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Murihiku (Maori)

Southland and Fiordland

Milford Sound is considered by many the 8th wonder of the world, and it is magnificent, however there's an abundance of natural wonders in this remarkable region, internationally renowned for spectacular landscapes, dramatic, rugged scenery and outstanding beauty. Towering cliffs, snow-capped mountains, rain forests, bush clads hills, a proliferation of impressive waterfalls and pristine lakes.

Fiordland National Park, our largest national park, boasts majestic mountain peaks, ice carved fiords, glacial lakes, the highest waterfalls in the country (Browne Falls 619m and Sutherland Falls 580m), Lake Hauroko the deepest lake in NZ,  the crystal clear Lake Te Anau (second largest lake in NZ) and Lake Manapouri dotted with small islands, sandy beaches, small coves, and bush clad hillsides.   

Milford Sound being the most accessible fiord is one of NZ's most popular tourist attractions, Mitre Peak, rising steeply from the fiord to a height of 1683m, a sight to behold. Further south, Doubtful Sound is larger and more remote, providing a unique opportunity to experience the quiet solitude of an unspoilt wilderness area.

This region is a trampers paradise with four of NZ's great walks; the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn Tracks, and Rakiura Track on Stewart Island (separated from the mainland by Foveaux Strait). The Hollyford Track, Greenstone, Caples and Hump Ridge Tracks are also gaining international recognition as spectacular multi-day walks with breath-taking views.

The expansive Southland Plains include some of New Zealand's most fertile farmlands; Gore and Invercargill the region's biggest settlements. The Catlins, on the east coast in the bottom corner of the South Island, is a rain forest region with rugged coastlines, host to many endangered species of wildlife and marine mammals: the yellow eyed penguin, fur seals, sea lions, dolphins, elephant seals and an albatross colony. There are dozens of interesting walks in the area.

Just Go to Southland and Fiordland

  Routeburn Track

,   Routeburn Track

The Routeburn Track – One of NZ's Great Walks

Spectacular views of towering mountain peaks and ranges, pristine lakes, crystal clear rivers, sheer bluffs, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, goblin like forests, grassy flats, prolific birdlife and alpine flowers make this a truly remarkable experience.

The Routeburn Track traverses Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park, a high alpine area that can be walked in either direction. Start at Glenorchy (the most popular choice) or The Divide between Te Anau and Milford Sound.

The 32 kilometre, well marked track can be completed in 2 to 4 days. There are four huts with basic facilities and bunk style accommodation and two campsites. Bookings are essential.

In this region of high rainfall, you need a good raincoat and as the conditions are unpredicatable, you must be prepared for cold weather and strong winds any time of the year. We started the track just after Christmas and on day two, light rain quickly turned to sleet, then snow. Within 30 minutes a blanket of heavy snow covered the ground and continued to fall until lunchtime.

There are some challenging steepish bits and slips can occur after heavy rain, so you need a good level of fitness, however I would not rate it as an especially difficult walk.


Day One. Starting from Glenorchy end. Most people bypass Routeburn Flats Hut continuing to Routeburn Falls Hut a distance of 8.8km approx 2½ - 3½ hours. However if starting late in the day Routeburn Flats Hut is a good choice. Over the swing bridge the track gets off to a gentle start to Bridal Veil Stream then rises steadily through grassy flats, tussock and beech forest with excellent views of mountain ranges and the valley below.

Day Two. Routeburn Falls Hut to Mackenzie Hut 11.3km, 4½ - 6 hours. (Including a lunch stop 6 hours for us.) This sub-alpine section is the most spectacular part of the walk, but it is also the most exposed part of the track. DoC staff and Hut Wardens provide warnings if adverse conditions expected. It's all uphill to the Harris Saddle Shelter, a good place to rest, have lunch or take respite in atrocious weather. On a clear day you will enjoy stunning views of Lake Harris and Darran Mountains. For the fit and keen, a steep side trip up Mt Conical affords spectacular views of Lake McKerrow, Hollyford Valley, Martins Bay and the Tasman Sea. Leaving the shelter, the track is quite narrow and the ground drops away steeply to the Route Burn River in the valley far below, so stay alert. The track skirts along the ridge dropping steeply via a series of zig zag switchbacks to Lake Mackenzie Hut.

