Enjoy the best of winter outdoors in a little more comfort.
It’s the middle of winter: the coldest and wettest months of the year, and days with some of the least daylight. Not exactly great enticement to head for the hills.
But of course winter can be great, too. Frosted tussock. Glistening snow. Frozen tarns. Low-angled light glinting off a distant maunga.
How best to enjoy these things without suffering? Perhaps by staying at a well-appointed hut, maybe even a lodge. Here are six ‘huts’ that are a little larger, and a little more comfortable, all with a wood burner to help make winter nights a little cosier.
1. Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge, Ruahine Forest Park
This is a nice, accessible hut that fits the bill perfectly for a family trip, or as an introductory overnighter.
From the car park, stroll down to cross the arched bridge over Umutoi Creek, then follow the benched track to reach the lodge (allow 40–60min). There’s a large deck overlooking the nearby Ōroua Valley.
Alice Nash was a local who lived in the area and generously left funds in her will that were used to build the lodge in 2007 after an older hut burned down. Part of the lodge is locked (reserved for members of the Manawatū Branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association, who helped build the lodge) but there are eight bunks for the general public. Beyond the lodge, tracks lead up-valley to Iron Gates Hut. No booking required.
2. Boyd Lodge, Kaimanawa Forest
Park Boyd Lodge is fairly typical of the few huts in Kaimanawa Forest Park. It’s a Lockwood design with two bunkrooms (12 bunks in total) and a central communal room with a cooking bench, table and the all-important wood burner. It’s in the heart of the Kaimanawa mountains and usually takes a couple of days to reach by foot. The route is either via Te Iringa Track and Oamaru Hut from Clements Mill Road or over the Poronui Access Route through Poronui Station. The lodge overlooks the distinctive terraces of the Ngaruroro River – country still covered by the pumice of the great Taupō eruption two millennia ago. No booking required.
3. Parawai Lodge, Tararua Forest Park
Vehicle access to Ōtaki Forks is at present not possible due to a large, unstable slip on the Ōtaki Forks Road. But it is possible to cross the slip on foot using a formed route (although that’s best avoided during or after heavy rain), and wander up the last 4km of the road to Ōtaki Forks. From the picnic area beside the Waiotauru River, it’s an easy 15min walk to the 18-bunk Parawai Lodge. Nearby are several enjoyable walks, including the Arcus Loop, Fenceline and Sheridan Creek Rail tracks. No booking required.
4. Turere Lodge, Remutaka Forest Park
DOC made an inspired decision when it built this substantial, multi-roomed hut in the popular Ōrongorongo Valley. It’s situated on a terrace high above the river, surrounded by beech trees and northern rātā. Turere Lodge has four separate rooms (each with eight bunks) that can be booked individually, and a large shared communal kitchen-living space with a wood burner and gas cookers. All-weather access lies on the benched Ōrongorongo Track and takes 1.5–2hr. Book online well ahead of your trip, as the lodge is popular with family groups or gaggles of tramping buddies wanting an easy overnighter.
5. Salisbury Lodge, Kahurangi National Park
Forest Service ranger Max Polglaze called this area ‘the Noble Country’ and no one has bettered his description. It has undulating tussock terrain, peppered by tarns, pocketed by copses of beech trees, and dominated by the domed helmet of Mt Arthur and the bat ears of the Twins. The 20-bunk Salisbury Lodge has wide windows overlooking Wharepapa / Arthur Range. It’s reached on the easy 4–5hr benched Flora Track, renowned for its excellent birdlife thanks to the long-standing pest control efforts of the conservation group Friends of Flora. No booking required.
6. Hope Kiwi Lodge, Lake Sumner Forest Park
Few huts are corralled by fences, but Hope Kiwi Lodge occupies an open, high country valley. The 20-bunk lodge is on Te Araroa Trail and, as well as TA walkers, gets a fair amount of use by trampers, although mostly over summer. Winter is a quieter time. The lodge is accessible on a 5–6hr tramp from SH7 at Windy Point, passing Hope Halfway Hut en route. Those with time can visit nearby Lake Marion, enjoy a tramp to the Nelson Tops, or visit the site of Museum Hut (recently burnt to the ground), where renowned deer culler Dick Morris spent much of his life between the 1930s and 1950s. No booking required.