Isthmus Peak Track

One of the most spectacular day walks in New Zealand, the Isthmus Peak Track is a tougher but arguably more scenic version of the super popular (pre-Covid) Roys Peak Track. It’s a non-technical but demanding 16km return walk up 1,000m, which will take around 5-6 hours. There is no shelter from the elements so pick a fine day, which I was blessed with in late September 2021 with blue skies and almost no wind.

The track starts by the shores of Lake Hāwea on SH6 heading toward the West Coast. There are a couple of car parks on the lake side, and the track starts on the other side of the road, with some big hills above and a handy DOC toilet.

After a couple of steep parts the track flattens out a little to pass along a relatively flat track home to sheep.

There are increasingly good views of Lake Hāwea and rugged hills but the track itself is pretty dull to walk on, basically being a dirt / grass road with endless switchbacks.

The views provide plenty of interest though, and the change is noticeable from grass to tussock toward the top of the main climb.

I thought / hoped that the summit was here, but the track then levels out a little and heads through beautiful Otago tussock and rock.

With an unexpected DOC toilet well disguised in the yellow landscape.

It follows a bit of a ridge with views of Lake Hāwea on one side and Lake Wanaka on the others, pretty magical.

There was some stunning colour in the landscape.

The summit is marked with a large pole and expansive views of Lake Wanaka below. Nice spot for lunch…

Also for more photo taking of this breath-taking landscape.

The walk back was faster as it is all downhill, but it was worth stopping to enjoy the view ahead.

The wind had dropped improving the reflections on Lake Hāwea.

The clearest reflections though were on the drive back to Wanaka.

Author: jontycrane

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