Day 3 Mackenzie Hut to Howden Hut, 8.6kms 3 – 4 hours. The track meanders along with a few steep sections; Lake Howden and Earland Falls the highlights of the day. The track gradually descends to Howden Hut, although most hikers bypass this hut and continue to the end at the Divide. However no longer young and agile, I prefer to take it slowly and savour the experience. When carrying a fully laden pack, shorter distances each day ensure your adventure is positive, rather than being long and arduous, plus you have more time to explore.

Day 4 Howden Hut to The Divide. It's pretty much all downhill, apart from the side track to Key Summit. It's definitely worth a visit to this alpine wetland and the views over the Darran Mountains and Hollyford Valley are magnificent.

The Routeburn can be linked with the Greenstone, Caples Tracks for those who want to extend their adventure, although it is more arduous.

Historic Kinloch Lodge is a great place to stay the night if starting from the Glenorchy end. A range of accommodation to suit all budgets is available and their restaurant offers great food.Details HERE

For a full track desciption and bookings click HERE

Guided trips of the Routeburn are available for those who want the comfort of a lodge with hot showers and meals. For itinenary details click HERE

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Gear and Useful Tips

If you have camping and outdoor experience, skip this section. However, if you're a newbie, here are some tips and hints about equipment and clothing that might be helpful - especially for overseas visitors unfamiliar with our conditions and changeable climate. At the risk of stating the obvious, here goes:

There's nothing worse than being wet and cold, so waterproof overpants are essential and take very little space. I always pack them, even in the warmer months. Mine weren't expensive to start with and have lasted nearly 20 years. Some brands  only have short zips at the bottom of the leg, however I recommend you buy a pair that zip almost up to the knee as they are much easier to put on over tramping boots, especially if they are muddy.   

I can't stand powdered milk, so on adventures I always take UHT Long Life milk, even when weight and space is an issue  Muesli, fruit (fresh or those little pottles) and milk is not only tasty but provides great sustenance when tramping and kayaking, so it's not negotiable for me.  A 250ml carton  is enough for 2 x breakfasts and our morning cup of tea. We can survive the rest of the day without milk, so I just pack one for each morning (into my husband's pack of course).  

Tip: On one occasion, I used surplus Long life milk to make up a thermos of coffee. However, the milk separated and the result was a curdled mess. Not  recommended. 

  1. Underestimating the weather conditions, failure to apppreciate how quickly it can change and an unwillngness to amend plans accordingly.
  2. Not being equipped or having a plan to deal with unexpected situations: getting lost, mishaps, accidents or emergencies. 

Sleeping Bags.  Firstly you need to think about what conditions you expect to face. Most people won't need an alpine bag, but I would suggest buying the next best you can afford, as there is nothing worse than being cold. In warmer weather you can just open them up. My sleeping bag is 90% goose down and 10% feather, 800gsm and I have found it excellent.

The ones that taper in at the bottom are probably the warmest being the most effective to trap warm air, however I am quite a restless sleeper and would find the extremely tapered ones too restrictive. Mine narrows, but not hugely. For the same reason I don't like the ones that draw in right around your face. The back of mine is longer and has a warm trim without wrapping around your face. I prefer to wear a woollen or merino beanie if it's really cold.

Using a sleeping bag liner (when you are dirty or sweaty, and can't shower), helps preserve and extend the life of your sleeping bag. Looked after a sleeping bag will last an extremely long time, so it's worth investing in a good one that will meet your needs. (Silk liners compress into a wee bag about the size of your fist.)

I would also suggest buying a dri-bag to put your sleeping bag in. Get one only slightly larger than your compressed sleeping bag. Very useful if you are setting up or dismantling camp in the rain as you certainly don't want to get a down / feather bag wet.

Chilli Burners. Over summer months these beauties are essential  to protect your hands from our harsh sun. Made from light neoprene, they are comfy, cool and the most effective way to protect the back of your hands from sunburn, whilst enabling the palm of your hands to remain in contact with your paddle. 

Pogies. When the weather gets chilly over the winter months, or you're paddling in the deep south when it can be cold at any time of the year, quality neoprene pogies will keep your hands toasty warm and dry. Velcro the pogies around the paddle shaft then simply slip your hands through to grip your paddle.  The wide wrist opening makes it easy to get your hands in or out quickly.

