Kid friendly overnight hikes in Te Wai Pounamu: South Island, Aotearoa, New Zealand

Speargrass hut
12 bunk beds (Bookings not required)
1-3 hours walk
Easy walk from road end
Nelson Lakes National Park (Nelson / Tasman Region)

“Speargrass Hut sits in a tussock clearing at 1060 m, with views across the surrounding mountains.”

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/nelson-tasman/places/nelson-lakes-national-park/things-to-do/huts/speargrass-hut/

Lake Daniell Track
20 bunk beds (Bookings required)
1-3 hours walk
Easy walk from road end
Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve (West Coast Region)

“Kōhanga Atawhai – Manson Nicholls Hut sits on the edge of Lake Daniell. You can swim in the shallow lake in the summer or fish for trout. The current hut was designed and built especially for families and school groups using innovative, sustainable building techniques. It was completed in March 2020.”

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/west-coast/places/lewis-pass-scenic-reserve/things-to-do/tracks/lake-daniell-track/

Hooker Hut
8 bunk beds (Bookings required)
2 hours
Easy walk from road end
Aoraki:Mt Cook Regional Park (Canterbur Region)

“Follow the Hooker Valley Track until arriving at Stocking Stream. You will know you’re there when you see the toilets to the left of the track.

Just after starting onto the section of boardwalk, turn left off the formed track and pick your way through the tussock, sticking to the true right of the riverbed.

Keep an eye out for an orange track marker that indicates a sharp turn to the left, then follow the poled route to the hut.”

Make sure you include this walk to meet Mt Aoraki…

Hooker Valley Track

The track leads through the sacred Tōpuni area of the Hooker Valley, which has special significance and values to Ngāi Tahu iwi, towards Aoraki/Mount Cook.From the first of three swing bridges along the way, enjoy the views over the Mueller Lake and listen for the rumbling of avalanches from the distant Mount Sefton. You may be able to spot them before they crash into the Mueller Glacier below.After crossing the Hooker River, the track goes between old moraine ridges and humps.From the second swing bridge, the vegetation changes to more open tussock and a wider valley floor.

Second swingbridge may close in high windsThe second swingbridge may be closed during winds in excess of 80 k/hr and in significant flood events.

The second swingbridge in the Hooker Valley was severely damaged during a storm in March 2019. There is erosion on both sides of the bridge which affects its structural integrity during high winds. Engineers have determined the bridge is completely safe when not affected by strong winds and flood events. A third swing bridge then leads to the East Hooker and the source of the Hooker River. The track ends with an amazing view over the iceberg-speckled Hooker Lake and up to majestic Aoraki/Mount Cook and the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana. Sun over the Southern Alps at dawn.

The track at dawn gives you a view of the first rays of the sun creeping over the Southern Alps, including over New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook.

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/canterbury/places/aoraki-mount-cook-national-park/things-to-do/tracks/hooker-valley-track/

Mid Caples Hut
24 bunk beds (Bookings not required)
1-3 hours
Easy walk from road end
Greenstone and Caples Conservation Areas (Otago Region)

In comparison (to the Greenstone) the Caples Valley is a narrower valley filled with beech forest interspersed with grassy clearings.

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/otago/places/greenstone-and-caples-conservation-areas/things-to-do/mid-caples-hut/

Hollyford Track
Hidden Falls Hut
12 bunk beds (Bookings not required)
2-3 hours
9 kms
From road end
Fiordland National Park & Hollyford Valley area (Fiordland area)

“With no alpine sections, this track is rarely cut off by snow so you can tramp it in any season depending on weather.”

“Cross the swing bridge over Humboldt Creek and follow the old road to the start of the track, which initially sidles along bluffs, with swampland to the left. Sections of raised boardwalk cross areas prone to flooding.

Swamp Creek has a bridge over the waterway. However, there is a dry flood channel that can be impassable in or after heavy rain. Where Swamp Creek joins the Hollyford River/Whakatipu Kā Tuka, the track follows the riverbank, with occasional views of the Darran Mountains.

At Hidden Falls Creek the track passes Sunshine Hut (private hut) then continues upstream to a swingbridge.

Hidden Falls Hut is about 15 minutes from here.”

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/fiordland/places/fiordland-national-park/things-to-do/tracks/hollyford-track/

You could EXTEND this tramp 1-2 more nights by going on to the next hut…

Lake Alabaster Hut
26 bunk beds (Bookings not required)
3-4 hours
10.5 kms
Leave from Hidden Falls Hut

“The track passes through a section of lowland ribbonwood/podocarp forest draped with colourful mosses and ferns.

It then enters tall beech forest before the climb to Little Homer Saddle, with views of Mt Madeline and Fiordland’s highest mountain, Mt Tūtoko (2723 m).

The track descends to Little Homer Falls (60 m) and continues to the Hollyford/Pyke Rivers confluence. Beyond this is Pyke River Lodge (private) and 15 minutes further on is Lake Alabaster Hut.”

NB: The Hollyford Track does offer the option of walking it with a tour, which includes a jet boat ride back for most of the way. I’m not sure how child friendly this would be, but perhaps if a large group ‘booked it out’ the tour would be accomodation.

Tours: https://www.hollyfordtrack.com/

Note: Mostly children stay for free in DOC huts, but adults are classed 11 years and over.

Bookings not required: First in first served. ‘Experienced’ trampers depart as early as possible to arrive as early as possible at the hut to secure their place, this also had a double ‘reward’ in that IF the hut is fully occupied there’s time to walk to another hut or back to the car.

There are plenty of stories of trampers sleeping on the floor of huts also, even under tables or on the porches outside. For this reason some hikers carry an inflatable thermal mattress to take the edge off the wooden floorboards and temperature of the ground.

Lastly some trampers prefer to hike with a lightweight tent, so they always know they’ll have somewhere dependable. Good practice is to only use the wharepaku | toilet and to refrain from using the hut’s kitchen.

Here’s a full list that DOC (Department of Conservation) has compiled also: https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/walking-and-tramping/family-friendly-walks-and-tramps/

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