Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ

Sitting almost 1500m above Lakes Hawea & Wanaka, Sentinel Peak (1814m) is a big day out with 360 degree views of the lakes & surrounding peaks.

Some years ago we did a shortish walk to Sawyer Burn Hut, starting at the Kidds Bush Reserve campsite. I had read at that time it was possible to keep going upwards to climb Sentinel Peak (1814m), however we weren’t experienced at off-track tramping so it remained on the wish list. We finally got around to doing this walk four years later, and it was very satisfying. There are views of various mountain peaks, rugged slopes, and both Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. One of the highlights for me was the very attractive summit – both looking at it, and the views from it. This is a walk for the more adventurous hiker, as there is some navigation required, and a couple of places with mild exposure. Nothing too serious though – we’re no mountaineers! Continue reading “Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ”

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”

Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ

A very high views to effort ratio on the relatively easy Key Summit Track in Fiordland, a side trip off the famous Routeburn Track.

On our first walking trip to Fiordland I wanted to do a few of the well known day walks that take in some of the best scenery. The Key Summit Track can be fit easily into half a day, and has a very high views to effort ratio. It’s mainly a views walk, so one to save for a clear day, and in fact we had planned two days in Fiordland to coincide with rare cloudless skies. There’s spectacular views of the Darran, Ailsa and Serpentine mountain ranges, picturesque tarns and bogs, and views into the Lower Hollyford Valley. Continue reading “Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ”

Hokitika Gorge Walk, Westland NZ

Spectacular blue water framed by white (ish) rocks and green vegetation on this short walk through Hokitika Gorge, and these colours despite overcast skies.

The short but spectacular Hokitika Gorge Walk had been recommended by friends, and so we took the 30-odd kilometre diversion from the main road (and the town of Hokitikia) when on our first West Coast road trip. With overcast weather I did not expect the vibrant blues and greens I’d seen online, and had adjusted my expectations accordingly. But when we got there the colours were intense despite the sunless skies, so I think the gorge is worth a visit in any but the dreariest weather conditions. Continue reading “Hokitika Gorge Walk, Westland NZ”

Pororari River Track short walk, Paparoa National Park, Westland NZ

Very attractive river, gorge and forest scenery on this short and easy section of the Pororari River Track near Punakaiki, Westland. There are longer options available too.

The Pororari River Track is another of the side of the road short walks that we did by chance on NZ’s West Coast. Like the nearby Truman Track this turned out to be a great little walk, taking in some fabulous river, gorge and rainforest scenery for very little effort. Highly recommended.

Continue reading “Pororari River Track short walk, Paparoa National Park, Westland NZ”

Truman Track, Paparoa National Park, Westland NZ

An attractive and varied short walk through rainforest and coastal vegetation that makes a good introduction to the unique NZ West Coast environment.

On our first road trip down the West Coast of New Zealand we stopped along the way to complete a few short walks (perhaps 15 minutes to an hour). Some, like the Truman Track, were not planned, but turned out to be an excellent introduction to this beautiful and unique part of the country. This track in particular was a good one as it had a variety of vegetation, and signs identifying some of the notable plants found in this region, which is much wetter than my usual stomping grounds of Canterbury and Otago. It starts in very lush rainforest, then quickly transitions to attractive coastal scenery, and the whole walk can be done in 30 minutes (plus photography time!). Continue reading “Truman Track, Paparoa National Park, Westland NZ”

Mt Fyffe and Gables End, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ

Fabulous views of the coast & inland over high peaks make this walk up Mt Fyffe (1602m) and on to Gables End (1592m) a must do if you are visiting Kaikoura.

Kaikoura is a coastal town in the far north of Canterbury, and is famous as a place where tall mountains meet the sea. Those tall mountains are the Seaward Kaikoura Range, peaking at the summit of Manakau (2608m). Grandstand views of these mountains on one side, and the sea on the other, are available from Mt Fyffe (1602m) and nearby Gables End (1592m). Most people would stop at Mt Fyffe, but the relatively easy walking (with one steep bit) across the tops to Gable and then Gables End was the highlight of the day, and so if you have the energy I can recommend this extension. The views at Gables End are also very good. Continue reading “Mt Fyffe and Gables End, Kaikoura, Canterbury 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”