Four walks in New Zealand’s South Island

Last year I made my first visit to New Zealand’s South Island for pleasure rather than business and was able to do four terrific walks, all of which are thoroughly recommended.

The walks are in the southern part of the South Island, in the general Queenstown area and are as follows:

1. Key Summit, Routeburn Track

The Routeburn track is a famous New Zealand walk of 32km. It commences (if walking west to east) from The Divide which is on the road that goes from Te Anau to Milford Sound. Key Summit is accessible from the first part of the track and provides for an excellent half-day walk with excellent views if weather permits.

Starting from The Divide which is a parking area by the road with a shelter and toilets, the well-formed track climbs steadily for an hour or so, before reaching a sign-posted turn-off to Key Summit. From here it’s a steep climb to the treeline and thereafter a more moderate walk along a track that loops about the tops and provides fantastic views of Fiordland.

Time: Around 3 hours or so
Grade: Easy/moderate half-day walk
My rating: A++
Photo gallery.

2. Routeburn Flats Hut, Routeburn Track

This walk takes in the eastern end of the Routeburn Track finishing at Routeburn Flats Hut.

The walk commences at the Routeburn Shelter at the northern end of the Routeburn-Kinloch Rd. In addition to the shelter there’s a carpark and toilets. The trail itself soon crosses the Route Burn river and continues through forest before climbing steadily, crossing the river again and then eventually reaching the hut which has a delightful setting.

The hut itself is designed for overnight walkers, but has a large common room which provides a good spot for lunch before returning via the same route.

Time: Around 4 hours
Grade: Easy/moderate half to full day walk
My rating: A
Photo gallery.

3. Ben Lomond, Queenstown

Ben Lomond holds a commanding position above Queenstown and is an obvious target for a walk. There’s a reasonably well formed track to the top, and experienced walkers will enjoy an excellent day walk.

I took the (expensive – like everything in Queenstown) Gondola to Ben Lomond Saddle to save some climbing. From here there’s a short walk past a luge track and then a brief section within forest, before a steady climb to a saddle and then the final pull westwards to the summit. The summit has magnificent 360 degree views, taking in Lake Wakatipu, Mt Earnslaw and The Remarkables.

Time: 5 hours or so
Grade: Moderate/Hard day walk
My rating: A+
Photo gallery.

4. Roys Peak, Stack Conservation Area, Wanaka

This walk takes in Roys Peak in Wanaka and like the other three walks provides excellent walking and fantastic views. To start with there a great views over Lake Wanaka and when you finally crest the ridge fine views of the Southern Alps.

The route commences at a small carpark just off the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Road about 6km out of Wanaka. Following a jeep track for most of the way, the route is easy to follow although not signposted other than at the start. It actually looks a bit easier than it is, in the end it’s a solid climb and will probably take at least 5.5 hours. I got the full four seasons on this walk, with sun, then rain, then a bit of snow and then a fine afternoon.

Time: 6 hours or so
Grade: Moderate/Hard day wlak
My rating: A++
Photo gallery.

Revisiting Ormiston Pound

When my father attempted to complete the Ormiston Pound circuit in the Northern Territory’s West MacDonnell ranges in 2011 he was unable to do so due to the amount of water in Ormiston Gorge. When I tried in 2012 I experienced the same thing, but I was able to complete the full circuit on a revisit last year without getting my boots wet.

I did the circuit clockwise (opposite to that described in the linked post above), starting with the Ghost Gum walk which delivers fine views before dropping down into the gorge and permitting completion of the circuit. I’d recommend doing the walk this way – if there is too much water in the gorge to navigate, you’ll find this out at the start rather then the end of the walk, and then can make a decision about how far to walk the other way if you are so inclined.

See here for a full photo set of the walk.

 

Photos

I’m migrating my photos to Flickr, and hope to eventually have photos of all my walks on there.

To have a look, go here.

Bushwalking: Woodland Trail to Rocky Gap (Simpsons Gap), Northern Territory

Simpson’s Gap is described in the West MacDonnell National Park fact sheet as “one of the most prominent gaps in the West MacDonnell Ranges. At dawn and dusk it is renowned as a place to see Black-footed Rock wallabies…”

A short walk leads from the carpark to the Gap and is well worth exploring. After visiting the Gap I’d recommended doing one of the other walks in the area – I decided to do the Woodland Trail to Rocky Gap.

This is an excellent and reasonably easy walk of around 10km. I was there just after the end of the wet season so the area was very green and lush. The walk itself follows a reasonably distinct track to Rocky Gap through some Mulga Woodland, with good views of the West MacDonnell ranges. If you are feeling energetic you could continue on to Bond Gap – this extends the walk to 17km return.

I only saw one other person while doing the walk – what struck me (apart from how green it was) was how quiet and peaceful it was, it also felt quite remote.

Distance/Time: 10kms / took me around 3hrs (incl. breaks)
Grade: Easy half-day walk
My rating: A

Access: From Alice Springs head west along Larapinta Drive, the turn-off to Simpsons Gap is about 16km further on. The Woodland trail is about 3km from the turn-off and there is a small parking area and information board at the start of the walk (and Simpsons Gap carpark is another 3km or so).

See this fact sheet for more information, and thisĀ budget rent-a-car map for an overview of the area and attractions around Alice Springs.

Link to full photo gallery.

Bushwalking: Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder, Northern Territory

A trip from Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder marks the start or end of the long distance Larapinta Trail and also provides a fantastic day’s walk. Mt Sonder, at 1380m, is the fourth highest mountain in the Territory and commands superb 360 degree views from the summit. It’s a solid day’s walk but well worth doing.

The track starts at the camping area and heads downhill to cross Redbank Creek (usually just a dry creek-bed). Soon after there is a junction where the trail is joined by the previous section of the Larapinta Trail, at this point the trail turns left uphill continuing up to a saddle with the imaginative name of ‘Saddle’, and then generally eastwards towards Mt Sonder.

The trail is generally distinct and reasonably well marked – there are however a few places where it becomes a bit indistinct and care must be taken to stay on the right path. Having said that, one of the good things about walking in the NT is that visibility is generally excellent, so it would take a bit of work to get lost.

The summit, marked with a cairn, is a good spot for lunch and a rest – and the return involves retracing the path back to the start.

Distance/Time: 15.8km / took me just under 6 hours (incl. breaks)
Grade: Moderate/hard day walk
My rating: A+

Access: From Alice Springs head west along the Larapinta Drive and after 46km turn right onto Namatjira Drive. The turn-off to Redbank Gorge is another 145km or so, and then it’s about 5km along a rather rough gravel road to the campsite. The drive itself is enjoyable, going through some great scenery. Glen Helen Resort, about 20km before the Redbank Gorge turn-off is a good place for a cold beer after the walk.

More information: See this this scan of the Budget rent-a-car map which gives a good overview of the places to see around Alice Springs as well as the type of roads that will be encountered. I also recommend ‘Take A Walk in Northern Territory’s National Parks’ by John & Lyn Daly.

Link to photo gallery on flickr.