an informal guide to tramping in the South Island and Stewart Island

An in-depth, full-on, all-you-need-to-know, but not-complete-hand-holding, slightly opinionated, guide to Te Araroa and 28 other multi-day tramping tracks and routes in the South Island and Stewart Island.

Well, there’s information on most of the useful stuff about tramping, various long distance tracks and routes, mountain passes, huts, hut passes, etc. And plenty of images to get a feel of what any particular track or hut is like. Yeah, a heap of images.

Yay! There’s even suggestions about those questions mum likes to know:

Where to go? Here’s a few ideas for multi-day tramps to get you going.

Even some Great Walks, although, frankly, they are all great walks. The very hard to get onto Milford Track, the scenic Routeburn Track, the terrific Kepler Track, the overly popular Abel Tasman Coastal Track, the diversity of the Heaphy Track, and the short Rakiura Track.

In the north, what about the highly recommended Travers-Sabine Track in Nelson Lakes National Park, the full Nelson Lakes circuit, or cutting that short by doing the Lewis Pass to St Arnaud straight through; wandering the Leslie-Karamea track in Kahurangi; the Alpine Route out the back of Nelson that leads over the tops to St Arnaud; or, heading Harpers Pass, through Lake Sumner Forest Park to Arthurs Pass National Park, the St James Walkway, or for something more demanding, the Harman Pass route.

There are a few non-Great Walks that can be accessed from Te Anau: the Greenstone and Caples Tracks, the Hollyford Track, and turning it into a circuit with the Pyke-Big Bay Route.

Stewart Island is as good a place as any, there’s the Rakiura Great Walk, or the more energetic North-west Circuit, perhaps adding on the Southern Circuit for the full Stewart Island experience. Don’t try the Tin Range route, getting as far south as you can by foot in New Zealand, unless you have plenty of tramping experience.

That’s a start, just to get you in the mood. More routes will be added over time, Dusky Track, Rees-Dart, etc.

What about the weather? Actually, there’s not much you can do about that.

What basic gear do you need? A pack, boots, and clothing in general. Clue: the lightweight, but robust, variety usually helps.

What other stuff, ie, maps and GPS, etc, is needed?

How about some camping equipment like a cooking setup?

Where are those 950 backcountry huts that you can use? And official DOC campsites. This website has information on about 310 of the most popular huts and campsites.

What to eat? Just in case you can’t make up your mind what’s for dinner.

And, of course, what’s it likely to cost?

Need any more incentive?

You can always read about someone else’s Little Adventures:

beyond 47ºS—the Tin Range to Port Pegasus,

85 days from Bluff to Ships Cove sort of on Te Araroa,

walking the Kepler, Milford, Routeburn, Greenstone and Caples Tracks in quick succession,

15 days on a leisurely wander around the Hollyford and Pyke Tracks,

a big 19 days in Rakiura National Park, ie, on Stewart Island,

14 days in Nelson Lakes national park,

or 11 days in Kahurangi. It’s almost like being there.

Or, a shorter track, just the 5 days, climbing Mt Richmond after a long time contemplating the prospect.

Tramping is a great way to experience the New Zealand landscape. Sure you can rip through the Great Walks but, maybe, that can wait until you turn 70. If you are keen to really experience the New Zealand backcountry, to have a trip to remember the rest of your life, you can get off the Great Walks, ie, overcrowded and manicured trails, into the lesser travelled parts that still have a decent level of amenity. More of a challenge, both physically and mentally.

In an island as big as the South Island there are plenty of tracks to explore that hack through massively scenic territory and have the benefit of plenty of solitude.

Maybe this website might just inspire you to get out there yourself. There’s a massive swathe of exciting terrain to explore.

And a heap of fun on your own Little Adventure.

Here’s a few random articles to get you started. This website has over 820 informative pages to choose from . . .

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Travers-Sabine circuit | Nelson Lakes National Park

Upper Travers Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park

Can’t beat this circuit for a summary of what tramping in the South Island is all about: two big lakes; a mountain pass with mega views; the exquisite Blue Lake, the world’s clearest freshwater; Lake Constance for a variation on the small lake theme; a couple of long river valleys with enormous trout levitating in the cliched transparent water; big beech tree forest; ie, a huge list of sights.

If you don’t flop exhausted but buzzing onto your mattress each night you’d better check your pulse.

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what to wear: two sets of clothes

Big Bungaree Bay from the well located hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Here’s a handy hint: take the right attire, only the necessary.

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safety in the mountains

snow near Travers Saddle, Nelson Lakes National Park

There’s a balance between extreme adventure and a pure cottonwool existence and it comes down to this: preparation and reading signs of danger.

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Big Hellfire or Hellfire Pass Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Big Hellfire Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island

Almost at the top of the hill it’s big days either side of this hut, Mason Bay or East Ruggedy.

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100 Days | Walking Te Araroa paperback and ebook

During the summer of 2014–15 I spent 100, err, 101 days walking the 1300km length of the South Island of New Zealand, the world’s 12th biggest island. As a pre-ramble the first 16 days were spent on Stewart Island/Rakiura, attempting to get as far south as is sensibly possible in New Zealand. Like beyond 47º S.

Sensibly, hunh?

If it’s so sensible, why was I the only one doing it?

Yup, a great Little Adventure. Here’s what happened …

100 Days | Walking Te Araroa is available from Amazon as a paperback.

Or, download 100 Days | Walking Te Araroa from the Amazon Kindle Store. Or click on the image.

Length: 105,000 words — equivalent to a 298 page paperback, ie, it’s big

File size: 4085 KB

File format: .mobi — read in the Kindle app

Cost: $US4.99

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Here’s an extract:

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”


I let out a scream, spontaneously, thinking I’d sound like Tarzan, I guess, but with a dry throat my voice cut out unexpectedly. Fortunately, there was no one within 20 km of me, perhaps. I didn’t try again, but I did feel exuberant.

I had traded possessions for experiences, security for freedom.

This was the payoff.

There it was. Hugeness, remoteness, wilderness all rolled into one.

Up there I could sense my own remarkable insignificance, one small individual humbled by the unfathomable sparseness in front of me.

At this moment I had everything I needed, my pack lay on the ground with my physical essentials, my mind’s relentless wandering for once still and at peace.

We surround ourselves with people, possessions, activities to avoid this confrontation with ourselves in our routine lives. Here I was: stripped, alone, and strong. This was one of the most significant moments in my lifetime. The present was right in front of my eyes, no need to dwell on the past, or contemplate the future. Everything important was just in front of my eyes, all new, not able to be grasped in its entirety, that was enough, if not too much. All senses operational without the need for thought or processing.

It was awesome, as in the archaic sense, filling you with awe, not in the current, diluted meaning — yeah, pretty good.

I felt a surge of life. Pure exhilaration.