For supplier Click HERE

Warm showers are possible even in the most remote location or the most basic camping site with these little beauties. Some DoC camps have cubicles where you can hang them up, otherwise string up in the nearest tree. Outdoor stores stock biodegradable multi-purpose wash that can be used for hair, body, clothes and dishes. A 20 litre solar shower will do two decent showers. And they take very little space when not in use.

When space and weight are issues, you can get some pretty compact units. Look for a cooker and gas lantern that use the same cannisters. These items can be expensive, but we have been using ours for nearly 20 years.

A collapsible wind shield is very useful when cooking and a model where where the gas cannister lies on the ground when connected gives extra stability, as opposed to the upight units which can easily tip.

Compact gas lanterns can stand on flat ground, or hang from a branch. 


When camping with access to the car, this 3 burner gas cooker is perfect. It even has a rack for cooking toast and the lid acts as a wind shield.  The legs unscrew and it folds up into a tidy, compact unit. We have been using this cooker for over 20 years, so a pretty good investment. New models will no doubt have been modified and improved, but we have never had any issues with this one.

This gas lantern throws out great light and fits onto the same gas bottle.

Look for a flat bottom stainless steel cereal bowl and use for breakfast, lunch & dinner. The flat bottom allows you to use like a plate when making up sandwiches, wraps, or salads. Ours are still good after15 years, and we have yet to see anything better.

A flat bottom plastic bowl is ideal for washing up. Don't get anything too big as you have to heat up too much water. 28cm x 34cm x 10cm high is perfect.

A wine goblet, soup mug or coffee cup; take your pick.  You just  need to decide in what order.  It might seem really basic, but don't buy two the same size and check that they fit inside each other to save space in your pack. Stainless steel, bullet proof coffee plungers, are a bonus when space is not an issue.

Here's my list. I print off, cross off items we won't need, then tick off stuff as we add to the pile. 

Camping and Tramping

Sleeping mats
Sleeping Bags & liners
Pillows Tramping / Normal
Lights & torches
Small Radio & Batteries
Cooker, and gas cannisters, gas bottles
Pots & Frying pan
Knife, fork, spoon, tsp
Can opener
Mug, plate & bowl
Sharp knife
Personal locator beacon
Mosquito net & head nets
Small brush & shovel
Bowl, fish slice, tongs
Snaplock bags, L, M & S
Small plastic containers
Walking poles
Tramping packs
Tramping Boots
Large plastic bags for wet or dirty gear & for rubbish

Camping and Tramping Cont.

Duct Tape
Picnic Blanket
Small Tarpaulin
Coffee Plunger
Fold up spade
Fly spray
Insect Repellent
Chopping Board
Candles / Fire starter
Waterproof matches
Drink bottles
Paper towel roll
Washing up bowl
Gas lanterns
Day Packs
Spare boot laces
Repair kit for air mattresses

Camping and Tramping Cont.

Pack cards & games
Books, kindle
Waterproof camera
Towels & tea towels
Chux cloths
Pot scourer & brush
First Aid Kit
Reading glasses
Sun glasses
Phones & chargers
Toilet Paper
Twistie ties
Rubber bands
Hanky pack tissues
Mesh bags to hang fruit


Paddle leash
Paddle jacket / raincoat
Paddle float
Split paddle
Throw bag
Tow line
Neoprene booties
Dri Bags
Kayaks & Paddles
Spray Skirt
Life jackets
Bailer & Pump
Neoprene Shorts
Waterproof lights

Create a Masterlist for Hassle Free Packing - Trish's top tip.

There is no question that you require a lot of gear when camping. If during the same holiday you intend to go tramping and kayaking the pile of stuff grows significantly. 

Years ago, I created a masterlist and have added to it as more specialist equipment has become available, and as we get a little older, we've moved from the basic no-frills style camping to wanting a little more comfort.

In today's busy lifestyle, time is something we don't have a lot of, so thowing stuff together at the end of the working week can be a pretty daunting prospect.

Printing off a list and ticking stuff off as you add to the pile, makes the whole packing process much easier, reduces stress levels, and can avoids arguments - especially if something essential is overlooked. Okay if you're camping near town, but not so great when you are in an isolated area hours from civilisation and the nearest shop.

So make a list, save it to your computer, add to it as you accumulate more gear, and print off next time you're packing - easy!  

The type of equipment and level of home comforts will vary, depending on whether you have access to your car when camping, or whether you are restricted by what you can carry in a pack, or fit in a kayak.

