Archives For Hokitika

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs and personalities of the people who work at DOC. Today we profile Helen Gillespie, Healthy Nature Healthy People Project Coordinator in Hokitika.

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Rod Hitchmough, DOC Science Advisor, tells us about efforts to recover the extremely rare Chesterfield skink from the verge of extinction.

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Geocaching — it sounded like something for someone else, until Hokitika Partnership Ranger Inger Perkins tried it out in preparation for Conservation Week.

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This month, rangers from Hokitika headed into the hills to clear the track and give Poet Hut a makeover.

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Two juvenile Westland petrels were released on the West Coast last week after being picked up off the road by a Hokitika driver.

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By Marysia Mcsperrin, DOC Communications Advisor

Marysia Mcsperrin at Punakaiki.

Marysia Mcsperrin

Having moved over from London in April last year, the Christmas break featured a lot of firsts for me. It was my first Christmas away from home, friends and family, the first warm(ish) one in the southern hemisphere and the first one where, instead of a roast dinner with all the trimmings for Christmas lunch, we ate sandwiches in the car!

Me and my partner decided to spend the break taking a road trip around the South Island, down the West Coast and back up the east. We didn’t do any real tramping or camping though, just a lot of stop-offs at stunning locations.

The gorgeous blue water of the Hokitika Gorge.

Hokitika Gorge

We saw some amazing sights and had a chance to really appreciate the diversity and beauty of New Zealand’s natural landscapes. It was hard to choose my highlights but a few places stuck out for me.


Christmas Day stop-off and people were building stone Christmas trees

Firstly, Hokitika Gorge, which is about 30 km inland from Hokitika. We would’ve missed this if our helpful hostel owner hadn’t insisted we go and I’m so glad we did. It featured the most unreal turquoise-coloured water I’ve ever seen.

The alpine blue waters of Lake Pukaki.

Lake Pukaki

Another place that took my breath away was Lake Pukaki, on the drive between Queenstown and Christchurch. Again, we weren’t intending to stop here but the amazing alpine blue water was quite mesmerizing, and we had to take a closer look.

Two Hector's dolphins near Kaikoura.

Hector’s dolphins

We finished our trip whale watching in Kaikoura, which was an incredible experience – spotting two sperm whales and pods of hector’s and dusky dolphins. It was an amazing way to spend my first Christmas break in the southern hemisphere.

The tale of a sperm whale near Kaikoura.

Sperm whale

By Inger Perkins, Hokitika Office

The Cedar Flat Hut near Hokitika has recently been renovated and extended to provide 12 bunks alongside the two extra bunks in the adjacent historic 1957 deer cullers’ hut.

Cedar Flat Hut before the upgrade.

Before the upgrade

For every tramper, following the walk up the steady terrain of the steep walled Toaroha Valley, with the Toaroha Ridge to the East and the Deidrich Range dominating the west of the valley, a base at Cedar Flat is a gateway to Hokitika’s backcountry and offers a variety of options.

The huts are part of a network of huts, bivs, swingbridges and tracks up the valley and onto the tops.  The choice of direction, difficulty and duration are yours!

Cedar Flat Hut after the upgrade.

After the upgrade

The creek and hot springs are close by and you can wander up to the Toaroha Gorge, with its gorgeous blue water tumbling over jumbled rocks, only 0.5km away.  Enjoy the views as you look down from the swingbridge.

A day trip will take you to the alpine tops and back again.  Adventure Biv at the bushline is well worth the climb for stunning views.

DOC has been working hard in recent years to provide a network of maintained tramping tracks and huts that allow easily accessible circuits.  Two of the favourites among trampers are the Top Toaroha/Whitcombe circuit and the tougher Toaroha/Zit Saddle/Kokatahi/Lathrop Saddle/Styx River Route, both of which start from Cedar Flat.

The first, heading towards the Whitcombe, although challenging does not have the very steep slopes of the circuit over the Zit and Lathrop Saddles to the Styx.  Both will need experienced navigation skills in the group but will reward you with a remote back country paradise and views to go with it.

Brennan-Hughes family at Lathrop.

Brennan-Hughes family at Lathrop

The open flat, with plenty of room for camping and an ideal light and airy place for a hut, is ringed by cedar trees as its name suggests, as well as mixed rata and kamahi forest.  A useful note for trampers on colder nights, cedar doesn’t burn!  In fact it has even been used to line chimneys including the original chimney in the historic Cedar Flat Hut.

On the way up to the hut, you may be fortunate enough to see the elusive whio or blue duck, which is clinging to survival in the valley.

Whio (Blue Duck) with chick. (Photo credit – Mark Neilson).

Whio (Blue Duck) with chick

The start of the Toaroha Valley was initially a source of timber, particularly rimu, and later, when hot springs were found at Wren Creek beside Cedar Flat, accommodation was built for visitors to the springs and the then Westland County Council improved access up the valley by forming a pack track to the springs.

The springs are not easy to find, though a track to the right area of the creek is signposted.  A shovel is usually close by so that new ponds can be dug out.  Careful study of the area, along with clues from the hut book, could lead you to the treasure of a personal hot pool!

The hot springs accommodation became the original base for hunting in the late 1930s and early 40s and a new purpose built hut was built on the opposite side of the river, in its current location in 1957.

The historic hut is a rare and the best example of the regional hut design from the early stage of wild animal control under the New Zealand Forest Service, before national standard designs were used.  The hut was built using some locally sourced and hand worked timbers; the form of wood working expertise is no longer used and now only known by a few people.

Historic 1957 deer cullers’ hut (Cedar Flat).

Historic 1957 deer cullers’ hut at Cedar Flat

Visitors to the hut will have the opportunity to stay in the historic hut, which provides a unique experience seldom so easily accessed.

The later six bunk hut, built in 1968, was proving inadequate and a large hut was proposed to replace both smaller huts.  However, the historic values of the old hut have been recognised and, by extending the newer hut while retaining its look and feel, enjoyment of the old hut and its setting has been maintained.

The two Cedar Flat huts today.

The two Cedar Flat huts today

Tremendous feedback on the extended and restored hut has been received from visitors, particularly experienced trampers.  It has great views of the surrounding tops, where your next day’s tramp could take you.

As with all trips into the backcountry, it is important to be prepared and to leave your intentions with a responsible person.  A good level of fitness is recommended for tramps within the Toaroha Valley and if the river is up, the marked flood routes should be used.  A higher level of fitness and good navigation skills are important for the longer tramps.