Let’s face it, for most Kiwis it’s been a tough year. There’ve been earthquakes, global financial crises and Dan Carter’s groin injury to contend with. Now, you need a break. But not just any break. You need the perfect weekend.
Here’re 30 to get you started.
Tararua Middle Crossing
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa
A trip with wonderful forest, tops, gorges and exercise.
Beginning at Otaki Forks, this challenging trip has two climbs, both over 1000m, initially onto the Main Range and then onto the Holdsworth – Mitre Range, before descending to Holdsworth Lodge near Masterton. Between them, the Waiohine River flows through a deep valley of beech and podocarp forest, much of it strongly gorged.
Climb beyond the Otaki Forks farmland through quintinia, kamahi, silver beech and the occasional mountain cabbage tree. Historic Field Hut offers a break en route to the tussock tops with their wide sweeping views around Kime Hut.
Next day, follow the Main Range through rugged country to Tararua Peaks. It’s a bit of a rock scramble approaching the peaks, but the greasy gutter separating rock walls has a ladder.
Maungahuka Hut is a fantastic location, tucked in by a tarn. The tops fall and rise into the distance, and at Aokaparangi bail off towards the Waiohine, bypassing the nifty new DOC biv and picking up a track at the bushline. The Waiohine River is bridged down here, giving access to Mid Waiohine Hut.
After a night here, there is a long haul up to Mt Isabelle and over Mt Holdsworth before dropping down past Powell Hut to Holdsworth Lodge.
Access Oak Forks, Otaki Gorge Road
Mt Griffin camp
Accessing the open tops of the West Coast’s Griffin Range is a pure wilderness experience. Only a very basic sparingly-marked track takes you through the lush West Coast lowland bush and into the sub alpine region and then onto the open ridge where you are free to roam. Golden tussock country, dotted with tarns, provides the perfect camping spots.
The Griffin Range is a series of spectacular cliffs and craggy outcrops that invite further inspection. The track is a legacy of some enterprising Germans who built a Serpentine mine on the north-east flank of Mt Griffin at almost 1300m. They were interned during the First World War but an old compressor, winches and part of the massive cableway that delivered their booty down into the Wainihinihi River valley still remain. You can explore their mine workings and scramble up to the band of serpentine that runs along the Razorback Ridge.
The climb to the top of Mt Griffin is straightforward and well worth the effort as on a clear day the view is nothing short of spectacular.
Access From Harrington Creek on SH73
Distance 6.76km to Mt Griffin
Abel Tasman National Park, Golden Bay
A great little hut, magnificent ocean beaches and solitude summarise this walk in this popular park.
This northern extremity of the park sees far fewer visitors than its southern section and by contrast is quiet but with all the idyllic charm of the more popular bays. An excellent loop trail starting and finishing at either Totaranui or Wainui Inlet leads to Whariwharangi Hut for the first night, with all its rustic beauty and the magnificence of the bay here. Then on to Separation Point to check out seals, ocean swells and views before heading south into Mutton Cove and wonderful Anapai Bay for a night camped at the beach. Sunrise here is something you dream about.
Finally back over the hill behind Totaranui to Wainui Inlet. It can be done in either direction making the most of the weather and conditions.
Access From the end of McShane Road
Great Barrier Island
Just 30 minutes from Auckland you can find yourself wonderful backcountry with a raucous collection of birdlife. Throw in hotpools, great beaches and a few facilities as well and you have the makings of a special trip.
Great Barrier Island is either a 30 minute flight or a two hour ferry ride from Auckland. Once on the Island it is easy to rent a car, or even better cycle around the quiet roads.
Port Fitzroy is the settlement that is best placed for tramping or mountain biking. Aotea Road starts from here and a number of tracks come off this, giving access to the craggy peaks culminating in Mt Hobson (627m). Two DOC huts, Kaiaraara and the new Mt Heale, are easily reached from here.
Hotpools can be reached from the Whangaparapara Road at the southern end of Aotea Road, but why not make an adventure of it and come down the Peach Track from Mt Heale Hut.
Access By plane or ferry from Auckland
Wharerino Forest, King Country
In search of a secluded sanctuary for a weekend of rest and relaxation? Deep in the depths of the north-west King Country, Leitchs Hut is an attractive destination. An easy track, comfortable cabin, crystal clear waters and best of all, the blissful solitude of unbroken quiet.
