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”

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”

Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock Walk, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Poutini National Park NZ

Very short walks to good views of the Franz Joseph Glacier. Can sometimes be extended on the Franz Valley Walk.

On a typically wet and cloudy visit to Franz Josef Glacier we wanted to at least get a good look at the glacier before moving on to our next destination. We did get a look from Rata Lookout two days earlier on the Alex Knob Track, however with some clear weather on the morning we left we stopped to do two very short walks, both with glacier views: The Forest Walk to Glacier View (the first part of the Franz Valley Track), and the Sentinel Rock Walk, which is a short side trip up a hill. You get a decent look at the quickly receding Franz Joseph Glacier from the end of these tracks, however the highlight is probably the overall Franz Valley. Continue reading “Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock Walk, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Poutini National Park 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”

Okarito Trig Walk, Okarito, Westland NZ

A shortish walk across wetlands and up through attractive forest to a viewpoint on Okarito Trig looking over Okarito Lagoon & further afield.

I think I first heard of Okarito village as the home of a really excellent landscape photographer called Andris Apse. Okarito Lagoon is the main landform in the area, and there are good views of it, and on clear days of the Southern Alps (probably), from the small hill of Okarito Trig, just on the edge of the lagoon. It’s an easy walk over a wetland and up through attractive forest to get there. Continue reading “Okarito Trig Walk, Okarito, Westland NZ”

Pakihi Walk, Westland Tai Poutini National Park NZ

The Pakihi Walk is a very short and easy climb through attractive forest and kiwi habitat, to a viewpoint on a hill.

I passed the sign for the very short Pakihi Walk driving from Franz Joseph Glacier to Okarito, otherwise I wouldn’t have known about it. We were operating in a short weather window during three days of forecasted rain, and decided to stop and do the walk because we might not get to do much else! It turned out to be an attractive if not spectacular walk that is worth doing if driving to Okarito as it’s just at the roadside. The highlight is the forest, (kiwi habitat apparently), but there are also modest views from the end of the walk. Continue reading “Pakihi Walk, Westland Tai Poutini National Park NZ”