Probably one of the best tracks in New Zealand, the Hump Ridge Track is a 62km, three day hike through southern Fjordland. I walked it during the last days of 2021, five years after my first time on the track. I found it more of a slog in places than I remembered, and I’d somehow forgotten about the masses of sandflies, but the highlights remained as compelling second time around.
I didn’t have the best beginning when just as I was about to start the track I remembered that I’d left my lunch back in the hostel, resolved with an hour round trip to collect it. From Rarakau car park the track meanders through the bush for the first few kilometres before a steep set of steps, which were less welcome on the return.
These lead down to the epic Bluecliffs Beach, which I was soon to walk along.
First up though was a swing bridge over the impressive mouth of the Waikoau River.
Close by are a number of old school Fisherman’s Cottages, now cribs (or baches / holiday homes), which were well populated for New Year.
It’s a pretty epic beach to walk along, at the bottom of the South Island with Bluff Hill (the southern tip of the South Island) clearly visible, and Rakiura / Stewart Island in the distance.
It is home to oystercatchers and some impressive driftwood.
I left the beach for bush, passing a couple more fascinating dwellings and a decent swing bridge.
Up to this point the Hump Ridge Track follows the South Coast Track, and is easy walking, before branching off to the right to head inland on a more interesting track. There were plenty of ferns and the first sections of many kilometres of boardwalk.
It was much further than I remembered to reach the shelter for a welcome late lunch.
I needed the fuel before tackling near 900m climb up the Hump, which was an interesting challenge with plenty of tree roots , and the bush noticeably changing as I got higher.
I finally escaped from the bush at Stag Point for views of Bluff Hill and Bluecliffs Beach.
The boardwalk and sunshine reappeared for the final stretch toward Okaka Lodge.
It was late in the day but while the sun was out I delayed heading to the hut and took the short loop track further up the mountainside.
This is home to photogenic tarns and unusual rock formations.
Along with one of the more impressive lookouts in New Zealand.
Okaka Lodge isn’t your typical DOC hut. The Hump Ridge Track is privately owned and operated by a trust run by the local community in nearby Tuatapere. Forward thinking members of the town developed the track in the 1990s to make up for the declining forestry industry. It took a while to become well known but it’s imminent upgrade to a Great Walk cements it’s reputation as one of the best in the country.
Much of the funds from being a Great Walk will apparently be spent on signage, which is clearly in need of addressing.
Both lodges on the track have curtains, pillows, hot water, lights, power for charging devices, and cutlery and crockery. You can buy showers, food (mainly dehydrated), rent sleeping bags, and even get a helicopter to take your pack (or even you) to make the experience easier. Okaka is in a quite spectacular location, and one of the best equipped places you can stay in a National Park in New Zealand.