Hunters frequent this corner of the country; they’re after pigs, goats, the occasional deer and the elusive brown or rainbow trout. The Whareorino Forest is also home to threatened species such as the long tailed bat, Hochstetter’s frog and a new species similar to Archey’s frog. You may be fortunate to sight a blue duck, kiwi, kokako or kaka. You will definitely see paradise duck, which dominate the valley.
One of the original surveyors in 1902, Sam Leitch purchased the property, cleared the river flats of bush and lived there for a solitary 20 years. While the valley sides have now regenerated, the open river flats extend for a couple of kilometres along the Awakino River. The 16-bink Leitchs Hut, has a water supply, woodstove and a well-situated verandah to catch the morning sun.
The usual route is on Leitch’s Track, a benched three-foot pathway which takes three hours. Initially passing through a corridor of manuka, the track has a gentle gradient as it gradually climbs a low bush saddle, descending into the Awakino headwaters. From here the path skirts the clearing for half an hour until Sam’s surviving macrocarpa trees and eleagnus hedge betray the site of the hut.
Access At the end of Leitch Rd, accessed from Mangaotaki Rd
Christopher Hut by mountain bike
St James Conservation Area, Canterbury
This is a ride of beautiful river valleys, mountain passes, lakes and tarns. A classic high country pedal that endeavours to put a smile on your dial.
Surrounded by big spectacular mountains that are usually snow capped. Old stock routes provide excellent sections of single track and newly installed bridges join old farm 4WD tracks to them. Christopher Hut is the warmest hut in the park, catching maximum sun high up on the true right bank of the Ada River. There are many ways to bike to and from the hut, making the trip accessible to all abilities. There are gnarly routes to explore and big river crossings and carry sections to conquer in the remoter parts. It’s a place where you may see wild horses running free, catch a trout and even be tempted for a swim in the summer.
Access From the Shelter at Lewis Pass or for a longer ride from Boyle Village
Distance 21.3km to Christopher Hut
Kaweka Forest Park, Hawke’s Bay
Perfect weekends often involve places where the annual entries in a hut book can be counted on your fingers. This can be hard in the North Island, but with a three day weekend some remote country is easily reached on good tracks and with huts to stay at in Kaweka Forest Park.
Starting at Makahu Saddle gives you the advantage of driving to 980m altitude. You’ll be grateful for this as you reach the highest point in the Kawekas, the 1724m Kaweka J. From there it is a long but easy descent down Back Ridge to Rocks Ahead Hut. Options abound here to suit any fitness, enthusiasm or weather. One of the best would be to climb up onto Spion Kop and around to the remote Otutu Hut. Most of its users are fly-in hunting parties. The second day is a tops tramp over the Manson tops and down to the Ngaruroro at Kiwi Mouth. Then on the last day there are several possible tops routes back to Makahu Saddle.
You’ve only been gone three days, yet you will have had a real remote experience.
Access From Makahu Saddle, at the end of Whittle Rd
Coromandel Forest Park, Waikato
You won’t be alone here, but if you can get past the popularity of this palatial hut you will discover why the Pinnacles is probably one of the most visited places in the country. It’s been the closest public hut to Auckland for decades and despite the high usage and obvious modification of the hills by logging and mining, the Coromandel Ranges have their own charm.
Ascend the Webb Creek Track, nicknamed ‘the staircase’, which can be slippery and muddy after heavy rainfall. This soon tops out at the Hydro Camp and an undulating track skirts the scrubby ridge top further east. Dead ahead are The Pinnacles, monolithic volcanic plugs stabbing into the sky from dense vegetation. A junction is soon reached, leading along to the country’s biggest backcountry hut.
Architecturally designed to fit into its environs, Pinnacles Hut boasts 80 bunks and year-round hut wardens. Beautiful kauri enclose the balcony, framing the sea views eastward. The wardens sometimes project historical slide-shows using the energy from solar panels. If it’s too claustrophobic, you can camp at Dancing Camp Dam, now restored as an historic relic from timber milling days.
Follow the boardwalk for 45 minutes to climb up the Pinnacles (759m) proper.
The Billy Goat Track is a different way to complete this weekend circuit. Look out for the 180m Billy Goat Falls, before emerging at the Kauaeranga River.
