Breast Hill Route, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ

One of the better walks near Wanaka, rugged Breast Hill (1578m) provides views of Lake Hawea and mountains in all directions.

I first learnt of the track to Breast Hill (1578m) from an Instagram follower who used to live in Wanaka. It was his favourite day walk in the area, and I came across another blogger who rated it highly, so I had to give it a go. It is indeed an excellent walk, especially once you hit the ridge, and then again when you get out of sometimes smelly farmland and into Hawea Conservation Park.  There are great views of Lake Hawea the whole way, of golden tussock grass hills, and of the steep rugged slopes of Breast Hill itself, as well as various mountain peaks all around. Continue reading “Breast Hill Route, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ”

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland National Park NZ

Some of the best views we’ve ever seen from Gertrude Saddle in Fiordland National Park, then even better ones from Barrier Knob (1879m).

Gertrude Saddle (1410m)

You’d be hard pressed to find better views for only moderate effort than those at Gertrude Saddle.  The fabulous scenery starts on the drive in, and continues right to the saddle, where the best views still await you. I’d seen the pictures but it still knocked my socks off. There is some steep walking on bare rock to be done, but it’s not a long walk, and this accessibility makes it a quite popular. So you won’t get any feeling of isolated splendour unless you start very early, or perhaps very late. But the splendour is extra splendiferous, and makes this walk a must-do for any semi-fit person visiting Fiordland.

Barrier Knob (1879m)

For those wanting even more, the 1km and almost 500m vertical climb to Barrier Knob will make this one of the best day-walks you’ve ever done. The reward from this extra effort will be 360 degree views of the area, in particular the spectacular Lake Adelaide. In mid summer this last bit required climbing up steepish snow slopes, but we came equipped and found the going quite easy. Crossing the snow stopped a lot of the people who had begun to climb above Gertrude Saddle, and hence we had the summit to ourselves for over an hour on this cloudless day in peak holiday season. Continue reading “Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland National Park NZ”

Lake Marian Track, Fiordland National Park NZ

A really spectacular alpine lake is your reward at the end of the short but sometimes rough Lake Marian Track in Fiordland National Park.

I was excited to visit Lake Marian on our first walking trip to Fiordland, as I’d seen some pretty epic photos of it. I suppose I had high expectations, but that still doesn’t prepare you for the scale and beauty of the place – it really is wonderful. We had planned our visit to coincide with rare clear skies, but I think the area would look great in any weather with visibility. (An Instagram follower said so anyway). The lake is the highlight of course, but on the way up the wild and scenic Marian Creek will also capture your attention. Continue reading “Lake Marian Track, Fiordland National Park NZ”

Coronet Peak to Brow Peak, Queenstown NZ

Views over golden hills and into the Wakatiu Basin on this walk from Coronet Peak ski field to the summit (1650m) & then to Brow Peak (1456m).

I’d climbed Brow Peak (1456m) twice from Arrowtown, and it was one of the better walks I’d done, especially in nice lighting. I knew the route continued to Coronet Peak (1650m), and on Christmas Day my wife Sophia and I decided to fit this into the morning before a Christmas date with neighbours in the afternoon.

Walking through the ski field to the summit of Coronet Peak was not the best experience, but the views are excellent once at the summit. And then the ridge walk to Brow Peak is a much wilder affair, being free of ski apparatus. And as open tussock grass country you get views the whole way, over the Wakatipu Basin and rugged slopes on the southern side of the ridge, and numerous golden hills and valleys in all other directions. Continue reading “Coronet Peak to Brow Peak, Queenstown NZ”

Alex Knob Track & Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park NZ

The Alex Knob Track passes through very attractive forest to a peak (1303m) with excellent views of Franz Josef Glacier.

The Alex Knob (1303m) Track was top of my list of walks to do on our first visit to the West Coast of New Zealand. I’d read it provided better views of the Franz Josef Glacier compared to those further down in the valley that most tourists visit, and of course it was a peak to bag. Unfortunately the West Coast weather does not often cooperate, and those views of the glacier will have to wait. Luckily the walk provided very attractive forest scenery, with lush rainforest on the lower slopes, and then a unique collection of trees and plants higher up as we approached the bushline. We also visited Lake Wombat as a side trip on the way back, although this can be a short walk in its own right.

