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New Zealand Hut to Hut Hiking: What is it Like to Stay in a Hut?

Hut to hut hiking is an iconic experience in New Zealand, known to locals as “tramping”. With around 950 huts across the country, New Zealand has one of the best hut networks between its hiking trails. But huts are not hotels; designed to give you basic relief and shelter from the elements when spending a few days outdoors. With that, it’s best to be prepared and set your expectations right for staying in a New Zealand hut. So, find out what it’s like to stay in a hut in New Zealand in this guide.

The Different Types of Huts

There are four different types of backcountry huts in New Zealand that are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). They differ slightly in facilities and prices. It’s worth noting, however, that even huts within the same category differ in facilities. For that reason, check out the hut facilities on the DOC website for the specific hut you are staying in.

Great Walk Huts

There are 10 New Zealand Great Walks with their own hut category. Great Walk huts are equipped with at least a water supply, heating, mattresses, washing facilities, toilets and heating with fuel and a hut warden. Some have gas cookers. Prices range from NZ$15 to $110 per person night, depending on the walk, the season and whether you are a local or international visitor. Prices are updated frequently so head to the pricing page on the DOC website.

Serviced Huts

Similar to the Great Walk huts, serviced huts have mattresses, water supply, toilets, handwashing facilities, heating with fuel available and sometimes a warden. They are the most common type of hut you’ll find in New Zealand. Prices are NZ$15 per adult per night and NZ$7.50 per child.

Standard Huts

Standard huts are more basic. They have mattresses, a water supply and a toilet, and sometimes a wood burner. Fees are NZ$5 per person per night.

Basic Huts/Bivvies

Basic huts/bivvies provide basic shelter with limited facilities. Sometimes there are mattresses. They are free to use.

New Zealand Hut to Hut Hiking: What is it Like to Stay in a Hut?


What to Expect and What to Take at a Hut

Knowing what to expect from a hut in New Zealand will help you know what to take. Again, check out the hut facilities on the DOC website for the specific hut you are staying in so you have a better idea of what to expect.

Sleeping in Huts

Huts have large shared sleeping quarters with mattresses lined with a waterproof fabric. There are typically two bunk levels and mattresses lined up side-by-side on each bunk. Quarters sleep from four to up to 40 people, but usually around 10 people.

Cooking in Huts

Most huts have benches to prepare food and that’s it. Some may have sinks with running water, while the most “luxurious” of the Great Walk huts have gas cookers. You will not find electricity, rubbish bins, food, cooking utensils (in most cases), nor someone to clean up after you.


Most huts only have a drop/pit toilet in a cubicle outside of the hut. Some huts have flushing toilets. There are no showers, no soap and no toilet paper. Occasionally, a hut has hot water.

What to Pack for Staying in a Hut

And for general packing tips, head over to How to Prepare for a Great Walk in New Zealand with tips that apply for all New Zealand hut to hut hiking.

New Zealand Hut to Hut Hiking: What is it Like to Stay in a Hut?


How to Book/Pay for a Hut

Almost all of the huts in New Zealand have a fee to stay (except for the ones we list in 12 Free Multi-Day Hikes in New Zealand). Some huts require you to book your space in advance, while others are on a first-come-first-served basis with a hut pass or ticket.

Bookable Huts

Find out whether you need to book your chosen hut on the DOC website. Bookable huts are selected to show on this page of the DOC website.

Huts are booked through the DOC website by following the links on your chosen hut page or through the DOC booking system. You can pay with a Backcountry Hut Pass, credit/debit card; but not with a hut ticket. You can also book some huts through DOC visitor centres.

First-Come-First-Served Huts

Some huts are first-come-first-served but still have a fee. To pay this fee, you need either a Backcountry Hut Pass or a Backcountry Hut Ticket.

A ticket can be purchased at a DOC visitor centre and these retailers are listed on the DOC website. Put your ticket in the honesty box of the hut.

For paying with a Backcountry Hut Pass, write your name and pass number into the hut book. Also have proof of a Backcountry Hut Pass, print or digital, and identification in case they are requested by a hut warden.

New Zealand Hut to Hut Hiking: What is it Like to Stay in a Hut?


