawn steal over the perfect apex of Mt Taranaki.

Atiwhakatu Hut, Tararua Forest Park

DOC’s new Atiwhakatu Hut proves emphatically that a comfortable, well-insulated and warm hut has the power to attract many trampers. The old, dark Atiwhakatu Hut, built by the Forest Service for deer-cullers, served well enough, but hardly anyone stayed there in its final years.

But with 12 bunks, a wood burning stove, and a decent veranda for storing coats and boats, the new hut makes an ideal destination for families. The all-weather track from the Holdsworth Lodge is well graded and benched, and should take school-age children around 3-4hr.

Some kids might find the swingbridge over Holdsworth Creek a challenge, but the rest of the track has solid footbridges.

Stanfield Hut, Ruahine Forest Park

Stanfield Hut lies 2hr up the West Tamaki River, on the eastern flanks of the Ruahine Range.

The original Stanfield Hut, built by Dannevirke hunter Bill Stanfield in the 1940s, was replaced with the existing hut in the 1960s. In recent years, DOC has modified and improved the hut, providing a pleasant spot to pass a weekend.

I took my father Grant and son Tom in here. We opted to make a round trip by walking to the hut along Holmes Ridge Track, then returning the next day via the river. There’s no track along the river, so I was anxious about how Tom – then aged six – would handle it. He loved it and still rates it as one of his favourite tramps.