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 an arm’s reach.
One of the best ways to get to see some of the most beautiful, untouched areas around you is of course to hike. And if you have the time and energy, spend the night out there in the bush, sleeping in a hut 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.
Escape it all
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 and boardwalks, and between the scrub, with two twittering Fantails being the only conversation heard, other than our own. 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.
Home for the night – Hope Arm Hut
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. Getting to these secluded locations means those vacation snaps will be free of crowds and could feature some of the country’s much loved wildlife.
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 all 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
Get out of your comfort zone
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 and spending a night is a great way to connect with nature and gain an even greater appreciation for the natural wonders of the world around you. One last thing, make sure you let people know where you are heading and when you plan to be back just in case things take a turn for the worse. Find out what wonders are on your doorstep, here.