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December 2015 Issue
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A slice of Otago high country

Fern Burn Hut has 12 bunks and a crew of feral possums. Photo: Hazel Phillips
Total Ascent
2.5-3hr to the hut
Fern Burn Hut, 12 bunks
Fern Burn car park on Motatapu Road, Glendhu Bay
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Fern Burn Hut.Motatapu Station (gpx, yo 21 KB)
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Fern Burn Hut, Motatapu Station, Otago

The 30km Motatapu Track runs from Arrowtown to Wanaka and forms part of the Te Araroa Trail.

An overnight trip from Wanaka to the 12-bunk Fern Burn Hut offers a slice of this Otago high country station.

Up the Motatapu I went, with the aim of a gentle amble to the hut. The walk in was easy going, although at times the track was cut into the mountainside high above Fern Burn, in a way that reminded me of the Kepler Track. The gradient isn’t tough and neither is the time it takes to get there – around 2.5hr.

The start of the walk featured lots of cows. I had to shoo some off the path – carefully, as there were a few calves with worried-looking mothers. The surrounding terrain is mostly riparian shrubland and grassy flats.

Halfway up the track, you hit the 4144ha Stack Conservation Area, by way of an extremely pretty stream winding its way through the forest – a combination of mountain, silver and red beech. The Fern Burn is the ideal spot to stop for lunch. The water is crystal clear with a green tinge, which would have enticed me for a dip, were it not for the cold.

Soon I hit tussock country, with views up and down the sharp valley, and before long I had just one tiny stream crossing before a final grunt up to the hut.

Fern Burn Hut has no heating, due to the almost complete absence of firewood nearby. It was slightly chilly but some hot soup did the trick and I was soon settled in for the night.

I noted a couple of mentions in the hut book about a family of ‘active’ and ‘over-friendly’ possums that live under the hut.

Later, while ducking out for a pre-bedtime pitstop, I discovered the possums were more feral than active. They were lined up on a beam above my head, hissing at me, with one even taking a swipe, when I tried to leave the hut.

Overnight rain turned the formerly pretty Fern Burn extremely dirty. It was not quite so alluring on my return to the car park.