Access From the end of the Kauaeranga Valley Road
Distance 5.25km to the hut
Cloudy peak climb
Cloudy Peak Range, Canterbury
From the dusty road to Erewhon are outstanding views of an array of peaks. Most of are on the Two Thumb Range, but closer to Erewhon Homestead the bulk of Cloudy Peak comes into view.
Cross the Clyde River (only practical in certain seasons – mid Feb to May is best) then continue up the Havelock. Just before Cloudy Stream, climb up to a terrace and sidle into Cloudy Stream picking up a ground track in the basin. The trail wanders through scrub, tussock, speargrass and lots of boulders to the basin under imposing rock climbing faces The Great Prow and Hourglass Wall. Near here are grassy campsites, but water is scarce with a few trickles to be found in gullies above.
Just south of the bluffs, a gravel gully leads east and then north to the main range. Depending on the season, the gravel may be snow slopes. From here, a rocky scramble leads onto the top. There are a couple of exposed moves and some might like a rope. The views sweep from Aoraki/Mt Cook to D’Archiac, past peaks on the Garden of Eden to the Armoury Range and the Arrowsmiths.
For a different way home, cross over the range and scramble down small bluffs into the basin east of Cloudy Peak and then sidle south past Mt Nolan and down a gully south east of it to the Clyde Valley. Some scouting around will be needed, but it’s not too hard.
Access From Erewhon Station (03 303 9739 for access permission), Hakatere Potts Road
Distance 14.8km to Cloudy Peak summit
Amuri Pass Crossing
Lake Sumner Forest Park, Canterbury
Amuri Pass offers an easy crossing of the Southern Alps, with much of the travel up the gentle Doubtful either lacing under delightful beech forest or winding across grass clearings. Towards the head of the valley, a short track leads to Doubtless Hut, a classic six-bunker and a great place to spend the first night.
A marked route to Amuri Pass crosses Phantom Flat, then climbs just above bushline offering views down both the Doubtless and Waiheke valleys. Here, the track picks up an old benched track built in the days of gold fever and follows it about one kilometre before markers lead down to the Waiheke River. The track finishes here but you don’t need it.
Open gravel riverbed through red beech forest is not difficult, leading to Slaty Creek Hut, a four bunk slab hut from the 1950s lovingly restored by DOC historic staff in 2010. With the fire going, it’s a fantastic place to overnight. The trip finishes with an amble down the Waiheke, surrounded by beech forest, to pick up the track leading to Waikiti Downs Station at the end of the road on the true left.
Access From SH7 at the junction of the Boyle, Doubtful and Lewis rivers
Raukumara Forest Park, East Cape
Hikurangi (1752m) has the distinction of being the highest non-volcanic peak in the North Island and is also of huge cultural significance to local East Coast Maori. Access to the peak follows a walkway over Pakihiroa Station, but Hikurangi Hut must be booked through Ngati Porou (www.ngatiporou.com/tourism).
The hut lies just 20 minutes above the car park, reached by following the poled route. Ascending Mt Hikurangi itself is not for the faint-hearted or unfit: it’s a solid 1500m climb and involves a bit of scrambling up a rocky gully, and an exposed traverse of the narrow summit ridge. But your efforts will hopefully be rewarded by a fine view of the extremely rugged Raukumara Range. Some trampers plan their ascent to coincide with the dawn, thereby becoming the first to see the sunrise from mainland New Zealand on that day.
Access From Pakihora
Mt Brown Hut
Hokitika, West Coast
Mt Brown Hut was built by volunteers in 2010. The hut overlooks Lake Kaniere 1000m below and views north and south along the alpine fault to ranges like Browning, Toaroha and Diedrich are stunning. To the east of the hut, the Newton Range climbs to Mt Brown at 1270m before snaking away in walls of scrub.
Geologist Creek tumbles into the southern end of Lake Kaniere. A DOC sign and car park on the true left indicates the start of the track up through quintinia, rata and kamahi forest. It is well marked and cut, but climbs steadily through sometimes steep bands to the tops. It’s a significant climb but well within the reach of averagely fit parties. Poles lead across the tops to the hut, which has the dinkiest stove.
A second marked route, not as developed as the Geologist Creek route, leads from the hut to the south-east down through leatherwood and along a ridge to the Styx River. Recent erosion means it’s not practical if the river is in flood. For a longer trip, head upvalley to the new 10 bunk Grassy Flats Hut, with wekas and possibly keas for company.
