The track begins at the lakeside car park in St. Arnaud near the DOC Kerr Bay campsite. The town of St. Arnaud is situated on State Highway 63 in the Tasman district of the South Island. It's approximately 100 kms from Blenheim, 85 from Nelson and 160 from Westport, the nearest main centres. There are a number of accommodation options in St. Arnaud as well as the DOC campground and there is a small shop which sells handy tramping items such as Backcountry meals, gas canisters etc.
Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes
Starting from eastern end of the car park, the track to Lakehead Hut initially leads through a delightful area containing the wheelchair friendly Bellbird Walk, and there are indeed Bellbirds! There is also a slightly longer Honeydew Walk, both of these walks showing off the Rotoiti Nature Recover Project. The track to Lakehead Hut continues through this area and follows the lake's shore.
The track never strays far from the lake, and occasionally drops to the lakeside, allowing great views of Mt Robert towering above the opposite shoreline. Those with keen eyes can spot Bushline Hut part way up the face of Mt Robert with its own stunning views of Lake Rotoiti. There are also views southwards towards Lakehead Hut and beyond up the Travers valley.
There are many spots for a short break or lunch, and being so close to the mountains it's hard to think of a greater place to stop for a while. Be warned though even in winter, the sandflies will soon find you!
As you get closer to the lake head, you can spot Coldwater Hut on the other side of the lake. A lovely-looking stone building, however I would imagine that it gets pretty cold in winter as it sees practically no sun all day.
If you are lucky, along the way you may spot a South Island Robin. These friendly birds may even land on you!
South Island Robin
After three hours, Lakehead Hut is reached. The hut is approximately 10 kilometres from the car park and situated on an open terrace with great views up Travers valley from it's sunny deck. Inside there are 28 bunks and plenty of cooking space, but probably lacks a bit of sitting space. Although eating your dinner on the deck with its stunning views is a great way to end the day's tramping. There is a small log burner, which my hut companion managed to crank up and cook on, and there is running water inside the hut.
Inside Lakehead Hut
For my tramp I simply returned via the same track back to St. Arnaud, however a slightly longer option would be to travel back via the track on the other side of the lake. When the Travers River is low, you can cross to the other track via a marked track straight from Lakehead Hut which takes about 50 minutes to get to Coldwater Hut. However when the river level is high, it is safer to tramp to the Travers River swingbridge approximately 1.5 hours from Lakehead Hut, making it abouu a three hour tramp to Coldwater Hut.
For those with more time and energy there are plenty of multi-day options from Lakehead Hut. For example, you can continue up Travers Valley and complete the Travers-Sabine Alpine Crossing or tramp up Hukere Stream to Lake Angelus.
View from Lakehead Hut of Angelus Ridge
|Water||Rain water tank|
|Cost||Three hut tickets|
Related pagesNelson Lakes National Park