Continue reading “Alex Knob Track & Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park NZ”

Lewis Tops Route, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve, Canterbury NZ

A classic walk to the Lewis Tops, climbing at first through attractive beech forest, then up onto the tarn strewn tops for wonderful views in all directions.

The popular Lewis Tops walk had been on my hit list for some time. I’d walked the nearby Nina Valley Track when staying in Hanmer Springs in winter, but had been waiting for clear weather to get onto high ground for the first time in this region. It was very much worth the wait, with wonderful views in all directions once above the bushline. Before then there is an hour-long climb through attractive beech forest, and there are also a number of tarns on the tops that made for nice photographic subjects. Continue reading “Lewis Tops Route, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve, Canterbury NZ”

Mt Thomas Circuit, Mt Thomas Forest Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ

A quick climb to the summit of Mt Thomas (1036m) for views over the Canterbury Plains & nearby hills, then a pleasant return through native forest.

Mt Thomas (1036m) is one of four smaller mountains less than an hour’s drive to the north-west of Christchurch, all of which have tracks to the summit and circuit options. The others are Mt Oxford, Mt Richardson, and Mt Grey. The walk up Mt Thomas was probably the least inspiring, however the loop walk we did was the shortest and hence was a good option when we wanted to get in a half day’s walk and be back in town for early afternoon. To be fair the best views were probably those to the west which were obscured by cloud on the day we did this walk. For me the most scenic section was the return leg from the summit along a broad ridge and then down through a valley of native forest on the Wooded Gully Track. Track notes at the end. Continue reading “Mt Thomas Circuit, Mt Thomas Forest Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ”

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury NZ

A thousand metre off-track climb to the summit of Purple Hill (1680m) rewards with great views of Lake Pearson and the Craigieburn Range.

If you’ve driven out to Arthur’s Pass from Christchurch then you’ve passed Purple Hill (1680m), a fairly imposing mound that looms above Lake Pearson as you approach from the south-west. It stands alone, so I expected good views from the summit, and wasn’t disappointed. The pointy (-ish) summit itself is fairly rugged, with long and colourful scree slopes to the west, so it was a fun one to visit. At a little over 1000 vertical metres to the top, and no track, it requires some fitness, but is well worth the effort, and navigation was straightforward. Continue reading “Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury NZ”

Bealey Spur to point 1545m, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ

The Bealey Spur Track is a classic walk to viewpoints over the braided Waimakariri River Valley. For 360 degree views continue to a minor peak at 1545m.

The classic and reasonably popular walk up the Bealey Spur Track offers excellent views over Arthur’s Pass National Park for less effort than climbing nearby mountains. There’s also no avalanche danger, so after significant spring snowfall we headed out there on a weekday to see some magical snowy scenes. And being on a weekday we had the place to ourselves. You can get great views of the braided Waimakariri River Valley from quite early on in the walk at roughly 980m of elevation. Most people continue through attractive beech forest and over plains of tussock grass to Bealey Top Hut, but for the full experience I recommend continuing past the hut to a minor peak at 1545m. Continue reading “Bealey Spur to point 1545m, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ”

Hinewai Reserve & Stony Bay Peak, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury NZ

A long circuit walk through mostly native bush in the Banks Peninsula’s largest nature reserve, Hinewai Reserve.

We recently watched a documentary on the advice of friends-Fools and Dreamers-about the establishment of Hinewai Reserve, and also its passionate and somewhat maverick manager, Hugh Wilson. With gale force winds forecast for the mountains on my day off we decided to make our first visit to Hinewai, near Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. The circuit route we chose took in a variety of waterfalls and viewpoints, the highest being Stony Bay Peak at 806m, where there are views over Akaroa Harbour. Continue reading “Hinewai Reserve & Stony Bay Peak, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury NZ”