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Bluff to Colac Bay: 79 km, 3 days

1. Bluff to Invercargill: 8.5 hrs, 34 km (maps 160, 159)
3D view west: Bluff to Invercargill

  • Bluff Lodge – 120 Gore St, Bluff, 027 294 5306. A range of accommodation, including dorm rooms.
  • Bluff Camping Ground – 21 Gregory St, Bluff, 027 626 2018. This is between the main centre and Stirling Point.
  • Lands End Boutique Hotel – 10 Ward Parade, Stirling Point, Bluff, 03 212 7575.

First off, consider whether you need to stay overnight in Bluff. Bluff looks like it could be a very nice place to stay, but an alternative, which will save you carrying all your gear, is to stay overnight in Invercargill the night before, leave most of the contents of your pack there, and catch a shuttle to Bluff early in the morning with only what you need for a day walk. The shuttle will take you right to the start point, Stirling Point, where there is the famous signpost pointing to distant cities all over the world. Remember to get your photograph taken here!

At the start it is a nice walk around the south side of Bluff Hill followed by farmland. Periodically this farmland is closed to walkers due to dangerous cattle and you need to walk over the hill or simply skip Bluff Hill altogether. Check the ‘Trail Status’ page on the official TA site.

You are lucky, because the long awaited cycle/walking path from Bluff to Invercargill has finally been completed. The section from Bluff through to the fertiliser works was one of the most unpleasant and dangerous on the whole trail and NoBos were treated to a trial by fire in having to walk the 16km of busy road edge here. The new section of the path meets the previously constructed one at the fertiliser works. I’m not exactly sure how seamless the connection between new and old is, but the section to Invercargill starts a few metres over the railway line on Kekeno Pl at the left of the main road past the works. Note that there is little shelter or shade on the whole route, and no drinking water sources. I don’t know if toilets have been included as part of the new pathway.

Invercargill has two major supermarkets close to each other, Pak n’ Save at 95 Tay St, and New World at 244 Elles Rd (as well as Countdown at 172 Tay St). Plus there are Kathmandu (50 Leven St) and Macpac (48 Tay St) stores for hiking supplies, including gas.

  • Tuatara Lodge – 30-32 Dee St, close to the centre of town – 0800 488 28272; 03 214 0954.
  • Southern Comfort Backpackers (BBH) – 30 Thomson St, 027 524 9926. Includes female-only dorm. North of the centre and abut 1km from the nearest large supermaket.
  • Central City Camping Park – 209 Tweed St, 03 214 2226. Remarkably central and with free wifi and cabins.
  • Catch-a-Bus South – 027 4497 994. They go from Invercargill to Bluff at 8.30 am daily and 6.20 on some days. Or at least they did. A scheduled service is not on their website, but they do say they go to Bluff. Pickup is from your accommodation. They also go from Dunedin to Invercargill daily in the early afternoon.
  • RealNZ  03 249 6000; 0800 656 501. They run a bus service to Bluff that connects with the Stewart Island ferry. Departs 8.15am and 3.30pm. Select ‘Book Now’ and scroll down to the bus transfer. I don’t think you have to take the ferry as well.

2. Invercargill to Riverton (Aparima): 8 hrs, 32 km (maps 159, 158, 157, 156)
3D view south: Invercargill to Colac Bay

The route out to Oreiti Beach is straightforward, along a roadside, often with decent margins to give you some distance from the traffic. There are a number of reserves with toilets and cafés along the road, as well as a small Four Square store about three quarters of the way.

The beach is one long, exposed slog, with no shelter. You could potentially camp amongst the sand dunes, though they are low and offer little shelter from the wind, or water. Crossing the Waimataku River half way along the beach may be a problem at high tide according to the official track notes.

Riverton / Aparima: The Riverton Lodge Hotel is operated by a very nice couple. It is run down, but in a pleasant and comfortable way. There are several good cafés in town, a small supermarket, a museum, and a takeaway food shop. One could easily linger in Riverton.

  • Supervalue Supermarket – 163 Palmerston St.