New Zealand Hut Etiquette

If you’re new to staying in huts in New Zealand, here are some hut etiquette that you need to know.

  • Leave shoes/boots and wet clothing outside
  • Roll out your sleeping bag on an empty mattress to claim that place to sleep
  • Don’t move other people’s stuff
  • If all beds are taken, sleep on the floor (and out of the way)
  • Store mattresses upright after use
  • Cook with a window open
  • Only cook on metal benches, if available
  • Keep your belongings and bags tidy and together
  • Keep noise to a minimum, especially after dark and early morning
  • Follow the fire/log burner rules for the hut
  • Restock wood supplies you use (but don’t cut down live trees)
  • Fill in the hut book, if there is one
  • Welcome new arrivals; don’t act like you own the place
  • Don’t put rubbish in the fire or down the toilet (take it with you)
  • Be friendly
  • Sweep the floor if you’re last to leave the hut
  • Kids are welcome, but they must follow the above hut etiquette too.

Ultimate New Zealand

We meet at 7am at the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland before heading south to Rotorua, with a café stop on route to fortify those who missed breakfast. Rotorua is renowned for its steaming thermal vents, bubbling mud-pools and stunning lakes. The area is also rich in Māori and early European history, including the violent 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption that buried a Māori village. We enjoy a quick stop by Lake Rotorua then veer off the beaten track, southeast into the Whirinaki.

After a picnic lunch, we sort out gear and pack our backpacks for the hike into the rainforest. A further hours’ drive gets us to the south end of this huge conservation park.

The Whirinaki Forest is a preserved remnant of the vast forests believed to have covered the super-continent of Gondwanaland more than 150 million years ago. Our first hike is an easy one, on a descending track through native beech forest, to a simple forest hut beside the stunning Whirinaki river. We cook up our meal together and either stay in the hut or camp nearby with an evening campfire and time to relax and enjoy the surroundings. Includes lunch and dinner.

Whirinaki Hut is a 25-bunk Department of Conservation hut with living area and a spacious kitchen complete with cosy fire. The hut is superbly located, tucked into a clearing of beech trees alongside the Whirinaki River. Cool down with a refreshing swim in the river after an enjoyable day of hiking. Camping sites can be found in the large grassy area just in front of the hut.

Whirinaki – Lake Waikaremoana

15km/5 hours hiking

This morning we continue down the valley track. This wilderness is off the tourist trail and we rarely see others, but we do often see rare blue ducks and robins and hear kaka (a large bush parrot). Lower down the valley our hike passes beneath giant tree ferns and some of New Zealand’s most stunning podocarp rainforest trees.

Later in the afternoon we drive east, into the rugged forest ranges of Te Urewera. This is the traditional home of the Tūhoe (Māori tribe) and one of the last places to have been reached by European settlers.

After two hours winding through the most incredible rain forest, we reach the northern arm of remote Lake Waikaremoana. We continue around the lake before stopping for the night at a camping area with sweet little cabins. Here we relax and cook a meal together in the communal kitchen. We usually stay in the simple cabins but occasionally camp. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Enjoy comfortable “Fisherman’s Cabins” in serene isolation with nature right on the doorstep. The Waikaremoana Holiday Park is situated on the lake edge of picturesque Home Bay, Lake Waikaremoana. The cabins utilise communal bathroom and kitchen facilities, and sleeping bags are required.

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Lake Waikaremoana

14km/7 hours hiking

Ready yourself with the promise of spectacular views as we start the day with a 20 minute drive to the trailhead at the south end of the lake and begin the climb up the Panekiri Range. We ascend through gnarled beech and bright green tawa forest to a point over 500 metres above the lake and hike along with breath-taking vistas in every direction.

Take time to absorb the view with a lunch stop at Bald Knob before we return back along this undulating trail, and if time permits once back at the road end we will explore the fascinating Onepoto Caves trail. Enjoy a second night at the cabins (occasionally we camp). Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Enjoy a second night in a comfy cabin at the Waikaremoana Holiday Park. Those brave enough may like to try a dip in the cool clear waters of the lake.

