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The Wilderness 40: Eight best Lower South Island and Rakiura Huts

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March 2023 Issue

The eight best huts in the lower South Island from Otago to Fiordland and Rakiura.

This entry is part [part not set] of 4 in the series The Wilderness 40 Best Huts


33. Siberia Hut, Mt Aspiring National Park

A firm favourite on a classic transalpine tramp.

By Shaun Barnett

If names were anything to go by, Siberia Hut, nestled underneath the looming peaks of Mt Awful and Mt Dreadful, would not be on anyone’s bucket list. Yet this 20-bunk hut is a firm favourite. It faces north just on the edge of the beech forest, and is a superbly situated stopping point on the Gillespie Pass circuit. It’s also a worthwhile destination in its own right for those looking for a spot to soak up the Southern Alps. Just three hours north lies Crucible Lake, a spectacular glacial cauldron often with its own icebergs.

Grade Moderate Time 8-12hr. 

34. Liverpool Hut, Mt Aspiring National Park

Valley views on high.

By Matthew Cattin

Matukituki Valley is one of Mt Aspiring National Park’s finest taonga. The broad glacial wonderland, with its golden tussock and glittering riverbed, is a trampers’ paradise. The only thing better than walking in the valley is climbing above it. Liverpool Hut holds a kingly seat around 500m above the valley floor, and it’s a three-hour slog from Aspiring Hut. From the hut, the Bonar Glacier and Mt Aspiring dominate the skyline, though with 360-degree mountain views it’s hard to know where to look. The toilet, perched on the edge of the void, is perhaps the most spectacular in New Zealand. If the curious kea don’t put you off, conducting your business with the door open is a must.

Grade Difficult Time 6-8hr.

35. Routeburn Flats Hut, Mt Aspiring National Park

Spacious and tranquil, this is a place to absorb the grandeur of Mt Aspiring National Park.

By Pat Barrett

The hut is set in an amphitheatre of mountain fastness beneath the Southern Alps and the bastions of the Humboldt Range. A wide, grassy river flat gives the Route Burn pause from its boisterous path through the valleys, and here is the hut. It’s easily a rival for the breathtaking scenery of either Lake MacKenzie Hut or Routeburn Falls Hut. But then this is a Great Walk and one which you might expect every waypoint to provoke a sense of awe and amazement. The hut windows frame the peaks of the Route Burn’s North Branch, especially Mt Somnus (2293m) – an alluring snow summit.

Grade Easy Time 3hr.

Series Navigation
Meg Hut and the Roaring Meg Valley. Photo: Sam Harrison

36. Meg Hut, Pisa Conservation Area

An accessible and historic mustering hut in a grand valley.

By Shaun Barnett

Rustic Meg Hut (eight bunks) has a long history as a mustering hut from when pastoralists grazed sheep – as many as 35,000 – on the Pisa Range. Originally built in the 1920s to replace an older stone hut, Meg Hut was expanded to its current size in 1958. Access is from the Tuohys Gully car park at Cardrona. Follow an old farm vehicle track through open terrain to Tuohys Saddle (1140m), where a gentle descent leads to the Roaring Meg and Meg Hut. Above rises the Pisa Range, punctuated with schist tors. As well as a good overnight destination, Meg Hut can be a waypoint on the Cardrona to Cromwell Pack Track, with a second night at Deep Creek Hut.

Grade Easy Time 2–2.5hr.

An old railway station is now a 12 bunk hut. Photo: Rob Brown

37. Ida Railway Hut, Oteake Conservation Park

One of the more unique huts in New Zealand with an interesting back story.

By Rob Brown

When the decision was made to decommission the Central Otago Rail line in the late 1980s, farmer Laurie Inder of the Mt Ida Syndicate purchased a couple of the old railway stations, one of which ended up being dragged by bulldozer all the way onto the middle of the Ida Plateau to be attached to an existing musterer’s hut. It was restored in 2013 by DOC, and is now a comfortable 12-bunk hut inside an original piece of 1920s New Zealand Railways architecture in the most improbable location. The old coal range is still in working order.

Grade Moderate (best visited by 4WD as the track is rough).

38. Lake Roe Hut, Fiordland National Park

Stunning location surrounded by lakes and open tussock tops.

By Rob Brown

This hut is usually visited as part of the Dusky Track. It’s a great place to spend a rest day exploring the open tops, wandering up to Lake Roe itself (20min from the hut) or taking a full day to climb Tamatea Peak. Arriving on the track via either the aptly named Pleasant Range, or up the Hauroko Burn, spending a couple of nights at Lake Roe is often everyone’s highlight on this challenging 8-9 day tramp. The hut is the standard Lands and Survey design unique to Fiordland National Park.

Grade Moderate-difficult Time 2 days.

Yankee River Hut. Ray Salisbury/Hot Pixels Photography

39. Yankee River Hut, Rakiura National Park

A hut that feels like it’s teetering on the edge of the world.

By Ray Salisbury 

Yankee River empties into the ocean at a small, rocky beach at the northernmost tip of Stewart Island. The hut squats on a shelf above the lagoon, backed by tropical forest – a great place to recover after climbing Mt Anglem. It’s also where kiwi can be seen. Quiet isolation and a remote wilderness is what makes this corner of the country so special.

Grade Moderate Time 3–4 days.

40. Mason Bay Hut, Rakiura National Park

Amazing dune landscapes and a better than average chance of seeing kiwi.

By Rob Brown

As a building, Mason Bay Hut is unremarkable, yet it’s hard to beat the location and experience. The hut is an old design that has been messed around with, but it still works, and is a welcome refuge when tramping the Southern or North West Circuits. The surrounding population of kiwi seems to be doing better than ever.

It’s pretty special drifting off to sleep hearing them whistling in the scrub and kānuka forest. It’s simply a great place to be for a couple of days and to take in everything the landscape and nature has to offer.

Grade Easy Time 1-2 days.