3. Riverton / Aparima to Colac Bay: 4.5 hrs, 13 km (maps 156, 155)

Cross the bridge heading out of town, turn left around the estuary, and right up Richard St. A sign marks Mores Reserve. There is a toilet at the reserve car park. Take the Mores Track loop. It has a TA sign. Two minutes or so up is a track to the left to the lookout. It is not far and is worth visiting for the view. The track to the coast on the other side of the hill is a pleasant walk through low bush. After some time over farmland and sections of rocky coast you reach Colac Bay (the farmland is closed September to October for lambing). The walking on this beach is less firm than Oreti Beach, making progress tiring and slow. Towards the end a road back from the beach makes a respite from struggling on the sand and stones. And once on the main road you will see a sign for the camp ground at an intersection. Head right and inland to reach the camp ground.

Colac Bay: there are no shops here aside from the camp store, which sells little of use to TA walkers. But the camp ground has good amenities, including small rooms, and has a pub, with meals. The reception for the camp ground is the pub bar.

  • Luna Sea Lodge – 641 Orepuki–Riverton Highway, a little inland from the eastern end of Colac Bay beach after you leave the rocks for sand (go up western end of Tīhaka Beach Rd). Individual rooms with shared facilities. 027 601 5744,
  • Colac Bay Tavern & Camping Ground – 15 Colac Bay Rd, Colac Bay, 03 234 8399; 027 435 5872. Meals, backpacker and camping facilities available.

Longwood Forest: 57 km, 2 days

3D view south-west: Colac Bay to Merrivale
4. Colac Bay to Martins Hut: 7 hrs, 16.5 km (maps 155, 154)

The next two days are through the Longwood Forest. (It is the deer shooting season in March/April here, so best to wear a high visibility pack cover to avoid getting shot by mistake then.) Continue inland on the road that brought you from the beach for about an 1hr to arrive at the Long Hilly Track car park. There is little traffic along the road. The car park has a toilet. The Long Hilly Track is easy to begin with. You then head uphill, climbing about 320m to reach the derelict Turnbull’s (Big Dam) Hut and on to Martins Hut. Note the several tracks branching after Turnbull’s Hut – keep left.

The alternative is the earlier TA route of 29.5km and 9hrs. This goes around the side of the hill on the Ports Water Race Track off to the right. It was a bit muddy and had many fallen trees when I did it, but it does have historical interest, as it follows a water race constructed mostly by Chinese gold miners in the 1880s and 1890s. It also has less uphill walking. If you take this track, it eventually meets a bush road. Turn left uphill and take the right fork when the road divides. The track off the road to Martins Hut is clearly marked.

The hut has a water tank, but if it seems dodgy, the official track notes say: “Another water source at Martins Hut is small stream off on an unmarked side track between the toilet and the hut. This is off to the left as you are facing downhill”. Martins Hut was constructed in 1905 to house a water race maintenance worker.

5. Martins Hut (4 bunks) to Merrivale Rd intersection: 10 hrs, 28.5 km (maps 154, 153)

After going uphill from Martin’s Hut you come out onto the scrub covered Longwood ridge. Marker poles along this boggy ridge are spaced well apart and would be hard to follow in low visibility. The track then descends to an abandoned quarry and joins up with a road that heads steeply uphill to the Bald Hill transmission tower. Keep on the road all the way to the top and don’t be put off by the locked gate nor deceived by a marker pole that appears to lead to a route off the road. There is water in small trickles on the right hand side of the road. There is also good cell phone reception at Bald Hill.

The rest of the track continues to the Merrivale Rd end. There are several options now for a place to sleep. One is camping: there is room for about one tent here but no water source. Dense vegetation either side of the road makes camping in the area difficult in general. However, you can continue down the road until you reach another road coming in from the right. A short distance down this there are flat patches on the margins of the road that will take a tent at a pinch – just before a substantial stream that crosses the road. A much better option is to arrange accommodation at Merrivale Hut, 5km downhill at the intersection of Merrivale Rd and the main road between Otautau and Tuatapere. Or you could hitchhike to either of these settlements. Tuatapere is about 26k to the west, Otautau 16k to the east. However, this will make for a very long day, and traffic may be very light if you reach the road during the evening.

