A selection of my favourite day-walks in the Central Otago District, featuring wide open spaces, golden tussock grass, & arid alpine plateaus.
Central Otago, or just Central to locals, is New Zealand’s frontier land. Famous for wide open and spaces with rolling hills of golden tussock grass, its gold mining and rural history, and for extremes of temperature. The topography is a lot less defined than the Southern Alps to the west, but Central Otago has a stark and barren aesthetic of its own. And being away from the popular centres of Queenstown and Wānaka, we seldom see other walkers on our tramps.
A pleasant circuit walk along the Waterfall Track and Spur Track to the impressive 41m high Dog Stream Waterfall, in Hanmer Forest Park.
This circuit walk to Dog Stream Waterfall along the Waterfall Track and Spur Track is a good half day option if you are staying in nearby Hanmer Springs. The falls are 41m high and on the day we visited there was quite deep snow making it all that bit more scenic. There are a couple of spots with views but this walk is mainly for the waterfall.
A lesser known walk up Mt Norma (1722m) in the Lewis Pass region, with spectacular views of numerous mountain peaks and glacial valleys.
I came across the Mt Norma Access Track on my way up Nina Valley, and as always got a bit excited at the prospect of another easily accessible mountain summit in the Lewis Pass area. I waited a long time for a good weather window to get up there, but it finally came in the middle of a very snowy winter, so the views of mountain peaks and valleys galore were extra beautiful. With so much snow this turned out to be a bit adventurous also, and probably the closest we’ve come to mountaineering.
Excellent views of the Rangitata River and north-east towards Mt Taylor from the top of the Moorhouse Range (point 1153m).
This lesser known walk to the tops of the Moorhouse Range offers really excellent views of the Rangitata River and Harper Range to the west, and many other peaks including Mt Taylor to the north. There’s just 650m ascent and a fairly straightforward scrub bash to get these views, and you’re unlikely to meet anybody else. We did this walk after quite heavy snowfall so the views were extra good. Continue reading “Moorhouse Range Tops, Tenahaun Conservation Area, Canterbury NZ”
An unexpectedly attractive walk through the Rangitata Gorge on the Tenahaun Track, to a viewpoint over mountains to the west.
The Tenahaun Track through the Rangitata Gorge was one of many NZ walks to exceed expectations. Starting near an irrigation canal diversion, the track is through private farmland almost the whole way, but the majority of it through the Rangitata Gorge is spectacular. When out of the gorge you can continue in a couple of directions, but we stopped on some rocks for views over plains to the Harper Range and over the Southern Alps. A very satisfying day out. Continue reading “Rangitata Gorge on the Tenahaun Track, Canterbury NZ”
A circuit through the Chain Hills for front and centre views of one of Central Otago’s most attractive mountain ranges, the St Bathans Range.
After first seeing the St Bathans Range with a bit of snow on it I had always wanted to visit and see them up close. So it was after plenty of snowfall that we headed out to a walk in the Chain Hills for front and centre views of this classic Central Otago scene. In snow the walk was scenic up on the tops, and felt quite remote for a day-walk of just moderate difficulty. And you can make a circuit of it by taking the Shilmar, Chain Hills and Long Acre Tracks. Continue reading “Chain Hills Circuit, Lindis Valley, Otago NZ”
A short but steep climb to Double Peak (1323m) for spectacular views over the Lindis Pass Scenic Reserve, on the Otago/Canterbury border.
The Lindis Pass Scenic Reserve is a particularly attractive area of tussock covered mountains bisected by state highway 8. If you have driven between Otago and Canterbury along this route then you may have stopped at the Lindis Pass viewpoint for a quick look. This is already very nice, but to supercharge your views then invest around 1.5 hours heading up to Double Peak (1323m). Continue reading “Double Peak from Lindis Pass, Otago / Canterbury NZ”
A real classic overnight tramp to Angelus Hut at Lake Angelus, in Nelson Lakes National Park, taking the rugged and scenic Robert Ridge Route.
In my days of only doing day-walks I had often looked enviously at pictures of Lake Angelus (at 1650m), in Nelson Lakes National Park, thinking it was too far for a day-trip. It turns out you can do it in a day, even in winter, (we saw a few trail runners doing just that). But for time to soak in the views there are few better overnighters than the Robert Ridge Route to Angelus Hut.
The route first climbs Mt Robert (1421m) on the Pinchgut Track, where there are good views of Lake Rotoiti and west over plains to Mt Owen. (If you wanted a short day walk you could then return via Paddy’s Track to make a circuit). From there it’s along the increasingly rugged Robert Ridge, peaking at 1788m, before dropping to the shores of Lake Angelus at 1650m. The views start good and just keep getting better: a real classic. Continue reading “Lake Angelus Hut via Robert Ridge, Nelson Lakes National Park NZ”
Excellent coastal views plus views inland over the Seaward Kaikoura Range from the top of Patutu (1162m).
Patutu (1162m) lies in the far north of Canterbury, about 25 minutes drive north of Kaikoura. Like the nearby and more famous walk up Mt Fyffe, much of the ascent to the summit of Patutu is along an old vehicle track. And much of this through a variety of regenerating native bush. Most of the views start from roughly two-thirds of the way up. Views from the summit are very good, taking in some of the highest mountains north of the Southern Alps, and a long stretch of coastline, as far as the North Island. The mountains include a somewhat distant Tapuae-O-Uenuku (2885m), and the nearby Seaward Kaikoura Range. Continue reading “Patutu Route, Canterbury NZ”