Access Geologist Creek on Dorothy Falls Road Kokore
Distance 3.7km to the hut
Comyns Hut mountain bike
Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury
The ride in follows part of the Te Araroa Trail and takes you up to the top of Turton Saddle, which is challenging and steep, but you are rewarded with excellent views and a great descent to the historic A Frame Hut. From there it’s down to the bottom of the valley to meet the origins of the Asburton River.
The valley is sheltered, especially from the massive nor’westers that rage in the adjacent Rangitata and Rakaia headwaters. The land has been retired from the original Double Hill Station run, but a good farm track remains. Spectacular eroding cliffs rise from the base of the Black Hill Range before the final climb and descent to Comyns Hut. The original was built in the very late 1800s and the second in 1957 of Dexion and corrugated iron. The newer one is a great base for a tramp onto the tops. You can head up Roundhill or one of the many peaks of the Taylor or Black Hill Ranges.
Access From Glenrock Stream on Double Hill Run Rd
Distance 14.6km to Comyns hut
Wild Mans Brother Range
Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury
The Wild Mans Brother Range sweeps down from the summit of Mt Arrowsmith to Lake Heron, separating the Cameron Valley from the South Ashburton. It’s glacial and rugged near Mt Arrowsmith, but eases to the rounded shoulders of more familiar Canterbury greywacke ranges.
The trip begins on the true right of the Cameron River, where cars can be left at the end of a short 4WD track. A ground trail leads up valley, threading over gravel and tussocks and weaving between matagouri stands. About 6km in, a nifty low saddle at 1280m offers an easy way over the Wild Mans Brother and into the South Ashburton. The landscape is different here – wide and spacious – and the travel easy. But the head of the valley is inspiring, with serrated ridges drained by the Ashburton Glacier.
The hut directly under the saddle is private, but a tidy 10 bunk ex-musterers DOC hut is less than 3km up valley across the river. This is a very easy day’s travel. Keep an eye out for kea, falcon, chamois and thar.
From here there are many options: poking around the glacier before returning; crossing Wild Mans Brother Range on one of at least two other low saddles back to the Cameron. The upper Cameron is a favoured approach to the Arrowsmith Mountains for climbers and tucked in the head just above moraine is the Canterbury Mountaineering Club’s Cameron Hut. It’s not difficult but first timers should keep an eye out for the sometimes lightly marked ground trail.
Access Hakatere-Heron Road
Distance Up to 35km
Lake Tennyson area, Canterbury
Remote and beautiful Mt Princess (2126m) lies near the head of the Clarence River in southern Marlborough. The peak straddles the dividing range between the Clarence and Waiau valleys and dominates the Lake Tennyson Basin from which it is normally climbed, up through the headwall bluffs of Princess Stream.
This route cuts through Princess Bath, an alpine tarn, and climbs to either the south-west or south-east ridge to the summit and a fantastic panorama of southern Nelson Lakes, Spenser Mountains, and the far away Kaikouras. With three days you could camp at Lake Tennyson, always agreeable, climb the peak, and either camp another night at Princess Bath or descend to the Wairau Valley, via one of the bush spurs to the west, spend a night at the tiny Caroline Creek Bivouac and tramp out to Lake Tennyson over Malings Pass. This would be challenging and rewarding weekend.
Access Tophouse Road
Distance 10.2 km to summit
Mariners Peak to Power Knob and out down Moeraki Valley
This demanding but practical three day trip begins near Lake Moeraki, climbs onto the range overlooking Lake Sweeney, bypasses Mariner Peak then swings south towards Power Knob. After descending from the tops, it returns to the road in the Moeraki Valley.
Access a spur where it steepens between Windbag Creek and Friends Creek from an unmaintained northern extension of the Haast Paringa Cattle Track. The beech forest offers reasonable climbing and a clean bushline, with a touch of scrub in a small saddle beyond. A tops camp can be made in the saddle beyond Mariners Peak.
Much of the second day is tops, drifting gently down from point 1476m. This is a grand ridge to be on, set in a large landscape with great views unfolding across the Paringa Valley and right through to Mt Hooker. Power Knob attracts lightening strikes.
From here, descend a spur south and west (nice tops campsites in good weather) to reach the Moeraki just up from Pegmatite Creek. There’s more scrub at this bushline, but a vague permolat line may help further down in the bush. Cross to the track and follow it down the valley, past Horseshoe Flat Hut to the Haast Highway.
