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The five huts TA walkers rate as the best

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April 2023 Issue

All Te Araroa hikers have favourite huts. We spoke to five thru-hikers to find out why they rated their hut so highly.

With thousands of people walking Te Araroa every year, most might be tempted to tell you their favourite hut is one that’s not overflowing or the one they get to themselves. But what makes a favourite hut is much more than that.

Vaughan Turner from New Plymouth loves East Ahuriri (Quailburn) Hut, after visiting it with his wife Eliza.

“There’s nothing else like it,” he says. “It’s rustic and old, with framing made from beech branches and corrugated iron cladding. Even the bunks are made of beech branches with wire mesh.”

This classic mustering hut – once part of Benmore Run – is significant for its role in high country pastoral farming. The one-roomed hut was thought to have been built between the late 1870’s and early 1890’s. It’s located on the true left of the Ahuriri   River East Branch below Quailburn Saddle.

Often, it’s not the hut itself but the location that makes it a winner. Tanya Fourie Louw from Invercargill stayed at Crooked Spur Hut in Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Area and treasured it so much she had a painting commissioned.

“I’m a sucker for being surrounded by mountains,” she says. “Descending to Crooked Spur in Bush Stream Valley, looking towards the Rangitata, was magnificent. We had perfect weather that culminated in a kick-ass sunrise.”

Crooked Spur is an eight-bunk Department of Conservation ‘basic’ hut with limited facilities, so it’s free to stay in, but Tanya describes it as ‘rustic’. “It’s an old musterer’s hut, so it’s just corrugated iron and it does get cold, but we had a loo with a view and saw our first kea there.”

Some trampers can’t help but be impressed with the new huts being built around the country. Wellingtonian Callum Neil loved Anne Hut in St James Conservation Area. The 20-bunk serviced hut opened in 2012 after the previous hut was destroyed in a fire. It’s situated on a grassy flat with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains.

Modern Anne Hut sits in a huge valley on the St James Walkway. Photo: Nikita Ogg

“It’s big, beautiful and sits boldly in the middle of a huge flat valley,” Neil says. “It’s joyous to behold.”

The hut has two flushing toilets and comfortable, spacious accommodation. It sits on the Te Araroa and St James Cycle Trail and is popular with hikers and cyclists.

Coldwater Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park sits at 620m altitude on the southern edge of Lake Rotoiti. It’s a popular overnighter and has a jetty outside, for boats as well as track access. The picturesque views and early morning fog clinging to the edges of the lake are what makes it a favourite for many.

Elizabeth, a walker from Nelson was moved by the view of the lake: “I was just wowed by the ducks and the mist moving over the lake in the early morning.”

Isabella Jackson says you can’t beat a hut above the bushline to feel on top of the world. Slaty Hut, a six-bunk hut in Mt Richmond Forest Park sits at 1400m just below nearby Slaty Peak (1544m). It offers outstanding views over the Waimea Plains and the Inland Kaikoura Ranges. It’s adjacent to the bushline, so mountain beech forest sits alongside tussock tops for a two-in-one treat.

After her visit, Jackson said: “We loved staying in this adorable red-doored hut. It’d been a slog that day to get there, and we’d spent so much time trudging through drizzle. It was an incredible change to wake up to the sun streaming through the windows, realising we were above the clouds, and we literally frolicked in the sunshine, taking photos and laughing. That day was a real reminder of why we enjoy thru-hiking.”