  • Merrivale Hut – 2 Merrivale Rd, Otautau,  021 567 105. $15 or camping $10pp. (Confirmed correct Oct 2022)
  • Otautau Hotel – 167 Main St, Otautau, 03 225 8166; 021 0411 837. Includes rooms, bars & restaurant.
  • Otautau Railway Hotel and Backpackers – 76-78 King St, Otautau, 03 225 8577. Backpackers, bar & restaurant.
  • Tui Base Camp – 4 McFeely Street, Tuatapere, 03 226 6250; 027 837 3521.
  • Last Light Lodge aka Hump Track Backpackers – 6 Clifden Rd, Tuatapere,03 226 6667. Includes backpacker accommodation, camping, restaurant/café. Book on if the website won’t work.

Both towns have a small supermarket.

Inland Bush and Woodlaw Forest: 26 km, 1 day

3D view south-west: Merrivale to Telford Burn
6. Merrivale Rd intersection to Birchwood: 8 hrs, 26 km (maps 153, 152)

Turn right from Merrivale Rd on to the Otautau–Tuatapere Rd. You need to look for an overbridge over a farm road. There is apparently a TA marker somewhere before this, and a stile, but if you don’t spot it just get onto this farm road and go uphill, through two farm gates to the Inland Bush track. The second gate has an orange marker on it. Further markers follow a steep track up through bush. Near the top, just as you are about to leave the bush and enter farmland again is a track to the right that is marked. This soon becomes a forest road through pine forest and the walking becomes very easy. No camping or fires are permitted in the forest.

After exiting the pine forest it is less than an hour’s walk along pleasant country roads with little traffic to the well-marked turn off to another hill with a pine forest. (Or you can keep walking another 3km along the road to an accommodation option – see below). The climb up the Woodlaw Forest hill is steep, but it eventually becomes a 4WD forestry road along the top, where the walking is easy. There is one small stream in the bush on the way up. Otherwise there is no source of water for this entire day. And again, no camping or fires permitted in the forest. After passing below some cellphone towers the road meets farmland. (Note that this farm is closed to walkers from 9 September to 9 November for lambing.) Take the fence-line on the right hand side downhill. There are occasional markers, but they are very distantly spaced. Then the fence meets another at right angles, take the right hand one down an extremely steep hill. This would be almost impossible to descend safely when wet, especially without walking poles. Which side of the fence you should be walking on is unclear and maybe it doesn’t matter. You are heading for the middle of a long eucalyptus forest where the young trees meet the mature ones. The track goes alongside this plantation to the left, turns right, and reaches the Birchwood-Wairio Rd. Ohai is 7km down the road but note that there are no shops there.

  • Birchwood Station cabin for TA walkers – Near Birchwood. The official TA guide says, For safety reasons, you’ll need to call ahead – same day OK but at least a few hours notice – and be met and taken into the hut. $20pp for the night and $15pp more for a home-cooked meal. Gas cooking facilities, microwave, hot shower, fire, toilet. Call or text Sarah (preferably) 027 699 5234, or Dean on 021 655 852 if you can’t get her. They will accept parcels. (Note that this Birchwood Station cabin is entirely different from the Ahuriri River Lodge at an entirely different Birchwood Station many kilometres to the north.) (Confirmed correct Oct 2022)
  • Nightcaps is 9 km east of Ohai and has a Four Square store but apparently no accommodation. Tuatapere, 38 km south-west of Ohai, is your only other accommodation option in the region (see above for listings), unless you camp on farmland (with permission).

Takitimu Mountains: 70 km, 3–4 days

3D view west: Telford Burn to Princhester Rd
7. Birchwood to Lower Wairaki Hut: 10 hrs, 26.5 km (maps 152, 151)

This route is over the Mt Linton Station and access is only permitted during daylight hours and no camping is allowed. Keep to the route and give way to farm operations. There have been problems with hikers going off the marked rote. Farm management will consider this trespassing and act accordingly – don’t ruin it for others! The land is closed from 25 September to 5 November for lambing. You can take an alternative route from Dunrobin Rd (south of Mossburn & a considerable detour) to Aparima Hut at this time. There is little water for most of the route.

Birchwood to Telford Burn: 7hrs, 27 km
Shortly after the start at Struan Flat Rd things get a bit confusing. The trail goes off to the left somewhat near the start to follow Sharpridge Creek and then north to skirt a large pond. The NZ Topo Map marks the TA trail as going on the left side of this. The TA map and the TA app have it on the right. I believe the markers are on the left, so you choose. You then cross a farm road and from there it is mostly up and down hills to the Wairaki River, where you will have to cross, but it is usually ankle height. (There is a swing bridge about 3km further up if it is too dangerous to cross, BUT this is off the trail, and you should get permission to take this route first.)

