A recently refurbished hut tucked under Mt St Bathans in the Maniototo.
Location: Near St Bathans you take Hawkdun Hills Road (or Home Hills Road from Hills Creek). There’s a large parking/camping area with an old homestead that you could sleep in if you wanted to. A great place to arrive the evening before to camp up and then get tramping in the morning.
Access: I have to admit that we 4WDed for this one, although I have planned to walk in again since (we were thwarted by COVID-19)! I walked out the last couple of kms with my girls though, across the stunning tussock lands that make up the part closest to the car-park. The rest of the route is mostly in the river bed, with multiple crossing (about 8 maybe, but some can be avoided by a high level track). In normal flow these are shallow and not swift but you’d get wet feet. Fun for kids probably! It’s quite a narrow valley with twists and turns so you shouldn’t feel like you’re trudging on forever. Total distance is about 8km. The route is also popular with mountain bikers.
Hut features: A clean and tidy 8-bunk hut which has been refurbished in recent years. We were pleasantly surprised. Water supply is from the river nearby. There is a good wood-burner but no firewood provided so a good idea to take some if you can. Stunning Central Otago hills surround the hut – perfect for a wee wander once you’re settled in. The hut is surrounded by flat land so there’s plenty of space for camping and even horses 🙂
NB: This hut is apparently very popular with pig hunters (we saw a whole group of pigs running past on the road), so be aware/prepared to share or maybe think about going mid-week or something. We struck it empty but it was a very windy weekend… Also, there was rat/mouse poison around so if you have a crawling toddler this will have to managed. And lastly, as noted above there are a number of river crossing which must be taken into account in bad weather.