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Source: Department of Conservation

Celebrate Get Outdoors Week (16 – 24 November) with a tramp the whole family can enjoy!

There lots of options around the country for huts accessible via short (1-3 hour) walks. Whether you prefer to relax by the coast, see some of our rarest wildlife, wander through towering forest or experience the alpine tops, there’s a DOC hut for you.

Browse the DOC website for family-friendly overnight tramps – or check out one of our picks below. And Mountain Safety Council has a great video with their top tips for family fun in the bush.

Walking with children? The Toyota Kiwi Guardians activity programme teaches kids about nature through cool rewards and exciting family adventures. You can earn Kiwi Guardian medals at three of the sites below.

Dawn at Packhorse Hut (Paul Willyams, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Packhorse Hut

This is a beautiful hut with a big history. It was built in the 1910s as part of a planned trail from Christchurch to Akaroa. Four rest houses were built: The Sign of the Packhorse, Sign of the Takahe, Sign of the Bellbird and Sign of the Kiwi.

Packhorse Hut is built of local volcanic stone and is positioned on a low saddle, with views down to Lyttleton Harbour. The wood burner is a great place to toast marshmallows on a chilly Canterbury evening.

The hut is a 1 hour 20 minute walk up the Kaituna Valley Packhorse Hut Track, through farmland and bush. There are several stream crossings – be prepared to get wet feet. Bookings are required, so you can be sure of having a bunk.

Cost: $15 per adult (18+), $7.50 per youth (11-17), child/infant free (0-10).

Take the Toyota Kiwi Guardians Packhorse Hut Adventure Map with you, so the kids can discover the nature and history of this track, then earn a Kiwi Guardians medal.

Sylvester Hut (© Logan Vickers)

Sylvester Hut

The Cobb Valley is a family-friendly gateway into the alpine high-country of the Kahurangi National Park. Thanks to an access road into the Cobb Dam, an area that would have only been accessible for multi-day tramping trips can be visited for easy overnight walks.

Sylvester Hut sits on the ridge above the Cobb Valley, near to Lake Sylvester. You’ll enjoy expansive views of the surrounding mountains and across the open tussock tops. Cobb Valley and the nearby lakes (including Lake Sylvester) are glacial in origin.

To get to the track, take Cobb Dam Road (narrow and unsealed, drive with care) from Upper Takaka to Cobb Dam. The track zig-zags up the side of Cobb valley, through beach forest. The walk to the hut takes around 2 hours. There are no bookings, so arrive early to secure a bed.

Cost: $15 per adult (18+), $7.50 per youth (11-17), child/infant free (0-10).

Matiu/Somes Island (© Laura Honey)

Forest and Bird House

Enjoy an island getaway in the middle of Wellington Harbour, at the Forest and Bird House on Matiu/Somes Island. The house offers visitors a rare opportunity to see the wildlife of Matiu at night, without sacrificing too many home comforts.

The island is a haven for native animals, including tuatara, kakariki, penguins and wētā. To spot wildlife at night, it’s best to take a torch with a red light (a normal torch covered in red cellophane works well).

This is a sole occupancy house with a fully equipped kitchen, hot showers, lighting and flush toilets. The island is accessed via ferry or by private boat/kayak. Matiu is predator free – check, clean and seal your gear, to make sure that pests, soil and seeds don’t come for the trip.

Cost: $200 for house hire, maximum 8 occupants.

Take the Toyota Kiwi Guardians Matiu/Somes Island Adventure Map with you, so the kids can discover the nature and history of this island, then earn a Kiwi Guardians medal.

Bunkhouse, lighthouse and buildings on Tiritiri Matangi (© Shellie Evans)

Tiritiri Matangi Island Bunkhouse

Ever wanted to share an island for the night with a group of takahe? If so, Tiriti Matangi Island Bunkhouse is your place.

This communal bunkhouse is situated near the lighthouse at the southern end of Tiritiri Matangi, a predator free island in the Hauraki Gulf. The island is home to a breathtaking array of rare native species, such tuatara, saddlebacks/tīeke and kokako.

The bunkhouse has fifteen public beds, hot showers and kitchen facilities (including an oven, microwave, fridge and freezer). Advance bookings are essential.

The island can be accessed by private boat or public ferry (bookings needed, check the timetable as it doesn’t run on all days). Remember to check, clean and seal your gear, to ensure that you don’t bring pests, soil and seeds.

Cost: $30 per adult (18+), $20 per child (0-17).

Take the Toyota Kiwi Guardians Tiritiri Matangi Island Adventure Map with you, so the kids can discover the nature and history of this island, then earn a Kiwi Guardians medal.

Puketi Nature Trail (© Tahu Taylor-Koolen)

Puketi Forest Hut

Experience the beauty of Northland’s Kauri Forest through a night at Puketi Forest Hut or the adjacent Puketi Recreation Area Campsite. You can drive all the way to the hut, then explore the area through short walks.

The hut sits on the edge of the 17,000 hectare Puketi-Omahuta Forest. The Puketi Nature Trail leads from the information sign shelter beside the hut on a 1.6km (1 hour) loop through the forest. On the track, you’ll see kauri trees. To protect our kauri from kauri dieback disease, please scrub all soil off your shoes and your gear before and after visiting the forest, and always stay on the track.

At night, keep an eye out for native bats and listen for kiwi calling. It’s possible to see glow-worms by the first boardwalk on the Puketi Nature Trail.

Hut bookings are essential. There are some kitchen facilities available (gas hob and a fridge) and cold showers.

Cost: $18 per adult (18+), $9 per youth (11-17), child/infant free (0-10).


Get Outdoors Week is brought to you by the NZ Mountain Safety Council.

This week is about safely and easily exploring New Zealand’s great outdoors. If you’ve always wanted to give it a go but didn’t know where to start then this week is for you! 

Visit the DOC website for tips on how to plan, prepare and #MakeItHomeNZ while exploring the outdoors.

MIL OSI New Zealand News