Lake Waikaremoana – Whakapapa

4km/2 hours hiking

We start the day with a drive to the Volcanic Plateau and its myriad natural wonders. Explore an extraordinary thermal park, bathe in a natural hot river and view the impressive Huka Falls. Feel the spray here as the mighty Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest, plunges 11 metres into a stadium-like pool.

Later we arrive at Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Incredibly, this 600 square kilometre crater lake was formed in 186AD by the most powerful volcanic explosion in recorded history.

At Taupo, we grab our takeaway food and head to a lovely lake-side spot. Here we can relax on the unusual pumice beach and in summer enjoy an evening swim before continuing to our lodge accommodation near Whakapapa Village, Tongariro National Park. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Located in Whakapapa Village at the foot of Mount Ruapehu, Skotel Alpine Resort offers a friendly informal atmosphere. Stay in the comfy Backpacker rooms, twin and sometimes triple share. Sheets and towels are provided, and bathroom and kitchen facilities are communal.

Or The Park Hotel in the nearby National Park town, twin and sometimes triple person share, ensuite rooms. Sheets and towels are provided.


Whakapapa – Waihohonu Hut

15km/6 hours hiking

Tongariro National Park is the oldest National Park in New Zealand and the fourth oldest in the world. In 1993, the park became a UNESCO mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Site. Although many hikers walk the busy one-day Tongariro Alpine Crossing, few explore the more remote and drier east side of this volcanic range. Enjoy our secret side trips and short cuts but rest assured we will hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, considered one of the world’s finest day walks, but at a less busy time of the day whenever possible.

We sort out gear and pack our backpacks ready for our two nights away. In the late morning, hike out of Whakapapa through tussock-grasslands and over the low saddle that cuts between the volcanoes Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. Late afternoon we arrive at the simple but modern Waihohonu Hut among patches of mountain beech forest beside a quiet stream. There are great mountain-views from the spacious common room. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Waihohonu Hut is a modern 28-bunk Department of Conservation hut located on the Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk. Facilities are basic but comfortable, with bunk beds, mattresses, wood stove, common room, and toilets.


Waihohonu Hut – Oturere Hut

8-15km/3-8 hours hiking

The trail to the next hut takes just 3 hours, so we have the morning to explore. Either amble (about an hour) to the splendid Ohineopango Springs and visit a historic hut and then return to the hut for lunch, or we can negotiate an adventurous off-trail route over ash-moraine ridges and skirt lava cliffs to reach a viewpoint high above a remote lake. After lunch continue on, traversing stony desert to an alpine hut at 1400m situated on the edge of an old lava flow.

We stop to enjoy fantastic views of the park’s three main peaks: Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. The latter starred as Mount Doom in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. It’s an extraordinary landscape of active volcanoes and lava valleys.

Evening provides an opportunity to share the hut with hikers from all over the world. Oturere ‘sardine tin’ Hut is small, quite busy, but still our favourite spot. We usually sleep in the hut, but sometimes we camp. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Oturere Hut is a 26-bunk Department of Conservation hut located in Tongariro National Park. Facilities are basic but comfortable, with bunk beds, mattresses, wood stove, common room, and toilets.


Oturere Hut – Whakapapa

12km/6 hours hiking

We hike through a moon-like valley of lava flows and ash fields before climbing steeply to the remarkable Emerald Lakes, which have graced the covers of many guidebooks. From here we join the spectacular Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The next few hours of hiking takes us through an unforgettable wonderland of lava valleys, steaming craters and brooding volcanoes before our descent through bonsai-like alpine foliage and alongside mineral-infused streams. In good conditions, we have the option of climbing high on the volcanic peaks.

An evening drive takes us back to our lodge in the heart of the National Park – the perfect place to relax with a beer and enjoy million-dollar volcanic views before dining in the alpine village. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Located in Whakapapa Village at the foot of Mount Ruapehu, Skotel Alpine Resort offers a friendly informal atmosphere. Stay in the comfy Backpacker rooms, twin and sometimes triple share. Sheets and towels are provided, and bathroom and kitchen facilities are communal.

Or The Park Hotel in the nearby National Park town, twin and sometimes triple person share, ensuite rooms. Sheets and towels are provided.


