Best Day-walks in Central Otago

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.

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Chain Hills Circuit, Lindis Valley, Otago 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”

Double Peak from Lindis Pass, Otago / Canterbury 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”

Bush Creek Track, Arrowtown NZ

A very pleasant and easy walk at Arrowtown up the Bush Creek Track through a gorge as far as a saddle, where there are views over the Wakatipu Basin.

I’d done part of the Bush Creek Track a few months earlier on a loop taking in Brow Peak, and quite liked that section. So on a clear Autumn day we returned to do the whole thing, and I was pleasantly surprised. The walk offers a wide variety of native and non-native vegetation along the pleasant Bush Creek, which eventually passes through a gorge on its way to a saddle, where there are good views over the Wakatipu Basin. I liked the open aspect of the upper sections, and the rugged cliffs lining the gorge. There are also nice stands of beech forest and some autumn colours early on in the walk courtesy of introduced trees. Continue reading “Bush Creek Track, Arrowtown NZ”

Devils Creek Track to Mt Kinaki, Bendigo Conservation Area, Central Otago NZ

Central Otago at its finest on the Devils Creek Track to Mt Kinaki (1309m). Arid, rocky landscapes including the deeply cut Devils Creek as a highlight.

Many day-walks in Central Otago are let down somewhat by a long walk in weedy farmland to get to a conservation area, and then before you know it, it’s time to return. On paper the walk up Devils Creek Track to Mt Kinaki (1309m) is just this kind of walk, although I thought the topography of Devils Creek held some promise. Well, I ended up enjoying this walk from start to finish. In perfect mid-autumn conditions the colours were just lovely, including the weeds, and the rocky slopes of the Dunstan Range were otherworldy. But it was Devils Creek itself that stole the show – a fabulously deep cut, arid and rocky valley that I think earns its devilish name. You also get views back towards Lake Dunstan and the 1963m Pisa Range. Continue reading “Devils Creek Track to Mt Kinaki, Bendigo Conservation Area, Central Otago NZ”

Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

The Routeburn North Branch Track is a spectacular valley walk with beautiful vegetation and mountains towering overhead the whole way.

The Routeburn 2-3 day walk is one of New Zealand’s most famous Great Walks, and the whole area is truly spectacular. I’d done day walks on this route as far as Harris Saddle and Conical Hill in the past, but had never considered the Routeburn North Branch because valley walks aren’t really my thing. To anticipate a longer than average introduction, I’m now a convert, or at least for the very best valley walks like this one. Continue reading “Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ”

Corner Peak Route, Lake Hawea NZ

A long and spectacular walk up rugged Corner Peak (1683m) with views of Lake Hawea, the Hunter River, and over numerous mountain ranges.

Corner Peak (1683m) cuts a striking figure from the western shore of Lake Hawea, especially as you drive from the West Coast across The Neck, alongside Isthmus Peak. Multiple spurs rise 1300m very steeply out of the lake, but the way up is along a long ridge from the south. It feels quite adventurous, and is a hard slog, but the scenery is spectacular pretty much from start to end, so it’s well worth the effort. One of the best walks in this area, along with Sentinel Peak and Breast Hill.

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Deep Gully-Eastern Hills Loop, Long Gully Conservation Area, Wanaka NZ

A fairly plain walk into the Long Gully Conservation Area for views over Central Otago & out towards the distant Southern Alps.

The Deep Gully-Eastern Hills Loop is a reasonable half-day filler, although nothing to0 spectacular, at least in summer when we did it. There were some nice wildflowers out (albeit non-native) and there are decent views in all directions over Central Otago including the Upper Clutha Valley, and out towards the Southern Alps. Continue reading “Deep Gully-Eastern Hills Loop, Long Gully Conservation Area, Wanaka NZ”

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

Magnificent views on this long day walk to Brewster Glacier, its terminal lakes, and an unnamed peak at 2023m.

I had visited Brewster Hut twice before, and on one of those occasions I went beyond the hut for views east. For some reason though I had not seriously considered visiting Brewster Glacier and its terminal lake, though I know now that this is the main prize for day-walkers in the area. The proximity of the hut means quite a few others will join you, but we got some solitude by also visiting the unnamed peak at 2023m, between Mt Brewster (2516m) and Mt Armstrong (2174m). It’s a high quality walk from start to finish, with beautiful beech forest, lovely alpine flowers in summer, and spectacular and ever changing views for as long as you are above the bushline. Continue reading “Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ”

Brow Peak – Bush Creek Circuit, Arrowtown NZ

A shortish route up Brow Peak (1456m) for excellent views over backcountry to the north, & the Wakatipu Basin to the south. There a few options to make a circuit, including back along the picturesque Bush Creek.

This was my third time up Brow Peak, having ascended via Big Hill Saddle twice, and almost getting to the summit from Coronet Peak. (I ran out of time on Christmas Day, needing to get back for festivities with friends). This is a short ascent and good if you want the views without so much walking, however there are less views than walking the longish ridge from Big Hill. If it’s your first time up I recommend going this longer route. Nevertheless, excellent views await you at the summit, especially of the backcountry to the north, and this route offers a nice return circuit along picturesque Bush Creek. Continue reading “Brow Peak – Bush Creek Circuit, Arrowtown NZ”