After going along the Wairaki River a bit you turn into the hills and along a farm road before you rejoin the river now going west. A half km or so up you ford it at the marked spot and another km further is Telford Burn campsite. (‘Burn’ doesn’t here mean a burnt patch, but is a Scottish term for a steam, reflecting the Scottish origins of many early European settlers to the lower South Island). You will know when you have arrived because there is a round, plastic toilet bang in the middle of nowhere. There are large trees dotted about the field nearby, which offer ideal shelter for camping beneath, but the water in the small stream nearby runs through farmland, so should perhaps be treated. It’s a nice spot to camp, but fairly exposed to wind and can be boggy after rain. You could push on to Lower Wairaki Hut if you are making good time, but this next bit is tough.

Telford Burn to Lower Wairaki Hut (4 bunks): 4 hrs, 7.5 km
It is a very hard climb above Telford Burn. The markers seem to suggest you go into the bush on the way up, but ignore that. Begin on the opposite side of the fence line as the campsite and you will find markers further up: keep going straight up whether you can see the markers or not. The climb to and along the Telford ridge tops is very exposed and would not be safe in a storm. The highest point is 1024m. On the other hand, the descent down the other side is through the Takitimu forest and is easy going. The exit from the tops into the forest is well marked.

8. Lower Wairaki Hut to Apirama Hut (12 bunks): 5.5 hrs, 13 km (maps 151, 150)

The track is through dense tussock at times. The trail may be faint and it can be hard to see the next marker (a common issue on further sections of the TA), so you need to pay attention. Other parts are through forest. Apirama Hut is very nicely situated above a small river with a good swimming hole. There is a large flat grassed area around the hut and it gets plentiful sun. It’s worth getting there early so you can enjoy the place. There is an older, run down hut also with 6 bunks at the back of Apirama Hut.

9. Apirama Hut to Lower Princhester Hut (6 bunks): 7 hrs, 17 km (map 150)

This involves further travel through a mix of forest and tussock, and once again it can be difficult to find the track. The TA map departs in places from the NZ Topo Map marked track as well, but presumably the former is more reliable. Lower Princhester Hut is not on a DoC signpost here, and neither is it at the next sign, for Spence Hut. A well hidden marker is at the bush margin near this sign at the right, marking the trail down the valley. Later, at a point where it may be hard to see any markers, the valley forks. Take the left one and markers soon appear.

10. Lower Princhester Hut to SH94 and Te Anau: 1.5 hrs, 6 km (maps 150, 149)

This is along a graveled country road which then joins SH94. It is 20 km to the right to Mossburn and 35km to the left to Te Anau. Shuttle buses such as Tracknet travel along this road and will pick you up if you have made a prior arrangement. It is also a densely travelled tourist road, but much of the traffic is tour buses and campervans, so it can be hard to hitchhike. A stop in Te Anau is useful for resupply, plus a shower and rest, as otherwise you would be carrying food for quite a few days before Queenstown. There doesn’t seem a lot of point going to Mossburn as Te Anau has many more accommodation, supermarket and eating options.

There are several outdoors stores in Te Anau, and being a tourist town, they stay open quite late. Outside Sports, on the main street (curiously, but logically named Town Centre) next to the Four Square store has all the big brands. Fiordland Frontier Supplies, off to the side of Town Centre, further away from the lake on the opposite side, is more hunting oriented, but consequently has different, and less mass-market, gear. Unfortunately, eating out is problematic in Te Anau. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants, but standards of the cafés are low (with the possible exception of Sandfly Café, on Milford Close) and the restaurants are expensive and offer limited choice. The takeaway joints of Te Anau Dairy (next to the Mobil petrol station on Town Centre) and the Habit Foods food truck opposite Countdown on Milford Close are worth considering, though have received mixed reviews.

  • Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers (BBH) – 48-50 Lakefront Dr, Te Anau, 03 249 7713, 0800 200 074. Well located.
  • Rosies Backpackers and Homestay (BBH) – Tom Plato Drive, 03 249 8431, (less central but highly rated).
  • Bob and Maxines (BBH) 20 Paton Place (on main road coming into town, 1.9 km from shopping centre), 03 249 7429, 021 224 0409.
  • Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park – 15 Luxmore Dr, Te Anau, 03 249 8538.
  • Te Anau Lake View Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels – 77 Manapouri–Te Anau Highway, 03 249-7457; 0800 483 262. Includes BBH backpacker dorms, twin/double and single rooms. Near DoC visitor centre and is depot for Tracknet shuttles. Is further from Town Centre than the other accommodations.
  • YHA Te Anau – This hostel has now closed down due to a lack of international visitors.
  • Fiordland I-SITE Visitor Centre – 85 Lakefront Dr, Te Anau, 03 249 8900,
  • DOC Te Rua-o-te-moko / Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre – Lakefront Dr, Te Anau, 03 249 7924.
  • Intercity Coachlines – 03 365 1113, daily buses to Queenstown, Dunedin and Christchurch.
  • Tracknet – 0800 483 262; 03 249 7777, Daily departures at 7.15 and 11.30 passing Princhester Bridge. Returning trips passing the same point at 8.50am, 12.20, 6.20pm but best to check this. $27 each way.
  • Four Square Supermarket – 30 Town Centre, Te Anau
  • Fresh Choice Supermarket – 5 Milford Cres, Te Anau
  • Mossburn Railway Hotel – Cnr York and Bath St, 03 248 6399. Pub style accommodation, bar and restaurant (restaurant closed Mondays).
  • Mossburn Country Park – 333 Mossburn–Five Rivers Rd, 3 kms north of Mossburn, 03 248 6444; 027 223 8358. Cabins, campsites (and backpacker cabin?).
  • Four Square – 37 Devon St, Mossburn.

Mavora Lakes – Greenstone Walkway: 96 km, 4 days

11. SH94 Princhester road to Kiwi Burn Hut (12 bunks): 8 hrs 15, 30 km (via river track) (maps 149, 148)
3D view west: Princhester Rd to Mavora Lakes

The two Mavora Lakes are a popular area for camping, fishing, boating, horse riding, trail biking, and 4WD activities.

You can catch a shuttle from Te Anau to the point you joined SH94 from Lower Princhester Hut, or hitchhike, then walk east along the main road to the gravel country road that turns off at left. You have two choices: turn off the road after about 11 km to follow along the Mavora River. Hikers say that this is a difficult walk through long grass and swampy patches and the official TA site now also concedes that it is overgrown. The alternative is to continue on the road and cut across farmland when you think you are about opposite the valley for Kiwi Burn Hut. Preferable in terms of respect for landowners, is to use one of the angler access points you see signposted now and then along the road to reach the river.  Reaching Kiwi Burn Hut means fording the Mavora River whichever way you travel, and if this is high, then you need to continue about another 3 km to cross a swing bridge (there is a track to this from the road), and then turn back down river for the 3 km to reach the track to Kiwi Burn Hut (1.5 km from the river).

12. Kiwi Burn Hut to Boundary Hut (8 bunks – as 4 doubles): 8 hrs 15, 33 km (maps 148, 147, 146)
3D view west: Mavora Lakes to Greenstone

From Kiwi Burn Hut head back to near the Mavora River again and then north on the track to South Mavora Lake, where you will pass the above-mentioned swing bridge, then another at the lake (3 hrs 15). Don’t cross the swing bridge but continue north along the lakeside to the campsite at the North Mavora Lake (1.5 hrs). The campsite is mostly used by people with 4WDs or campervans and is very popular in summer. There are plenty of trees, toilets and a shelter. A fee is payable via an honesty box.

The shore a little north of the camp ground is a Lord of the Rings site where the Fellowship end their Anduin River journey (grid ref 1221 / 4976; S45°15.993′, E168°10.410′). Nearby in the forest is also the area where Merry and Pippin hide from the Uruk-hai.

It is then another 2 hrs 15 (6 km) to Carey’s Hut along 4WD roads on the east side of the lake. Carey’s Hut (7 bunks) is a pleasant, though run-down, hut. It has a wood burning shower but this is apparently defunct and there is little chance of finding firewood anyway. You could stop here or push on along the road Boundary Hut (1.5 hrs). The turn-off to the hut is not marked but the hut is visible on the left from the road.

