A beach in the hilltops
Sitting on a beach on a lake dotted with forest-covered islands, Sandy Bay Hut has an almost tropical setting – but at 900m in Te Urewera it can feel closer to the Arctic.
The overnighter is an excellent portal through the ancient Te Urewera forest to Waikareiti Lake.
The Lake Waikareiti Track climbs gradually through incredible forest – lush, ancient podocarp trees dwarf the trail. After an hour, the well-formed track reaches Lake Waikareiti, where there is a shelter. You can hire boats from the DOC visitor centre and row across the lake to Sandy Bay Hut. From the shelter, the walking track narrows to a tramping track but is clearly marked, continuing around the lake edges. After about two hours, the track leaves the lake and climbs and descends a number of small valleys, before finally descending to the hut.
The serviced 18-bunk hut is right on the lake, which is covered in golden sand with crystal clear waves lapping the shore.
The hut is split into two rooms, with a living area/kitchen and a fireplace in the centre, making for a cosy feel and giving privacy for smaller groups.
At the hut was a young couple from Mt Maunganui, who generously shared a bottle of red wine with us while a storm came in, howling through the forest. In the morning, we explored the interesting golden-sand beach, walking around the lake, which was whipped up by a bitter southerly.
The trip can be extended by returning via the Ruapani Track, which starts just before Waikareiti Shelter and takes an extra three hours, passing several wetlands. You can also continue north on the Kaipo Lagoon Track to Manuoha Hut and on to SH38. But with the weather closing in, we decided to return the way we came. Epiphytes the size of a small car had fallen from trees overnight and new windfall covered the track – but while it sounded like a jet was flying above through the canopy, the forest floor was eerily calm. Not wanting to be hit by any falling debris, we quickly made our way downhill back to our car.
- Total Ascent
- 4hr each way
- Sandy Bay Hut, ($15, 18 bunks - bookings required)
- From the Aniwaniwa Falls car park