Whakapapa – Wellington

1km/1-2 hours hiking

Driving south, we leave the volcanoes to descend through the beautiful river valleys of the Rangitikei and along the coast to Wellington, where we arrive mid-afternoon after a café break.

Wellington is so much more than just New Zealand’s capital. It is also the nation’s stylish hub for arts, culture, cafés and politics. Enclosed by hills and a harbour, this compact city has many attractions within easy walking distance.

Options include enjoying the National Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa) or watching the political shenanigans of the ‘Beehive’ (Parliament House). Many visitors immerse themselves in the vibrant café scene and the accessible downtown area. Includes breakfast.

Bay Plaza, Oriental Parade, boasts some of the best views in the city. Moments from Te Papa, the hotel is just a harbour-front stroll to the CBD and main shopping area. Accommodation is usually in twin or double share rooms. Ensuite bathrooms and complimentary tea and coffee.


Wellington Rest Day

0 hours hiking

Enclosed by hills and a harbour, this compact city has many attractions within easy walking distance. Check out the vibrant city centre with museums, theatres, galleries and boutiques. It has been said that this pedestrian friendly city has more bars and restaurants per capita than New York and feels a bit like San Francisco. Take some time to soak in the creative vibes and check out the great craft beer and café scene during your visit. There are also some lovely city-bush-garden-hill top walks you can enjoy.

Craft the day to suit you; the National Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa), watching the political shenanigans of the ‘Beehive’ (Parliament House), bus-out to the wild south coast with views to the South Island, visit Weta workshops (book in advance to avoid any Orc-ward moments), the Maritime museum, and the truly remarkable almost-in-the-city ecological restoration project ‘Zealandia’. See our Blog “Things to do in Wellington” for inspiration.

Bay Plaza, Oriental Parade, boasts some of the best views in the city. Moments from Te Papa, the hotel is just a harbour-front stroll to the CBD and main shopping area. Accommodation is usually in twin or double share rooms. Ensuite bathrooms and complimentary tea and coffee.


Wellington – Abel Tasman

7km/2 hours hiking

Regroup at reception to meet the shuttle to the airport for the short flight across Cook Strait to Nelson and the South Island. (Note: the transfer from Wellington accommodation to Nelson Airport is without a guide). You’ll be met by your South Island guide at Nelson Airport, introduced to those joining the Ultimate South Island tour and head out of town around picturesque Tasman Bay to Kaiteriteri, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park.

Your guide will advise you on how to pack light and smart as we ready ourselves for our next adventure – a two-night stay in the park. A boat cruise around the coast takes us to the beautiful Tonga Quarry. Enjoy a snack on the idyllic beach before starting our hike, following the Abel Tasman Coast Track south to Bark Bay where our tents and some gear were dropped by the boat.

We pitch our tents and enjoy a delicious meal together before later falling asleep to the sound of waves lapping the shore. Includes lunch and dinner.

Bark Bay Camp is a Department of Conservation campsite alongside the renowned Abel Tasman Coastal Track. Enjoy a restful night in a tent listening to the waves (inflatable sleeping mat provided). Having a tent to yourself is no problem. Sleeping bags are required and can be hired when booking. There are flush toilets and filtered water. With the camp situated just meters from the beach, you can wake early and wander along the beach as the sun rises.


Bark Bay – Anchorage

8.5 – 12km/3-5 hours hiking

After a relaxed breakfast our departure from Bark Bay takes us through contrasting stands of manuka and luxuriant mixed forest, over a low saddle and across a high and airy suspension bridge above the Falls River.

Views open up to golden sand beaches on the descent to Torrent Bay where your guide may talk you into taking a side trip up to the Falls River cascades, a stunning swimming spot, or to Cleopatra’s Pool, a must do and the perfect place for a refreshing swim. If you are feeling nimble you can join the guide for a boulder hop further up the valley here exploring idyllic pools and waterfalls.

