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January 2020 Issue
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Peak to pub

You can’t get more iconic that the Chateau Tongariro, opened in 1929. Photo: Matthew Cattin

Nothing beats a cold beverage and a hearty meal after a day in the hills. Luckily, New Zealand’s mountains and pubs go together like mince and cheese.


1. Te Aroha to The Grand Tavern, Waikato

At 937m, Te Aroha is the tallest summit on the Kaimai Range, offering views across the Waikato all the way to the peaks of Tongariro National Park.

The small town of Te Aroha sits right at its feet, making it one of the most accessible summits of its size in the North Island.

A return trip takes 5-6hr and begins from the Te Aroha Domain. Trampers should be prepared for alpine conditions on the summit, which receives occasional dustings of snow in winter and frequent white-outs.

A warm-up meal can be found seven minutes’ walk down the road at The Grand Tavern – a historic pub built in 1880 when gold was discovered in the Waiorongomai Valley. Staff recommend the classic Kiwi smorgasbord of meat, roast veggies, salads and desserts, served from Friday to Sunday with a splash of Waikato draught on tap.

2. Mt Ruapehu to Chateau Tongariro, Tongariro National Park

Mt Ruapehu is the North Island’s highest mountain, but its accessibility puts it within half a day’s reach of budding mountaineers. The easiest route to the summit is via the Whakapapa Ski Field. The summit can be reached in 2-3hr from the top of the Waterfall Express chairlift, though crampons and ice axes are required in winter. For a bougie post-climb treat, look no further than Chateau Tongariro, where hungry trampers can enjoy a rousing glass of mulled wine, the Chateau’s signature high tea or classic steak dinner.

Opened in 1929, the grandiose hotel is perhaps New Zealand’s most iconic mountain resort.

Its architecture and location will remind Stephen King fans of the Overlook Hotel, and its use as an asylum in the 1940s adds intrigue for fans of the paranormal, who believe the rooms to be haunted by a nurse named Charlotte.

3. Mt Fyffe to The Pier Hotel, Kaikoura

Mt Fyffe offers an accessible alpine experience for the price of an eight-hour return trip. On a clear day, the views of the east coast are staggering, and extend south to Banks Peninsula.

From the car park, a 4WD track ascends all the way to the summit and is suitable for walking and mountain biking. The climb isn’t technical, but care should be taken in winter and poor weather conditions.

Return via the same track and pop in to the vintage Pier Hotel. Built in 1885, the classic Kiwi pub was originally located near the old wharf and was the home of pioneer George Fyffe, whom Mt Fyffe is named after. It was later shifted to its current location on the seafront Esplanade. It’s one of the hottest tables in town, so booking is essential. Fresh crayfish, paua, mussels and fish are popular options, as is the local wine selection.

4. Avalanche Peak to The Bealey, Arthur’s Pass National Park

Avalanche Peak is a popular summit accessed from Arthur’s Pass Village. As the ominous name suggests, the route is prone to avalanches in winter and spring, and should only be attempted by experienced trampers in these conditions.

There are two tracks leading to the summit – Avalanche Peak Track and Scott’s Track – and they begin just 700m apart and can be walked in a 6-7hr loop.

Avalanche Peak Track is steeper, and makes for a safer ascent.

Return on Scott’s Track to enjoy a well-deserved beverage at The Bealey, a classic southern lodge built in 1865. Staff recommend the Moa rhubarb cider and IPA on tap, the homemade deep dish venison pie and the beer-battered blue cod.