Hiking the holidays in New Zealand’s Southern Alps

With silly season comes visitors a plenty to our wonderful town of Wanaka. Us locals welcome the holiday makers with open arms, but chose to take this time away from our town to let the visitors enjoy where we are lucky to live in year round. This year me my husband and some friends headed into the hills on a couple of different treks. Firstly an overnighter to the amazing Brewster Hut on the Mt Brewster Track. This is a pretty steep 3 hour climb straight up from the car park at Fantail Falls off the Haast Pass. It climbs steeply through the amazing native beach forest until you pop out of the bush line and spend another hour or so wandering up to the Brewster Hut. The hut overlooks the Brewster Glacier which is one of the most studied glaciers in NZ due to its easy access.

Brewster Track above the Haast Pass, Southern Alps of New Zealand
The Brewster track is just stunning!
Hiking in Mt Aspiring National park
Above the bush line you are rewarded with the most spectacular views over the Haast Pass and surrounding mountains
Nature hike New Zealand
My sister in law Sarah
Brewster Hut, West Coast New Zealand
You are rewarded by amazing sunsets at Brewster Hut
Sunset over the southern alps
Sundown over the Southern Alps
Brewster Glacier from Brewster Hut
Sarah enjoys breakfast with a view over Brewster Glacier

After we did this ‘warm up’ hike it was time for a two day adventure a little more off the beaten track. We headed to the West Coast and Jacksons Bay. We decided to walk to Stafford Hut via Smoothwater Bay. This is a pretty technical route and only possible if its not raining, due to its rugged terrain and a gazillion river crossings. The West Coast is the wettest place in NZ, and when it rains it certainly does pour! So rivers can rise extremely quickly making them impassible. We set off after New Years and the rain had passed but were not able to do the round circuit back via the coast due to high tides.

Jacksons Bay, West Coast New Zealand adventure photography
Heading into the unknown….

What blows my mind about New Zealand is the sheer diversity in such a small country. We live in one of the driest places in the country, where our annual rain fall is around 400mm, and a mere 2hours drive away on the West Coast there is up to 1,600mm a year. That makes for some extremes! It is so glorious to be able to hop in the car and drive to the rain forests of the West Coast from the dry dessert of Tarras.

West Coast of the Southern Alps of New Zealand
Jungle of the West Coast

After the rain cleared in the afternoon we headed into Smoothwater Bay This is a lovely wee walk through the rain forest to a glorious sheltered bay perfect for camping.

Smoothwater Bay, West Coast
Smoothwater Bay
Camping on the West Coast of NZ
Camping at Smoothwater bay
camping at Smoothwater bay, NZ
Campfire ghost stories…
camping under the moonlight
Skies clearing revealing the full moon

The next day we were to head around to Stafford Bay, a four hour bush walk or a 3 hour costal walk. The coastal walk had to be timed with the tides or it can be deadly. One of the things about NZ’s hiking is that its not to be taken lightly. I really respect our Department Of Conservations descriptions of the routes we are lucky enough to walk on and take heed of any warnings. When we arrived at Smoothwater Bay we encountered a group of Russians stuck on the rocks, they had left too late for the tide. It took them 2hours in the rising tide and dwindling daylight to get to safety across the estuary to the beach. We helped them get across, our boys helping swim their packs over the estuary. Needless to say they were cold, wet and tired. Their sleeping bags and gear soaked. They had no choice but to camp out as it was getting dark. That must have been a long cold night! The interesting thing was that over breakfast the next morning, we saw a group coming around the bluffs with exactly the same problem!!! We couldnt believe it. Deja vu! This group had left 2 hours two late for the tide and got caught out. Not in as much danger as our Russian friends the night before. It was a warm day and they had enough time to walk out with their wet gear.

NZ may not have spiders and snakes that kill you, but our mountains, water and weather catches a lot of people out.

Smoothwater bay rescue
The group in the morning making their way around the rocks too late for low tide!

Having had our evening and morning entertainment with the rescue missions we were on our way to Stafford Bay. This was a 4 hour walk and we thought we would be there by early afternoon.

Bush walking NZ
Hiking in the West Coast Rain forest
My husband Tim and his new Cactus tramping bag that I gave him for Christmas. He loves it! Cactus Outdoor is NZ made for people who want good quality gear that lasts…

The route was a bit tougher going than we imagined, with multiple river crossings, unmarked sections and a small steep pass to get over. I LOVE these kind of walks, its exciting, and round every corner its a new challenge. The jungle of the West Coast is glorious, luscious and green. Finally we reached the sea and had a welcome lie down on the warm sand. A stunning day on the coast and a huge beach all to our selves.

Stafford Bay adventure
The Beach at Stafford Bay
Camping on the West Coast of New Zealand
We chose to camp at a lovely spot near the hut next to the Stafford River, along with the West Coast sandflies!
Jungle of the west coast photography adventure
With low tide being at 4.30am we had to take the inland route back, I wasn’t too worried after watching two groups get stranded!
Jacksons Bay, West Coast NZ
After the solid 4 hour walk with the promise of fish and chips at the Cray Pot to keep us going we finally reached Jacksons Bay
Fish and chips at the Cray Pot
Ben and Sarah enjoy the BEST fish and chips in NZ at the Cray Pot, Jacksons Bay. Especially after a three day hike…

I love being out in the wilderness getting lost in nature. 2015 will be the year of adventures to take my camera on, more so than ever before! So watch this space! Huge thanks to F-Stop Gear for all the support over the years and for my Tilopa pack which I took on this hike. Great to be able to take a camera pack when hiking…

adventure camera pack
My F-Stop Gear Tilopa packed to the rafters with my camera gear, Peak Design strap all thats needed for a 3 day hike. Luckily I had my husband to carry a few extras 🙂
New Zealand Adventure photographer
A rare photo of myself sporting my F-Stop Gear Tilopa


Im off to Japan next week on a two week photoshoot in the snow. Keep tuned in for photos and stories from there! Will be strange going from 27 degrees to snow and cold!