Access From the Moeraki River on SH6
Isolation Hill Scenic Reserve, Marlborough
Sawcut Gorge is becoming popular with day trippers who wade the easy canyon beneath towering 200m bluffs to the spectacular 100m slash in the rock face through which the stream flows and which leads to the upper basin of Isolation Creek and its small hut. Most do not venture beyond the sawcut, though the hut is just an hour away.
There is good camping near the hut and a wild remote feel to the place so tarry a while and check out the options which include an ascent of Mt Ben More (1244m) southern Marlborough’s highest summit. It is accessed via a lightly marked track onto the ridgeline south of the hut. Other possibilities include a descent into Brian Boru Stream, or another climb, this time onto Isolation Hill. With three days you could enjoy some fine exploring from a base camp in the Isolation Creek and perhaps return to the Waima River via a traverse of Mt Ben More.
Access From the end of Ure road
Distance 4.9km to Isolation Hut
Lake Brunner canoe and camp
From a put-in at Mitchells on the western shoreline, you can paddle over to Bain Bay camping area and its large pleasant eastwards-facing beach and set up camp for a day or two of discovery. Most points of the lake can be accessed in about an hour or less of paddling from Bain Bay, therefore putting within reach Mitchells and the beautiful waterway of the Arnold River, together with its attractive walkway. On the eastern shoreline Iveagh Bay and its attendant wetlands lies directly opposite Bain Bay, and from here Te Kinga can be ascended as a day trip for a sweeping panorama of lake, bush, mountains, and ocean. Back on the lake there’s the quiet Orangipuku River delta to explore and the wonderful lake and forest interface that is such a remarkable feature of this large lake.
Evenings spent cooking dinner in the seclusion of Bain Bay as dusk settles over lake and mountain are a memorable way to complete the day’s activities.
Access From Mitchells a short track leads to Bains Bay. Alternatively, kayak or canoe from here
Distance 3.42km walk from Mitchells
Ohau to Otaki
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa
In the long hot days of summer, a perfect weekend trip is one where you can swim, have a campfire and enjoy some cool forest. A walk from Ohau to Otaki in the Tararua Ranges fits the bill perfectly.
From the Ohau roadend a combination of good tracks and easy stream travel leads up into the twisted beech trees of Dora Ridge. This area is well hutted with good tracks and a marked track leads down into the Otaki River.
From here you’re in the remotest part of the Tararuas, a wonderful mini-wilderness with travel in the river bed. While the Otaki is small and confined here, you can make easy progress as the valley opens up and countless deep green pools tempt you to swim. There are also a number of enticing campsites.
The confluence of the Otaki and Waitewaewae valleys means you’re nearly back in the land of huts and tracks and when you see the swingbridge over the Otaki it’s time to join the track down to Waitewaewae Hut. From there a good bush track leads to Otaki Forks. You’ll still be thinking about the great swimming and great campsites, long after you are back in town. A perfect weekend.
Access From the end of Poads Road
Around the Timaru River
Hawea Conservation Park, Otago
There is no shortage of magnificent weekend trips in the Otago mountains. If the weather is bad in the Alps and you want to beat the crowds, the ranges on the far side of Lake Hawea can be sheltered when the nor’wester is bringing rain to the mountains and is surprisingly quiet for a lovely piece of high country.
From the lakeside campsite at the mouth of the Timaru River, head up valley. There many opportunities to climb onto the tops on the true right of the Timaru. It is a big haul, but the views are worth it. Dingle and Corner Peaks offer fine views. A nifty (unmarked) route takes you along the tops to Top Timaru Creek Hut. This small four bunker is in a pivotal location with options for getting into the Dingle Burn and Ahuriri. To return you could take the track back down the Timaru, but a better option is along the tops on the true left. A new hut on the tops above Lake Hawea would make a fine location for your final night in the hills before a knee jarring descent to the lake shore.
Access From the Peter Muir Bridge on Dingle Burn Station Rd
Te Puia Lodge
Kaweka Forest Park
What can top an overnight tramp with a hot pool at either end? This easy overnight tramp in Kaweka Forest Park makes a perfect introduction to tramping for the city slicker who wants a few home comforts. From the car park at Hot Springs Road, a short sidetrack leads to an old fisheries tub converted into a hot pool, allowing a soak before you even don packs. Then follow the well-graded track beside the scenic Mohaka River for three hours to the 24-bunk Te Puia Lodge, where you can choose to stay, or instead camp at the Mangatainoka hot springs – a further 40 minutes up-valley. In summer swim in the cool Mohaka if the hot springs get too warm; or a winter tramp offers the curious luxury of hot soaking while your breath steams in the cold air.