My list is now pretty comprehensive. I'm happy to share if it's helpful, you can simply tailor it to suit your needs. Flick me an Email                                    Happy Camping - Just Go. 

Forget normal bath or beach towels when you head into the outdoors as they are bulky and take ages to dry. Microfibre towels (on left) come in a variety of sizes, take less room and most importantly dry really quickly. However it's best to only use them to dry off after a swim or shower; don't sit on them as dry grass and twigs stick to the fabric. I would also avoid buying red ones, as the colour continues to leach out when washing, even after multiple washes. I haven't experienced this issue with any other colour.

When space is really limited we have even been known to use large chux multi cloths (available at any supermarket) to dry off. 

When bigger fold out chairs are not an option due to space or weight,  but you don't  fancy sitting on the ground all the time, these little beauties are just what you need. They take very little space and when kayaking fit up the pointy nose end especially well. We have had ours for quite a few years and have used them on frequent trips, so I can personally recommmend these Roamer Tri Stools. Available  from Kathmandu, you can often pick them up for less than $20. Check them out  HERE 

At some locations in NZ at certain times of the year, and certain times of the day (especially in Fiordland) sandflies or mosquito's can be a nuisance.

Insect shelters are a great solution when eating or reading and you don't want to be confined to your tent. They are light and compact when not in use.

Head nets. Constantly waving your hands in front of your face to ward off sandflies (the Milford Wave as its known in Fiordland) can be effective but is not especially helpful when you need both hands free to set up camp. While far from glamorous, these head nets are very effective and stop pesky sandflies buzzing around your face. Available at outdoors stores for around $10 they are a great investment if you're heading to Milford Sound or spending time in the deep south. 

In NZ you need a sturdy tent capable of withstanding strong winds and heavy rain as our climate, even in summer, can be changeable and unpredictable. The expensive alpine range is for the specialists; the cheap, flimsy tents are for the kids in the backyard; mid-range suitable for most conditions. (Keep an eye on the sales when you can often pick up a great deal.) Specifications by the manufacturers are a guide only, so be sure to check the ease of putting up; height; weight; and dimensions (erected and when packed); ventilation; insect screens; inbuilt groundsheet; vestibule areas; and access points before you commit. Beware, some tents are too short, requiring you to sleep crosswise, which is not ideal.

When the car is close by, or when rafting, the Coleman Lakeside is perfect for two people, with plenty of room inside for air mattress and clothing, a large front vestibule with built-in ground sheet for stashing all your gear, front and side entries, insect nets and great ventilation.

For tramping and kayaking when space and weight are issues, opt for a more compact tent.


An electric air pump makes easy work of blowing up your air mattress. Plug into the cigarette lighter socket, or socket in front consul or rear compartment,  and hey presto you have a fully inflated mattress in minutes. Don't over-inflate, a rock hard mattress is not comfortable. In the past we have struggled to fit a fullly inflated mattress into the front opening of a small tent, however we recently discovered this effortless method.

Air mattresses: Double and single styles available, perfect if you are camping close to your vehicle when weight and size not an issue. Lengthwise 185cm is a snug fit in our tent, however many of the new ones are 200 – 215 cm and will not fit in some compact dome tents. Many are also double the height, suitable only for large tents.

Sleeping mats: Thermarest are known for a quality product, however they are very expensive and you pay a heavy price for the brand.  There are plenty of cheaper alternatives which do the job just fine.  Great improvements have been made over the years and you can now buy longer,  thicker mats which surprisingly are more compact when rolled up. Our older style 3/4 length sleeping mat on the right, barely 2 cm thick, has now been discarded for a full length EXPED Airmat that is 7.5cm thick, it provides a much more comfortable sleep and comes with a nifty 'schnozzle' inflation bag. 

Sleeping bags: There's nothing worse than being cold, so choose one suitable for the coldest conditions you expect to encounter.

Sleeping bag liners. For multi-day trips when  showers are not an option. They fit into a little bag about the size of your fist and you simply chuck in the washing machine at the end of the trip. They help preserve and extend the life of your sleeping bag. 

Stackable plastic cubes are fantastic to keep all related items together and the car stays nice & tidy. We can fit twelve boxes and access from back and rear doors means you only ever need to move one box to reach what you want.

The boxes sit neatly on top of one another, with the weight supported by the rim, so nothing in the boxes gets squashed. See-through boxes are even better. They are not square, so fit together using less space when not in use.