Cairnmuir Hill Track, Central Otago NZ

This walk starts in New Zealand’s driest area, and climbs onto Cairnmuir Hill at 1114m of elevation. There are extensive views of the moody Dunstan Mountains, and over the flatlands further south.

This walk is one half of a complete traverse of Cairnmuir Hill (1114m) in Central Otago, which would take you from near Bannockburn over to Clyde. It starts in New Zealand’s driest and most arid area, with just introduced thyme eking out an existence. As you steadily climb the country becomes more hospitable, with familiar tussock grass dominating the scenery, along with a few rocky outcrops. There are good views over the moody Dunstan Mountains, with their large tors and wrinkled dark slopes, and also glimpses of the aqua coloured Lake Dunstan in the valley below. Continue reading “Cairnmuir Hill Track, Central Otago NZ”

Earnslaw Burn Track, near Glenorchy NZ

A truly spectacular walk to a tussock basin below the Earnslaw Glacier. Highly recommended for fit walkers or those willing to spend a night there.

You get up close and personal with Mt Earnslaw and its glacier on this mammoth walk, which took my wife and me almost 10 hours. The Earnslaw Burn Track follows the true left bank of the Earnslaw Burn through beech forest up to a tussock basin below the Earnslaw Glacier. Once out of the forest the views will be enough to knock your hiking socks off, and are amongst the best we’ve seen on any day hike. They include the Earnslaw Glacier and numerous waterfalls, big fallen rocks, and we caught sight of an avalanche too. Continue reading “Earnslaw Burn Track, near Glenorchy NZ”

Sawpit Gully Circuit, Arrowtown NZ

The Sawpit Gully Circuit is a pleasant enough walk in the hills behind Arrowtown, which is itself a very pleasant historic town.

The Sawpit Gully Circuit starts in Arrowtown’s historic Chinese gold mining settlement next to the Arrow River. If you walk it clockwise the track climbs into the surrounding hills and returns through the Arrow River Gorge. It’s a nice walk through open country, but with some really spectacular walks in the area it has some steep competition. We’ve done it twice so far and it’s been a good choice for a not too strenuous walk close to Queenstown, and you can hang out in the picturesque village of Arrowtown afterwards. Probably shouldn’t be first on your list if you are new to the area. Continue reading “Sawpit Gully Circuit, Arrowtown NZ”

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago NZ

A long hard walk up 1600m of elevation to reach the barren plateau on top of the Pisa Range, finishing at the summit of Mt Pisa (1963m).

The ascent of Mt Pisa is a pretty gruelling slog up 1600m of elevation over 12.5 km, but the otherworldly moonscape on top is impressive and worth the effort. Most of the climb is through farmland on a vehicle track, and when we did it there was a lot of animal dung around, so it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. Once out of the farmland and into the Pisa Conservation Area the terrain changes to a barren and rocky moonscape, and when on the plateau there’s a further 2km of mostly flat walking to rocks on the summit at 1963m of elevation. Continue reading “Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago NZ”

Lower Wye Creek, Remarkables Conservation Area NZ

A walk through beech forest to the tree-line at Wye Creek in the Remarkables Conservation Area. There views further up the creek and over Lake Wakatipu.

Lower Wye Creek is the forested section of a potentially much longer walk in the Remarkables Conservation Area. Ending the walk just above the tree line makes it a satisfying finish with views up the creek to high ground, and of rugged crags immediately above the creek. Picking your way very carefully between lethal spear grass you can climb up the steep slopes from the creek to get more (partial) views of Lake Wakatipu.

A pretty straightforward walk described on the DOC website.

Although there’s no track, you can continue up the creek to Lake Alta and the Remarkables ski fields, although I’d say most people would do it downhill as a day walk. We’ve not done this yet because of transport logistics.

The Scenery

My pictures are almost all from the turnaround point just above the tree line, and so are a little misleading as the walk is mostly through beech forest.

January 1st 2016
Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area
Looking back towards Queenstown over Lake Wakatipu
Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area
Lake Wakatipu
Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area
A bendy panorama of the cliffs above Wye Creek.
Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area
Looking up Wye Creek.
Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area
A bit of Lake Wakatipu visible from this spot, and the beech forest down in Wye Creek Valley.
Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area
Sophia descending back to Wye Creek after we checked out the views from up a bit higher. Those spear grass plants were absolutely lethal, so whatever you do don’t touch them. It was hard work picking our way between them and trying not to slip and break our fall by putting our hand onto one.
December 31st 2012

A few photos from three years earlier when the weather was a lot cooler, despite it being mid summer…

Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area
Dec 2012: A slightly blurry photo of the creek just inside the beech forest. I wanted to include it since this was the only shot from below the tree line that I took.
Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area
From Dec 2012
Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area
My wife Sophia at the turnaround point of the walk. It was rather cold despite being mid summer.
Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area
There had been some snow on high ground overnight.