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We camp tonight at the bush-fringed and bright blue inlet of Anchorage. Relax, read a book and go for a swim before meeting in the evening to cook and eat together. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Located in Anchorage Bay along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, this Department of Conservation campsite is well-located to enjoy the lush coastal native bush and golden beaches. Sleep in tents with an inflatable sleeping mat (provided). Having a tent to yourself is no problem. Sleeping bags are required and can be hired when booking. Sit around the fireplace stargazing and listen to the water lapping on the golden sand. There are flush toilets and filtered water.


Anchorage – Murchison

15km/3 hours paddling

It’s time to hit the water and explore the Abel Tasman’s magical coastline by waka (Māori canoe).* After a traditional karakia (blessing) from your waka guide learn the etiquette associated with joining a waka team. Then it’s time to climb aboard and paddle.

Depending on conditions, explore several coves on the mainland and the wildlife refuge of Adele Island to observe a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals – beautiful animals that were almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s. Along the way be enlightened by stories of local Māori history and customs. Paddle into the beautiful Kaiteriteri beach at around midday, to reunite with your Hiking New Zealand guide waiting with the backpacks.

After a picnic lunch and a restock on supplies in Motueka we drive south to a private campsite near Murchison, overlooking the confluence of the Buller and Maruia rivers. Enjoy an organic meal that is home-cooked by our hosts. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

*Note: The waka experience requires a minimum of 6 people. With smaller groups we return to Kaiteriteri via water taxi.

A private rustic campsite with pre-placed pitched tents and stretcher-beds. Sleeping bags are required. Overlooking the confluence of two rivers it is worth the short stroll down to the river. Nearby is a small historic cottage for cooking.


Murchison – Ballroom Overhang

8km/4 hours hiking

After driving through the Buller Gorge our first stop and experience of the wild West Coast is at Charleston. We take a short hike through lush West Coast bush checking out the dramatic headlands, wild waves and secluded bays.

Afterwards enjoy a picnic lunch and pack up for our next hike that takes us up a spectacular limestone river canyon in Paparoa National Park. Established in 1987, this park covers more than 30,000 hectares. Its attractions include mountains, canyons, caves, rivers, wilderness areas and coastlines.

The first half of the trail is on a relatively flat well-formed track, while the second half involves multiple river crossings and sections where the riverbed itself is our route. Some boulders here can be slippery and good hiking shoes or boots are essential. Learn from your guide how to cross rivers safely, supporting each other by linking arms. We collect firewood along the way and set up camp under the massive Ballroom Overhang, a fluviatile cave.

For those that are keen on more hiking, join the guide and explore up a beautiful side canyon following the stream until it disappears into a cave. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Experience sleeping under a massive overhang, a fluviatile limestone outcrop located in Paparoa National Park. The impressive Ballroom Overhang needs to be seen in person to truly appreciate its enormity. No facilities, other than a rustic toilet, can be found here. A sleeping bag is required, while inflatable sleeping mats are provided.


Ballroom Overhang – Hokitika

6km/3 hours hiking

We hike back out through the canyon this morning after a leisurely start and head first to Punakaiki to check out the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes. Then it’s down the coast to tonight’s accommodation in Hokitika. A thriving goldrush town in the 1870s, it is now a great place to buy pounamu (greenstone), which was highly valued by early Māori for tools, jewellery and weapons.

Tonight’s lodge accommodation is centrally located and just a short distance from the beach. Tuck into traditional Kiwi fish and chips on the beach or eat at one of the many cafés in this bustling little seaside town. On arrival in Hokitika, we get fitted out with bikes for tomorrow’s ride. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Enjoy ensuite twin room accommodation at Stumpers, located in the heart of Hokitika. Linen, electric blankets, hairdryer, tea/coffee making facilities are all provided. An onsite bar and café with delicious homemade food is available all day from 7am.


Hokitika – Arthur’s Pass

39km/4-5 hours biking

Before meeting as a group grab breakfast at one of the great cafés in town. Today you get to cycle the stunning West Coast Wilderness Trail between the Arahura River bridge and the historic township of Kumara.

Pedal your way through majestic native forest, cross crystal-clear rivers, and pass old reservoirs and water races which date back to the goldrush days. Today’s ride is unguided, but the trail is very well marked, and our local partners will give you a very thorough briefing on riding the trail. The thoughtfully restored Theatre Royal Hotel in Kumara is the perfect place to celebrate our ride with a drink.

