Routeburn Track - a nice way to spend Christmas

Over Christmas (24-26 Dec), Leonie and I walked the Routeburn Track, which is in Fjordland, in the South Island. It's one of the Great Walks, a series of walking/tramping/hiking tracks in some of New Zealand's most beautiful out of the way places.

I've done a fair few of these over my lifetime - I've done 6 of the 9 walks in some manner: Lake Waikaremoana, which is pretty much my favorite place on the planet, Tongariro Northern Circuit, Able Tasman via kayak, Heaphy, Routeburn, and Kepler, but it's been a long time (20 years?) since I did the last one.

The Routeburn was a nice first outing with Leonie, too - of course, now she wants to do all of them. Not really a bad problem to have.

The tracks/huts are a bit more advanced than when I last did one - no more long drops, candles and tank water, these are flush toilets, gas cooking provided, running water, LED solar lighting affairs. Most of the other rules haven't changed tho - whatever you bring in, you take out (no rubbish service), and you need to carry all your clothes, food, cooking and sleeping gear etc.

I can see why its both limited (you must have a hut ticket booked), and more expensive[1]: there are more people going thru them each day than there would be in a month when I did it as a child.

At least lot more people are getting to see this aspect of New Zealand tho. I'm not at all unhappy about that, even if the locals only show up around Christmas[2].

Routeburn Profile

We did the track the other way - right to left. For those who want the gritty details, I used a Garmin Edge to record the first half (until it's battery died and I forgot to take a cable!) from the Divide to the top of Harris Saddle, then then Strava on my iPhone for the descent, and the final day. At around 32km, it can be run, or walked, in a day (Nigel did it in 4h 10m), but we wanted to take our time a bit more.


Obligatory "start of track" shot.

Day 2: climb up from Mackenzie Hut.

Day 2: More track

Day 2: The top - Lake Harris, just below the Harris Saddle.

Day 2: Then we go down....

Day 2: ... and you can't see how sore our feet and knees are.

Sunrise at Routeburn Falls Hut.

Day 3: Routeburn Flats

And finally the top of Lake Wakatipu.



  1. It used to be 50c for a child ($2 for an adult) in the honesty box - now its $52/night. I think it's worth it. ↩︎

  2. The hut warden said that they usually get Kiwi's during Christmas only - normally, outside of then, and especially in November/December and February, it's 100% tourists. ↩︎