Shirt Tail Track, Kingston NZ

A short but steep walk up the side of a mountain for views over the village of Kingston at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu. The Te Kere Haka Track is an alternative flat option along the lake foreshore.

The small town of Kingston sits at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu, and is a pretty low key place without the tourist scene around Queenstown. The short but steep Shirt Tail Track is one way to get above the town and enjoy the scenery if you are in the area, and the drive down from Queenstown is also nice.

The Te Kere Haka track is another flat option that runs alongside the foreshore of Lake Wakatipu; we did a bit of this but I don’t think we had time to make it to the end. Both walks are nice enough, but there’s much more specular scenery around Queenstown, and at the northern end of the lake around Glenorchy.   Continue reading “Shirt Tail Track, Kingston NZ”

Camerons Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley, near Wanaka NZ

The walk from Cameron’s Flat to the Glacier Burn crosses pasture and then enters beech forest, eventually stopping at the burn (stream) with views of Avalanche Glacier.

The East Matukituki Valley is about an hour’s drive from Wanaka, and is less well known than its neighbour, the West Matukituki Valley. The initial walk from Cameron’s Flat crosses featureless farmland, and doing this in full sun definitely took the gloss off this walk. Nevertheless, the views of the surrounding mountains are lovely, and the short section in beech forest to Glacier Burn is very picturesque. The views from the burn of Avalanche Glacier provide the money shot.

I think this is a walk to do only after you’ve done nearby alternatives like the Rob Roy Glacier Walk, (which I haven’t posted on yet – its coming up).

There are brief track notes and a map on the DOC website.

Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
The start of the walk in the West Matukituki Valley.

Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley

Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
Near the start of the walk.
Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
The farmland we had to walk through.

Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley

Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
Pasture eventually gives way to national park.
Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
Sophia almost trod on this baby bird, which sadly looked to have been separated from its mother.
Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
I think it was asking for food. We gave it a little banana but I fear this poor soul was doomed.
Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
Approaching our turnaround point.
Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
The Glacier Burn is the end of the track.
Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
The Avalanche Glacier
Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
The Avalanche Glacier
Cameron Flat to Glacier Burn, East Matukituki Valley
I took a picture of what I think are buttercups (for nostalgic purposes – I don’t think I’ve seen any in decades), and it came out rather interesting due to over exposure or some other such trickery of light.

Gibbston River Trail, Otago NZ

The Gibbston River Trail is a constructed and mostly flat track that runs through the picturesque Gibbston Valley wine region next to the Kawarau River. It can be walked or mountain-biked.

The Gibbston River Trail runs through the picturesque Gibbston Valley wine region next to the Kawarau River. It’s a mostly flat gravel track that can be walked or mountain-biked, and to be honest biking it would probably be more enjoyable.

It offers nice views of the river in certain spots, which in sunny weather is an intense aqua colour as my pictures demonstrate. But the rest of the time it meanders through somewhat uninspiring vegetation that offers no protection from the sun, and so was a bit of a slog for us in summer. I recommend walking it in sunny winter weather. (In overcast weather the river won’t be such a nice colour.) Continue reading “Gibbston River Trail, Otago NZ”

Brewster Hut Track (and ridge below Mt Armstrong), Westland NZ

After a long climb through attractive beech forest you’ll be rewarded with classic South Island views of high mountains, including Mt Brewster & its glacier. Continue upwards from Brewster Hut towards Mt Armstrong for even more views.

This is definitely one of my favourite walks. Starting at the frigidly beautiful Haast River, the track climbs steeply through attractive beech forest to the tree line. It then climbs onto a narrow ridge and up further to Brewster Hut at 1400m of elevation. There are views of many high mountains to the west, and up towards Mt Brewster (2516m) and its glacier. Continue reading “Brewster Hut Track (and ridge below Mt Armstrong), Westland NZ”

Mt Crichton Loop Track & Lake Dispute, near Queenstown NZ

A straightforward walk on the foothills of Mt Crichton near Queenstown. The track passes through native beech and manuka forest, and visits a historic miner’s hut.

The Mt Crichton Loop Track is an undulating track on the foothills of Mt Crichton. It passes through native beech and manuka forest, by waterfalls and bare rocky hills, and visits a historic miner’s hut. You can also take a side trip to nearby Lake Dispute. It’s all very close to Queenstown, so it makes for a good half day option if you have other things on.  Continue reading “Mt Crichton Loop Track & Lake Dispute, near Queenstown NZ”