After the ride sit back and enjoy the mountain and rainforest landscapes as we turn east to drive into the Southern Alps and stay in the quaint mountain village of Arthur’s Pass. Lodgings tonight are at a private hut with showers and electricity. We prepare dinner together and get ready for tomorrow’s hiking adventure into Edwards Valley. Includes lunch and dinner.

Kennedy Lodge is a privately-owned mountaineering club hut that has all the facilities of a modern chalet. Two upstairs bunkrooms accommodate up to 20 guests. Sleeping bags are required. Full kitchen facilities are provided, along with showers and toilets. Mains power ensures you can recharge devices before your next sojourn into the wilderness.


Arthur’s Pass – Edwards Hut

9km/5-6 hours hiking

While not as well-known as some of the other National Parks visited on the tour, Arthur’s Pass will awe you with its rugged peaks, wild rivers and adventurous hiking trails. Our overnight hike takes us up the Edwards River to the Edwards Hut which sits just above the bushline with a great view up this beautiful alpine valley.*

It is a challenging hike on a real ‘kiwi-style’ track. There are several river crossings and parts where you will need to use your hands for extra grip as the trail is rugged with steep slippery sections.

We either camp or stay in the hut depending on how many other hikers are there.

At nightfall listen out for the distinct call of our national bird, the kiwi. Roroa or great spotted kiwi are known to inhabit this area. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Edwards Hut is a classic New Zealand backcountry hut, sited on a pleasant grassy terrace just above the bushline. While facilities are basic a logburner ensures your comfort. Sleeping bags are required.


Edwards Hut – Methven

9km/5-6 hours hiking

Make the most of being in this wonderfully remote alpine valley by joining an optional hike this morning to explore further up towards Falling Mountain, where the views of the surrounding peaks open up even more. After returning to the hut we pack up and hike back out to the road having lunch along the way.

Heading east away from the divide the scenery changes dramatically with the steep forested slopes of the west replaced with wide braided rivers, tussock grassland, mountains flanked with scree and the surreal limestone formations of Castle Hill.

We leave the main highway following an inland route past Lake Lyndon, through Rakaia Gorge and on to the village of Methven where we stay overnight. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Ski Time offers fantastic hospitality, atmosphere and creature comforts to ensure your stay here at the foot of the Southern Alps is memorable. The cozy ambiance of the restaurant and bar with a large open fire, complement the rooms.


Mt Somers – Aoraki/Mt Cook

10km/6 hours hiking

We spend the morning driving along the western margin of the Canterbury Plains and into the stunningly beautiful Mackenzie Country, an intermontane basin of huge glacial lakes and snow-capped mountains.

By late morning we arrive at Aoraki/Mt Cook village ready to maximise our afternoon with a hike with daypacks up to Sealy Tarns and possibly as far as Mueller Hut. Enjoy views across two valley glaciers to icefalls on Mount Sefton and Aoraki/Mt Cook. Towering moraine walls, glacial lakes and the frequent rumbling of distant avalanches are reminders of nature’s sheer power in this dynamic landscape.

We return via the same track to our accommodation at a private hut, in awe of our position in the heart of the Southern Alps, surrounded by mountains of such commanding presence. With luck, we can watch the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook turn from white to pink with the sun’s last rays. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Wyn Irwin Lodge is a private mountaineering club hut, perfectly situated just a short walk from Aoraki/Mt Cook village and close by popular trailheads. The Lodge has 16 bunks, solar powered lighting, gas cooking and hot water. Communal bathroom and kitchen facilities are shared with other club members. Sleeping bags are required.


Aoraki/Mt Cook – Lake Hawea

4km/2 hours hiking

Enjoy a relaxed breakfast together with a postcard view of Aoraki/Mt Cook from our dining room window.

There is the option today of joining a local operator for a guided heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier (NZ $599).* A helicopter flight will take you onto the upper glacier where you’ll attach crampons to your boots to explore ice formations and ice caves and no doubt marvel at the jagged landscape.

