Te Araroa: Huts

Our first living space together was a two bedroom apartment. Since then, we’ve continued to downsize: first, down to a one bedroom apartment. Next, a brief time in just a hotel room while in quarantine, followed by our time in our small van. Finally, here on Te Araroa, we just have our backpacks and a tent!

Along with the varied terrain, the TA has a variety of different camping options, from tents, to huts, to holiday parks!

Because of all these different possibilities, we won’t have to use our tent every night. All across New Zealand there are nearly 1000 Backcountry huts, meant to be used by the general public for recreation! The trail goes by dozens of them, meaning you can often go entire weeklong sections just staying in these huts.

Huts across the South Island

Some of them are modern, fancy huts, like the ones on the Great Walks. The Routeburn Falls hut or Luxmore hut each accommodate 40+ people and have amenities such as gas cookers and flush toilets!

The entryway of the Routeburn Falls hut

However, the vast majority of the backcountry huts are very simple, one-room shacks that simply give a place to lay your head for the night. If you’re lucky, they might have a table, and you might stretch your luck for a chair or bench. Some of them are old musterer’s (sheep herders) huts that date back to the 1800s, and some were built as recently as 2011.

Bunks with standard mattresses

The Department of Conservation (DOC), the governmental outdoorsy people, have done a terrific job of standardizing almost all of the huts to have 4-8 bunks with foam cushions, and a ‘long drop’ nearby (pit toilet).

Most of the basic Backcountry huts cost a Hut Ticket, which you can buy at any DOC site. However, there is also an annual Backcountry Hut pass which lets you use almost all of the huts for free for the year! We were stoked to start using the hut system we each bought a pass when we first got into the country.

Hiking Te Araroa we will be utilizing these huts extensively! The trail generally follows existing routes, which already had huts on them when the TA was formed.

There are a few private huts along the way that you may have to pay for, but they generally have better features than the standard DOC ones. One even had a shower!

Shower in the private Birchwood cabin

Huts are first come first serve, but we’ve not yet had any problems of securing a bunk for the night (likely due to COVID-19 and less trampers on the trail this year). They’re quite fun to meet other people, since many of the other residents for the night are TA walkers (so far only SOBO) that we can tell about their upcoming track section, or we can exchange stories with.

That’s all the basic info on huts, so I’ll put up a few pictures of some we’ve stayed at so far!

Martin’s hut in the Longwoods was our first Backcountry hut on the TA, and was definitely rustic. Many people say it’s the worst on the TA, but we found it a welcomed cozy shelter! The two ladies who were already there gave us a warm welcome when we got in.

Merriview hut is a private hut, but only $10/person. It had running water and a trash can, and we got to talk to Barry and Dennis all evening!

Birchwood hut is another private hut, but it is definitely worth stopping at. They had a hot shower, full kitchen, clean water, real mattresses and rubbish bins to offload your Farrah’s bag of trash! The nearby tavern would send a shuttle to pick you up if you wanted a hot meal, and would also swing you by the supermarket for supplies!

Spring mattresses!
We did some sink laundry here, and utilized the sun!

Going into the Takitimu mountains, we were right on the heels of some serious rain. Because of this, SOBO hikers likely waited for an extra day or two to start this section, meaning we got a couple nights of huts to ourselves!

Cute, 4-bunk lower Wairaki hut. It had a chair!

Aparima hut actually had two huts at the same site, one a bit more historic than the other. We decided to stay in the newer one!

Many newer huts feature rain water collection systems from the roof, draining into a tank that can be used for drinking water. Sometimes we treat it anyways, especially when there are lots of birds around potentially pooping on the roof.

Older hut
Not too bad

Even though we’re in the backcountry, sometimes there’s still cell reception. I’m currently writing this post in the Princhester hut with the tiniest bit of internet!

Shared this hut with our first American! Naomi was lovely conversation!

We’re only a fraction of the way through our journey, but we’ve seen so many cool huts! Likely we will add Huts: Part 2 & 3 down the line as we see cooler ones. Until then, thanks for reading, and here are a couple more huts along the way!

The Kiwi Burn hut has three rooms! Felt like an old house.
Nice beds!
Though the Taipo hut had a rainwater tank, it had been dry, so it was empty. There’s been a bucket provided to get water from the stream!
The Greenstone hut was very fancy
Two large bunkrooms
Very large communal area!
The flush toilet block was as large as some huts!


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