Access From the end of Makahu Rd
Distance 9.48km to Mangatainoka Hot Springs
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa
Cone Hut was built in 1946 when tramping clubs enjoyed a surge in activity spurred by post-war optimism. The historic hut is a tribute to the sturdy nature of the original design and the ongoing efforts of Tararua Tramping Club members who have ensured it remains in good condition.
A stiff climb over a bush ridge is followed by a drop into the Tauharenikau Valley, where the hut occupies an old river terrace. If the weather remains fine, follow the track to Cone Saddle and beyond to Cone (1080m) where a snug campsite exists on the bush edge.
From Cone, the main Tararua Range shows to advantage and there are views eastwards over the Wairarapa. To extend the tramp, wander along Cone Ridge through typically twisted Tararua silver beech and down to Totara Flats Hut, then return to the car park using the track down the Waiohine Valley.
Access Waiohine Gorge Road car park
Hut Creek Hut by mountain bike
Oteake Conservation Park, Otago
Golden Otago tussock mingles with schist over the vast, open and seemingly endless country that runs all the way from the old gold town of Naseby to the Waitaki River. You can see why Graeme Sidney was so enchanted by this area, drawing inspiration for many of his best paintings.
Although human endeavour has left indelible marks across the terrain in the form of water races, dams and old gold workings. Miners came in the late 1800s in vast numbers, lived the hardest life imaginable and left behind one of the most interesting areas in Otago for us to explore.
Hut Creek Hut provides a great base right in the middle of the old gold claims. You can ride north on to the St Marys Range, head up to Mt Kyeburn on the way in, explore the Buster Diggings and ride out via Walking Spur on the Johnstones Creek Track. Great views and stunning scenery guaranteed.
Access From Mt Buster Rd
Mt Stokes (1203m) has the only sub-alpine tops in the Marlborough Sounds and offers fine viewpoints over both Pelorus and Queen Charlotte sounds.
There is perhaps no better place to visualise the origins of the area: sea-drowned river valleys with its various islands being the tops of partially submerged ridges. Mt Stokes is easily accessed from Titirangi Road, where a two-hour track leads through increasingly stunted beech forest onto the tops. The summit trig lies a further 10 minutes beyond the bush line. Camp on the edge of the trees for maximum shelter, and relish the sunset over the complex of ridges that recede towards Cook Strait.
An alternative finish involves descending from Titirangi Road down the Antimony Mines Track to the head of Endeavour Inlet, where you can take a water taxi back to Picton, or follow the Queen Charlotte Track to Ship Cove.
Access From junction of Anakoha and Titirangi roads
Distance 3.55km to summit
Mt Arthur, Salisbury Lodge, Gridiron rock bivs
Kahurangi National Park, Nelson
Perhaps the best weekend trip in Kahurangi National Park begins from Flora car park. Wander the delightfully easy benched track through beech forest and groves of mountain neinei to Mt Arthur Hut, then follow the poled route to Mt Arthur, branching off to Gordons Pyramid. From here, drop down to the large, comfortable Salisbury Lodge, positioned with fine views over the unusual topography of the Tableland.
After a night at Salisbury Lodge, follow the Flora Track past Gridiron Rock Shelters: the most elaborate ones in the country.
This tramp offers a pleasing combination of tops and bush travel, with a multitude of options for accommodation, and the birdlife is good thanks to the efforts of DOC and the Friends of Flora group. You’ll probably hear kaka and kakariki, and may spot blue duck in Flora Stream.
Access Flora Saddle car park at the end of Graham Valley South Branch Road
Roaring Stag Lodge
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa
Originally built by the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association in 1963, the lodge had by the 1990s become a rather uninviting hut with several resident rats – which acted like they owned the place. Happily, DOC built a replacement hut in 2005, in association with the deerstalkers. Now with 12 bunks, a sprawling verandah and excellent woodstove, the new hut has once again meant the Ruamahanga is a popular destination for both hunters and trampers.