Those not heli-hiking can join the guide for a hike up the steep slopes of Sebastopol to the Red Tarns for more stunning views. If there is need to rest the legs today, either relax at the hut, take a walk on the valley floor or visit the information centre to learn more about the park’s natural history and the feats of pioneering mountaineers.

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By mid-afternoon we re-unite with the heli-hikers and depart Aoraki/Mt Cook to continue our journey south through the Mackenzie Country and over Lindis Pass into the Central Otago region. We stay tonight near the shores of Lake Hawea, a glacially formed lake over 35kms in length ringed by mountains. Take the night off cooking and dine at a local restaurant. Includes breakfast and lunch.

*Price correct at time of publishing.

The Camp, offering basic, yet comfy, cabins on the shores of Lake Hawea, is set amongst mature trees on spacious and sheltered grounds. It is located just a short 15-minute drive from Wanaka, overlooks the lake and has stunning mountain views. Shared kitchen and bathroom facilities.


Lake Hawea – Aspiring Hut

14km/6 hours hiking

We drive to Wanaka township this morning to grab a coffee and take a wander around this vibrant lakeside resort town before heading on up the Matukituki Valley to the road end. Here we shoulder overnight packs and enjoy stunning alpine views as we hike across grassed flats to Aspiring Hut. Catch glimpses of the Matterhorn-like Mt Aspiring (3033m) between high peaks.

There is the option this afternoon of the steep yet well rewarded climb through beech forest to the bush line on the Cascade Saddle Track. Cheeky and inquisitive kea (alpine parrots) may check out our group as we rest to take in the uninterrupted view across the upper Matukituki to Mt Aspiring and the Southern Alps, so we might need to keep a wary eye on our things (kea love shiny zips). Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner

Aspiring Hut is an historic stone hut in the spectacular Matukituki Valley. Its large picture windows offer a tantalising partial view of Mt Aspiring with full views of the spectacular mountain ranges just a short walk away. Facilities are basic but comfortable, with bunk beds, mattresses, wood stove, common room, and flush toilets. Sleeping bags are required.


Aspiring Hut – Eglinton Valley

9km/3 hours hiking

We start our return hike early this morning enjoying the pretty views and easy walking along the floor of this wide glacially formed valley. Once we are back in Wanaka recharge with a lakeside picnic and you may want to dive into the lake for a swim.

Next up is a remarkable drive over the Crown Range, offering breath-taking summit views of the Wakitipu Basin and lakes. By late afternoon, we’re past Te Anau and well on our way to Milford Sound.

We camp for the next two nights at the beautiful Eglinton Valley campsite, relaxing and making the most of the welcome hot showers. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Eglinton Valley Campsite is a quiet campsite nestled in the Eglington Valley in the stunning environment of Fiordland National Park. Enjoy the peacefulness this remote location has to offer. Sleep in tents with one to two people per tent. Sleeping bags required; inflatable sleeping mats are provided. Shared kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Eglinton Valley – Milford Sound

2-hour cruise (or Milford kayaking option*), 7km/3 hours hiking

This morning we drive beneath imposing granite cliffs and hanging valleys into the heart of Fiordland National Park. This amazing World Heritage Site is one of the largest national parks in the world, with its huge glacial lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri and spectacular fiords.

By mid-morning, we are at Milford and ready to join one of the world’s great day-cruises. Our vessel takes us out to Anita Bay and the entrance to Milford Sound. Enjoy stunning views of cascading waterfalls and the iconic Mitre Peak, which soars 1722 metres above the sea. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, Fiordland crested penguins and New Zealand fur seals, which often play near the boat.

Before returning to Eglinton Valley, we take a hike up to Key Summit. This is the final section of the famous Routeburn Track, which is another of New Zealand’s Great Walks. An informative nature walk passes through a transition from forest to alpine vegetation and prolific birdlife, and views over the Hollyford Valley to the Darran Mountains are spectacular. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

* If you have chosen the kayaking option you will be picked up at 6.30am by the kayak company to travel to Milford Sound. Paddle for 3 to 3.5 hours in double kayaks to waterfalls, spotting rare wildlife, and generally feeling dwarfed by the enormity of the fiords. Returning to land, you will be reunited with the group after their cruise.