13. Boundary Hut to Greenstone Hut (20 bunks): 6.5 hrs, 22 km (maps 146, 145)

Leave the hut and cross the river via the swing bridge. After 3.5 hours over open country you will reach another swing bridge and Taipō Hut (8 bunks). 3 km north of the hut the track splits into two routes to Greenstone Hut. Keep to the left-hand one. The right-hand track becomes poorly marked, rough, and indistinct. The Greenstone Hut is a popular hut on the Greenstone-Caples track, with a warden in summer. It may pay to get there early to make sure you have a bunk. Note that in the walking season (1 Oct to 30 April) the hut pass is not valid at this hut and you will need a blue and a green hut ticket purchased in advance. Buy at the Doc office in Invercargill or Te Anau if you didn’t get them before you started hiking. You can camp by the hut and the hut pass (or a blue ticket) will cover this.

14. Greenstone Hut to Greenstone car park end: 3 hrs, 11 km (map 145)

The track to the Greenstone road end on Lake Wakatipu is easy walking through attractive bush. Many day walkers may be encountered. From the road end you can catch a shuttle to Glenorchy and then around the lake to Queenstown. The official TA position is that it is not necessary to walk the route because Queenstown is about the same latitude as the road end, and it would simply be one long road walk anyway. Shuttles may or may not be willing to pick up unbooked passengers at the road end. They tend to operate on demand – if there are no bookings then they don’t drive. And they usually need 2 people for a trip. If it is just you, then you pay for two people. You may be able to pick up a ride with one of the day walkers to Glenorchy. And from there it is a busy road to Queenstown.

Greenstone car park to Queenstown: about 1.5 hrs driving

  • YHA Kinloch – 862 Kinloch Rd, Kinloch, 03 442 4900. An idyllic looking spot on the road from the Greenstone car park to Glenochy. Is some distance to Glenorchy, but you can be dropped off and picked up by the Greenstone–Glenorchy shuttle.
  • Glenorchy Hotel & Backpackers Retreat, Information Centre and General Store – Mull St, Glenorchy, 03 442 9902.
  • Camp Glenorchy – aka The Headwaters Eco Lodge, 34 Oban St, near info centre, cabins, bunkrooms, camping. Sustainably designed and built and ‘New Zealand’s and first net-zero energy use accommodation’. 0800-492-262; 03-409-0401. There seems to be a connection with Mrs Woolly’s Campground at 64 Oban St, 021 0889 4008, as they share the same website.
  • Glenorchy Motels (formerly Mt Earnslaw Motels) – 87–89 Oban St, Glenorchy, 03 442 6993.
  • Glenorchy Journeys – Greenstone car park 10:15am, 12:45pm to Glenorchy $35; Glenorchy to Queenstown 10:15am, 3pm, 6pm, $25.; 0800-495 687; 03-409-0800.


  • YHA Queenstown Lakefront – 88-90 Lake Esplanade, 021 639 796. Queenstown formerly had two hostels. Both shut down due to Covid but mercifully this one re-opened. It is a little way from the centre, but only by 500m or so. It is big, clean, high-throughput, and well equipped.
  • There are other backpackers amongst a whole plethora of accommodation in Queenstown. Some of the most central are Nomads and Absoloot. Slightly further out are the Flaming Kiwi, Haka Lodge, Hippo Lodge, Adventure Queenstown, and the Black Sheep, amongst others. In line with the YHA closures, some of these hostels may be going. Or they may be full with long stayers.
  • Creeksyde Queenstown Holiday Park & Motels – 54 Robins Rd (about 600m from the centre of town along Gorge Rd), 0800 786 222; 03 442 9447.
  • Fresh Choice Supermarket – 64 George St, Queenstown.
  • Mediterranean Food Market – 53 Robins Rd, Queenstown.
  • Alpine Four Square Supermarket – Cnr Shotover & Stanley streets, Queenstown.
  • Out of town (see Otago page): New World Supermarket – Hawthorne Dr, Frankton, Queenstown.

Always check the Trail Status pages of the official Te Araroa website for recent changes or alerts on the trail.

Last updated 27 February 2023

Header photo: Colac Bay