The hut is reached on a 3-4 hour track from Putara Road, in the north-east of Tararua Forest Park. With appropriate transport arrangements, adventurous trampers can opt to pack float down a gorge in the Ruamahanga River, one of the easiest Tararua gorges. A track runs down the lower Ruamahanga too, which makes a useful escape route if rain threatens.
Access From the end of Putara Rd
Distance 6.85km to the lodge
Cape Brett Hut
Cape Brett, Bay of Islands
This is a must-do trip for its spectacular seascapes, wonderful wildlife and history. The sense of place here is magical, on the edge of the earth, enveloped by deep ocean. Sitting atop a grassy knoll by the lighthouse, gazing out at tourist boats shooting through the Hole in the Rock, or whales turning the cape, staying an extra day is imperative. You can literally look into the clear water and see schools of fish.
Starting out at Rawhiti, the track runs over Maori-owned land and through regenerating native bush before reaching conservation land at Deep Water Cove. Walk alongside dramatic cliff-faces, see abundant fish and bird life below, including dolphins and seals.
From the cove onwards, the track gets more challenging and becomes quite exposed with steep drop-offs to the sea below. From the lighthouse, drop down to the converted keeper’s cottage which sports 23 bunks. There’s gas cooking in this popular hut, and an access code must be used to unlock it.
Access Drive to Rawhiti and park at Hartwell’s Store
Distance 13.5km to the hut
Mount Misery Hut
Nelson Lakes National Park, Marlborough
In perfect weather, Mt Misery is anything but. The stiff climb up its forested flanks might cause misery to aching legs and sore shoulders, but once you’ve gained the alpine fields beneath the 1601m summit, it’s pure bliss. The tiny bivouac has room for three, although tent-space is plentiful beside the tarn. The Mahanga Range can be explored further south towards the distant tops of Mt Windward.
You’re more likely to see keas flying at this altitude than sandflies and the view across to the Travers Range is spectacular, spanning from Mts Angelus, Hopeless and Cupola, to Mt Travers itself. From the ridge-top, sunsets across the Mole Tops are magic; the placid waters of Lake Rotoroa far, far below are tempting for a swim on your return journey out of paradise.
The track up to Mt Misery starts between the DSIR jetty and the D’Urville River delta. You can walk there from St Arnaud via the Speargrass Track, though this will use up an extra day. A water taxi across the lake is quicker. Use the radio at either D’Urville Hut or Sabine Hut to arrange or confirm a boat pick-up with the local operator.
Access Park at the Start of Spear Grass Track in Nelson Lakes National Park. Or arrange water taxis.
Distance 27.3km to hut via Speargrass Track
Tongariro National Park, Central Plateau
Over the summer and on long weekends, most of the big backcountry barns are chocka full, especially around Tongariro National Park and its trio of volcanoes. But in the winter, these huts can be virtually empty and the tracks devoid of tourist traffic. One such destination is Rangipo Hut, on Ruapehu’s Round-The-Mountain (RTM) Track. Dependant on snow conditions, you might need an ice axe.
This 1.5-hour walk is refreshing and surprisingly not as difficult as much of the RTM track. However, you must cross a spectacular swingbridge across the Whangaehu River – this is the route taken by lahars, so it’s a potentially hazardous place to hang around.
Upon reaching Rangipo Hut (22 bunks), sit back and drink in the vast wilderness of the Rangipo Desert. At night, watch the tiny trickle of truck lights crawl across the Desert Road like a chain of glow-worms.
In the morning, go on an exploratory walk around this volcano to stretch your legs before heading out.
Access Turangi via SH1 to Tukino Rd: allow 40 mins.
Distance 4.84km from Tukino Ski Field Rd
D’Urville Island mountain bike
D’Urville Island, Marlborough
There is something special about D’Urville Island, so close but just out of reach of the mainland. You feel it as you cross the massive low salt water river that runs between it and French Pass. Its excellent roads are virtually car-less and much of the island is covered in beautiful bush that is possum free. The backbone of the island provides ever-changing seascapes across the fingers of the Marlborough Sounds, out to the west coast of the North Island and finally around Golden Bay with the curve of the earth and watery horizon beyond. Great accommodation can be had at the community centre and in Greville Harbour at the old homestead that DOC has converted into bunk rooms. This retired farm has some wonderful riding on some old 4WD tracks to remote bays and hidden lakes, along with beach walks and fishing along its wild coastline.
Access By water taxi from French Pass