These days it’s so easy to catch the travel bug – just scrolling down your Instagram feed is enough to get your wanderlust going. Exotic, untouched and off the beaten track destinations, thousands of miles from home are only a few clicks away. But what if you didn’t have to spend three days travelling (and your hard earned cash) to find somewhere breathtaking – and could instead find yourself blown away by sights only a few hours from home?
As we strive to be more sustainable travellers, we’re looking at the places that are a short drive, bus or train ride away from the place that we call home. Admittedly, not all of you will have New Zealand’s South Island on your doorstep, but if you took some time to research your area, we’re sure there would be plenty of awesome things to do and sights to see within arm’s reach.
One of the best ways to see some of the most beautiful, untouched areas around you is of course to hike. And if you have the time and energy, you should spend the night out there in the bush tucked up in a hut or camping under the stars.
After spending the night in The Fiordland National Park in the lower South Island of New Zealand, we’ve put together five reasons why you should go into the wild for a night or two.
Taking in the scenery
Escape it all
Getting out into the bush is a great way to clear your head and switch off, as there’s often no phone signal – so nothing to stress you out. You don’t have to hike for days either, with lots of places taking just a few hours to get to.
We opted for Hope Arm Hut, which in the grand scheme of New Zealand trails is relatively easy, as well as undisturbed. After a short boat ride across the Waiau River in our new pal Mike’s dingy (organised through the Manapouri Store), we were on our own. It doesn’t take long for the security of civilisation to become an afterthought, and the native bush around you to become the norm. For the next three hours the half metre wide trail weaves alongside Lake Manapouri, through the fern forests, over rivers, boardwalks and between the scrub, with two twittering Fantails being the only other conversation to be heard. It may only be a short distance from the tourist hub of Te Anau, but going just a few hours into the bush feels a world away from everything.
Hope Arm Hut, our home for the night
Many of New Zealand’s lesser known natural wonders can only be accessed by foot, so you’ll get to see some stunning sites that many others won’t have done. Getting to these secluded locations also means your snaps will be free of crowds and could feature some of the country’s much loved wildlife.
With the light fading we emerged from the bush onto one of the many arms of Lake Manapouri, with not a soul in sight (unless you count the two ducks squabbling in the shallows). Hope Arm Hut sits in solitude at the far end of the beach, and strolling along the waterfront you quickly realise the view from the hotel doesn’t quite compete with a private beach in the depths of the forest.
Our own private beach
Before tackling any New Zealand trail be sure to check out the local Department of Conservation information centre, located in most major towns. These guys have loads of resources and expert knowledge on conditions and routes suitable for the season. If you’re planning on spending a night or more in the bush, this is where you can buy hut passes, with the money going towards the maintenance and preservation of the national parks throughout the country. If that isn’t a good enough reason on its own then we don’t know what is.
Wet feet avoided thanks to this wee suspension bridge
If only for a night, it’s still something to be proud of. Setting off into the bush with only the belongings on your back to keep you going is such a rewarding thing, but it’s a fine line between taking too much and not taking enough. It’s all about the essentials – a warm change of clothes, sleeping bag and food that can be easily prepared. And of course, everything to make a good cup of tea. A box of matches and some newspaper, along with some cutlery and bowls will set you up for a night around the fire sipping away.
Don’t forget the essentials – matches are a must!
Save some cash
If you’re travelling on a budget, getting out into the bush is a great way to save a bit of money for the numerous activities New Zealand has on offer. With 905 huts available, you’re spoilt for choice. Prices range from $5 to $15 depending on the type of hut you stay in – considerably less than your conventional accommodation. Throw in the price of food for a couple of days and a couple of extras to keep you going and that’s that.
With all that being said, getting out into the bush is a great way to connect with nature and gain an even greater appreciation for the world around you. Find out what wonders are on your doorstep, here.
One last thing – make sure you let people know where you are heading, and when you plan to be back from your adventure. This is really important, especially if there’s only a few of you and conditions take a turn for the worst. If you do bump into other hikers on the trail, a friendly hello goes a long way – and they’ll be more likely to warn you if there’s any issues with the trail up ahead. You could even end up in the same hut, making some new friends, and hearing some amazing stories.