Time to visit: DOC lodges

Photography by: NINA MERCER/DESTINATION TAUPO


New Zealand has some fabulous DOC lodges and cabins, each surrounded by beautiful scenery and offering a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors

DOC Lodges Great tracks made walking easy at Mt Holdsworth.jpg
A walking track at Mt Holdsworth


If you are planning to get out and explore New Zealand’s big, beautiful backyard over the coming months, a DOC lodge can be a great option for off-the-beaten-track accommodation. Many 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. Here are a few worth checking out. 

Holdsworth Lodge – Wairarapa 

Situated at the base of the Tararua Range, this lodge caters for groups of up to 28 and can be used by one group or shared with others. The lodge is only 15 minutes’ drive from Masterton, but as it’s nestled beside a flowing river on the edge of native forest, you would 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.

Several walks start virtually right outside the front door. The one-hour Donnelly Flat Loop has picnic areas and great hangout spots along the river. If you don’t mind a bit of a climb, you may like to try 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. It takes 2-3 hours return.

DOC Lodges W - Tongariro National Park.jpg
Tongariro National Park
DOC Lodges The stunning Taranaki Falls 2.jpg
The stunning Taranaki Falls

Whakapapa Holiday Park Cabins and Lodge – Tongariro National Park 

This holiday park offers a number of accommodation options, from camping to a 32-bunk lodge. The lodge can be booked out if you want a large get-together – you do need to bring your own cooking utensils though.

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 falls. These walks take you through mountain beech forest, tussock, and alpine wetlands. And, of course, the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing is close by.

DOC Lodges The Camphouse, nestled on the lower slopes of Mt Taranaki.jpg
The Camphouse, nestled on the lower slopes of Mt Taranaki

The Camphouse – North Egmont 

The historic nature of this 34-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 1891; it was opened for ‘alpine visitor accommodation’ the following year. There are only a few buildings left from the 1860s New Zealand Wars so you really are experiencing a piece of history staying there.

Mt Taranaki towers behind the lodge, and is worth the visit just for a glimpse of the majestic peak. Even in grim weather there are a number of short walks to be enjoyed – just be prepared for mud. The forest is beautiful, making it easy to imagine you are a hobbit on a mission. The North Egmont Visitor Centre is a lovely experience as well.

DOC Lodges Access to some of the huts in the Orongorongo Valley require crossing wide riverbeds.jpg
Access to some of the huts in the Ōrongorongo Valley is across wide riverbeds

Catchpool and Ōrongorongo VALLEY – Rimutaka Forest Park 

The Coast Road Cabin has three bedrooms that can sleep up to 13. Extremely easy to get to, it is at the entrance of the 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.

But if you are really keen, this is also a great place to go for an extended family tramp. The huts in the Ōrongorongo Valley in the Rimutaka Forest Park east of Wellington are the ultimate for groups of all ages.

There are nine huts or lodges in the Ōrongorongo Valley that can be booked. They range from a four-bunk shack to a 32-bunk lodge, but most sleep around 10. All but the smallest hut provide cooking utensils, cutlery and crockery.

Most of the huts are just a two to three-hour walk from the road-end, and while much of the track is well maintained and easy walking, several of the huts require crossing the river to reach.
Booking early is essential as the area is very popular

More Information 

Full details, including maps, can be found at doc.govt.nz.

Fees
Fees vary between lodges. Updated pricing can be found on the ‘lodges’ page at doc.govt.nz.

Bookings
All lodges, cabins and cottages need to be booked prior to arrival. Some can be booked online using DOC’s online booking system. Check out the individual lodge, cabin or cottage page online for booking contact details.

Facilities
The following items are always supplied:
Beds, bunks or sleeping platforms with mattresses, table and chairs, tap water, toilets, toilet paper and a broom and brush to keep accommodation clean and tidy.

These items are sometimes supplied:
Electricity, hot water, showers, lighting or candle holders and heating.

Kitchen facilities
Full kitchen: Electric or gas cooking (fuel supplied), hot water, pots, pans, cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery. There may be a barbecue, fridge/freezer or microwave (listed under ‘facilities’ on the individual lodge, cabin or cottage page if supplied).

Simple kitchen: Electric or gas cooking (fuel supplied). There may be hot water, pots, pans, cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery (listed under ‘facilities’ on the individual lodge, cabin or cottage page if supplied).

Basic kitchen: Gas, coal range or barbecue cooking (fuel supplied). Bring your own pots, pans, cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery.

You need to bring:
Bed linen or sleeping bags, tea towels, candles or camp lights (where lighting is not provided), food and personal items.

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