Are you ready to get lost in the beauty of New Zealand’s wilderness?
New Zealand is known for its incredible beauty and endless opportunities for adventure. If you are looking for some inspiration, look no further than the Great Walks. New Zealand has nine Great Walks, including the Whanganui River, which we covered in ambassador Leslie’s #GetOutThere Guide to the Whanganui River. This week we are checking out another Great Walk with Leslie, the Heaphy Track.
The Heaphy Track
At 78.4km the Heaphy Track is the longest of the Great Walks. Usually done in 4-5 days, it is a one way track that can be started at either end. Most folks start from the Collingwood side (Brown Hut), since it’s nice to end your journey at the ocean (Heaphy Hut). To get back to your car, you will need to arrange transportation ahead of time and there are car relocation services available, or you can try hitchhiking back to your vehicle. Between May 1st and September 30th, the track can be done on a mountain bike. The New Zealand Department of Conservation has a in-depth brochure – – after reading this insider guide to highlights of the Heaphy Track, be sure to check it out.
New Zealand is called “the land of contrast” for a reason. No two days are ever the same. This is evident on the Heaphy as the landscape changes frequently. If you start from the Collingwood side (Brown Hut) your first day will have you climbing up to the highest point on the track, surrounded by Beech trees. You’ll then cross through Tussocklands and mossy covered forest for the next few days before descending in elevation to walk alongside the ocean. Tussocklands on the track can be eerie but beautiful!
Keep in mind that New Zealand has a constantly changing climate. Please be prepared for all weather. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
Mt Perry is a great side trip on a nice day. Just past the Perry Saddle hut scramble up to the top, where you are rewarded with 360 degree views!
There is a part of the track known as the “enchanted forest”, given its name because of its moss covered beech trees. It is also home to limestone outcrops and caves.
Swinging bridges are a common sight when hiking in New Zealand. The Heaphy definitely has its fair share.
The New Zealand Hut System
One of the perks of hiking in New Zealand is the amazing hut system. There are over 950 huts scattered around New Zealand. These are all managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation. Most of the Great Walks huts are fully equipped with gas stoves, toilets, running water, lights, heating and bunk beds. Check out the DOC (Department of Conservation) website for more information and fees.
If huts aren’t for you, there are camping areas near each hut along the track. Just know, that if you choose to camp, you are not allowed to use the hut facilities and will need to bring your own cooking equipment.
You need to book your spot in the hut or campsite well in advance (use the DOC website). Campsites and huts are extremely busy during the summer season (December – February).
What to Bring:
- Well fitting 40L pack (you may want something larger or smaller depending on how you pack)
- Waterproof pack liner
- Sleeping bag (3 season)
- First Aid kit
- Water Bottle
- Utensil and bowl (huts have pots to cook with)
- Matches / Lighter (the huts have gas stoves but you will need a lighter/match to light them)
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer)
- SUNSCREEN! Wear it everyday even when it’s cloudy!
- Headlamp and spare batteries
- Bag for your garbage (pack in pack out, leave no trace!)
- Hut/tent booking confirmation and ID
- Earplugs (I highly recommend these! For the communal bunk rooms in the huts.)
- You will need (minimum) one set of clothes to walk in and one set for camp. Make sure you always have a dry set of clothes to change into at night!
- Boots or sturdy sneakers (broken in!)
- Wool/synthetic socks. No cotton.
- Quick Dry shorts or pants (whatever you prefer to hike in)
- Sun shirt/long sleeve quick dry shirt (protect your skin from the strong UV rays!)
- Long underwear top and bottom (wool or synthetic)
- Midlayers (lightweight fleece top and bottoms)
- Raincoat and rain pants
- Warm hat
- Sunhat and sunglasses
- Spare socks and undies
- MI OLA Bikini (There is a cold pool near Perry Saddle Hut & swimming near the Heaphy Hut in the river)
- Sleeping pad
- Stove, gas, pot
The Heaphy Track is home to many of New Zealand’s Native birds like the Great Spotted Kiwi and the Weka. The Kiwis are plentiful on the West Coast – – you might not get to see one, but you may hear them at night.
You will definitely see Weka near the huts. They are very accustomed to hikers and are pretty cheeky. Make sure everything you care about is packed away, or else you will see one of these birds running off with your belongings.
Keep your eyes on the trail to spot one of largest carnivorous land snails or Powelliphanta, they are native to New Zealand and can be up to 90mm (3.5 inches) across.
Websites & Resources:
Check out the book From Weta to Kauri. Its an excellent resource for anyone traveling to NZ who wants to know more about the local flora and fauna. It’s a personal favorite as it is concise and easy to read. Also be sure to check out the New Zealand Department of Conservation brochure for Heaphy Track..