Perfect DOC lodges to getaway this summer

By: Nina Mercer


If you’re looking to do a bit of exploring this summer, but prefer to drive, rather than hike to your destination, consider visiting one of the many lodges managed by the Department of Conservation

Not everyone wants to tramp to a remote hut, carrying a heavy pack, in order to get back to nature and enjoy the wilderness. And sometimes, even if you have the desire, circumstances make a mission like that difficult, if not impossible.

H---Great -tracks -made -walking -easy -at -Mt -Holdsworth

These lodges offer you the chance to book out a large space and get together with extended family or a group of friends. Or you can just book a bed or bunkroom and share with other like-minded souls.

DOC lodges worth looking at

DOC lodges are fairly basic, but most have power, a fully equipped kitchen, hot showers and heating. You will need to take your own bedding and towels, and bedrooms are generally kitted out with several bunks. Here are several worth investigating further:

Holdsworth Lodge – Wairarapa

H---Holdsworth -Lodge ---modern -and -comfortable

Situated at the base of the Tararua Range, this lodge caters for groups of up to 28. It can be used by one group or shared with others.

The lodge is only 15 minutes’ drive from Masterton, but nestled beside a flowing river on the edge of native forest; you’d be forgiven for thinking you were miles from anywhere. The river offers many opportunities to drop in a fishing line or for kids to play and explore.

H---Awesome -swimming -holes -close -to -Holdsworth -Lodge ---by -Gem -Choi

Several walks start virtually right outside the front door. The one-hour Donnelly’s Flat Loop has picnic areas and great hangout spots along the river.

If you don’t mind a bit of a climb, I recommend hauling yourself up to Rocky Lookout. The track is well-maintained and climbs out of the forest to a lookout point with stunning views out towards the Wairarapa coast. This walk will take most hikers around two hours return.

H---Worth -the -climb -to -Rocky -Lookout ---Mt -Holdsworth ---by -Gem -Choi

Whakapapa Holiday Park – Tongariro National Park

This area has been a favourite of mine since I lived there in the mid-1990s. There is much to do and the Tongariro National Park provides a stunning environment in which to do it.

The holiday park offers a number of accommodation options, from camping to cabins and even a 32-bunk lodge. The lodge can be booked out if you want a large get-together, although note that you’ll need to bring your own cooking utensils to the lodge.

W---Longer -walks -from -Whakakpapa -can -take -you -into -more -alpine -regions -with -stunning -views

Tongariro National Park is a hiker’s paradise. From 15-minute walks around alpine gardens to full day excursions, this area offers something for everyone. The Taranaki Falls is a popular two-hour walk to a waterfall that thunders over the edge of an ancient lava flow.

For a longer walk, check out Tama Lakes further on from the Taranaki Falls. These walks take you through mountain beech forest, tussocks and alpine wetlands. And, of course, the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing is close by.

The Camphouse – North Egmont

C---The -Camphouse ,-nestled -on -the -lower -slopes -of -Mt -Taranaki

The historic nature of this 32 bunk lodge holds great appeal. Built in 1856 as part of army barracks near New Plymouth, this section of the barracks was saved from demolition and moved to North Egmont in 1892, where it became advertised as ‘alpine visitor accommodation’.

There are only a few buildings left from the 1860s New Zealand Wars, so you really are experiencing a piece of history when staying here. Mt Taranaki towers behind the lodge. 

W---Heading -out -towards -Taranaki -Falls

It is worth the visit just for a glimpse of the majestic peak. And a glimpse was all we got as the rain set in. Even in grim weather though, there are a number of short walks to be enjoyed; just be prepared for plenty of mud. The forest is beautiful, making it easy to imagine you are a hobbit on a mission. The North Egmont Visitor Centre provides for a lovely experience as well.

W---The -stunning -Taranaki -Falls -2

Catchpool and orongorongo valley – Rimutaka forest park

The Coast Road Cabin has three bedrooms that can sleep up to 13. Extremely easy to get to, it’s at the entrance to Catchpool Valley. This fully equipped house gives groups a great base to explore the walks 10 minutes’ drive further up the valley, or for exploring further around the Coast Road.

O---Orongorongo -Valley ---tramps -the -whole -family -can -do

But if you are really keen, this is also a great place for an extended family tramp. The huts in the Orongorongo Valley in the Rimutaka Forest Park east of Wellington are the ultimate for groups that span in age from three to 83.

There are nine huts or lodges in the Orongorongo Valley that can be booked. They range from a four bunker shack to a 32 bunk lodge, but most sleep around 10 people. All but the smallest hut provides cooking utensils, cutlery and crockery. This can make packs much lighter and will encourage the less enthusiastic to put on their tramping boots.

O---Access -to -some -of -the -huts -in -the -Orongorongo -Valley -require -crossing -wide -riverbeds

Most of the huts are just a two-to-three hour walk from the road-end, but note that several of the huts require crossing the river to reach. Booking early is essential as the area is very popular with trampers.

Check it out for yourself

This is just a fraction of what is available to accommodate groups and get people out into the wilderness with minimal effort. Check out the DOC website for more lodges and booked accommodation.

A final tip

Even though it’s summer, when you’re heading into the wilderness there is always a chance of bad weather. Make sure you take plenty of warm clothing, wet weather gear and a spare pair of shoes. Then simply enjoy the experience.

Other DOC Lodge accommodation worth checking out

North Island

  • Te Kopi Homestead – South Wairarapa Coast
  • Caretakers Cottage –Matiu/Somes Island (boat access)
  • Kauri Cottage – Coromandel Forest Park
  • Mimiwhangata Beach House – Northland
  • Robson’s Lodge – Kaweka Forest Park

South Island

  • Cobb Hostel – Kahurangi National Park
  • Nydia Lodge – Pelorus Sound (boat or foot access)
  • Okarito School House – West Coast
  • Rarangi Surf Club Building – Blenheim area

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