Please advise us at the time of booking if interested in the kayaking option, as space is limited. Cost: NZ$139

New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts System

New Zealand’s backcountry huts make walking in the outdoors a joy. Read about the amenities at the different huts and how to buy hut tickets or passes here.

Growing up in the USA I became accustomed to sleeping in tiny tents when spending time in the mountains and backcountry. When we moved to New Zealand we discovered the incredible benefits of backcountry huts. The huts make exploring the backcountry easy, especially with wet or cold weather. Here is a bit of a primer that explains the amenities available at the different types of huts and some tips on buying hut tickets.

backcountry huts

About New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts

A few books have been written about the backcountry huts that dot the New Zealand landscape, so I’m not going to get into that here. Suffice to say that many of the huts have long histories and special places in the hearts of people. The huts are located in iconic locations across the country and have been used by mountaineers, hunters, anglers, and families for years.

The Department of Conservation manages about 950 huts across the country. There are several categories of huts, based on what is available at them – basic, standard, serviced, or great walk.

Amenities At The Different Category Of Backcountry Huts

Basic Hut

This is the most basic hut that is free to stay at and can’t be booked in advance. These huts have a roof, walls, and limited facilities.

backcountry huts

Standard Hut

This is the next step up in terms of comfort and amenities. These huts have mattresses, water, and drop toilets. They may have a wood stove, but many don’t.

backcountry huts

Serviced Hut

These huts include bunks with mattresses, communal cooking areas, water, drop toilets, and a wood stove. Some of them may have cooking facilities (such as a stove and gas), but best to bring your own stove and gas to be safe. Some of the popular ones may have a hut warden during the busy time of year.

backcountry huts

Great Walk Hut

These are the top of the line, fanciest huts you can find, but you will pay more to stay here. During the great walk season (October to May), you must book ahead of time. These have mattresses, water, toilets, hand washing facilities, some include cooking stoves and gas, and they usually have a hut warden.

backcountry huts

Can You Book A Hut In Advance?

Most of the backcountry huts can not be booked in advance and are a first come first serve basis. This can be challenging as popular huts fill up fast and will be overflowing with visitors. Most of the time you can sleep on the floor, so it’s a good idea to bring along a sleeping pad to those busy huts. The best way to learn the popularity of a hut is to call the local DOC office and ask.

Some huts, especially the Great Walk huts, and some standard huts in very popular areas, can be booked in advance. You can search for individual huts to see if you can book them online through DOC’s website here.

backcountry huts

How To Buy Backcountry Hut Tickets Or Passes?

Individual Tickets Or A 6 Month Or Annual Pass

There are two options when it comes to buying hut tickets, either buy a ticket for each night or you can buy a 6 month or annual pass. If you are only staying in a few huts then go with the individual tickets. However, it you are planning on staying in many huts then you would be better off buying a 6 month or annual pass.

The individual tickets cost – adults tickets: standard $5, serviced $15; youth (age 11 – 17) standard $2.50, serviced $7.50 ; children (under 11) free. Individual tickets do not expire and can be used anywhere in the country. If you buy several standard tickets, but stay at a service hut you can simply use 3 of the $5 standard tickets which are equal to 1 $15 serviced hut ticket.

6 month pass – This is valid for 6 months from the time of your purchase and can be used as many nights as you want. The cost is – adult (18 and up) $92; youth (11 – 17) $46, and children (under 11) free. Note – you can’t use a pass to stay at a bookable hut.

Annual pass – This is valid for 12 months from the time of your purchase and can be used as many nights as you want. The cost is – adult (18 and up) $122; youth (11 – 17) $61, and children (under 11) free. Note – you can’t use a pass to stay at a bookable hut.

backcountry huts

Where To Buy Tickets?

You can buy tickets at any DOC visitor centre in the country. You can also buy tickets at the iSites that are conveniently located throughout the country. Tickets are also available at some outdoor retailer stores across the country, such as MacPac, Kathmandu, and Fishing and Hunting (note – not all of these stores sell them, so best to check with your local store).




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