Exploring Kaikoura and Mt Fyffe – Seaward Kaikoura Range

A relaxing weekend with great views of Kaikoura.

The trip began with us all (along with the medium group) meeting at the Wellington Railway station at 2.30pm to catch a 4pm ferry to the South Island. After arriving in Picton, we drove down to Kaikoura to our Top 10 Holiday accommodation for the night. This was super comfortable, and it was nice being able to have a shower and sleep in a bed before starting our tramp.

The next morning, Megan dropped off the medium group at Mt Fyffe carpark before driving back to the accommodation. Once there, we all packed up and headed off into town for some exploring. After a yummy breakfast in a local café, we headed down to the peninsula where we spent an hour walking on the coastal track, seeing the seals and the views.

On the small hill just off the peninsula track [Rory]
A few of the hundreds of seals we saw along the coast [Jane]

After returning to the van, we grabbed some lunch from town before driving to the Mt Fyffe carpark where we set off up the hill. This was a pretty steady grind, particularly as we set off at midday, but it was all on a 4WD track, so the path was nice and wide. After 45 minutes we stopped at a wide clearing and had some lunch. When we set off again, we noticed a lookout spot about 5 minutes later. In hindsight, this would have been a great place to stop as the views were apparently pretty good (at the time we decided we’d stop on the way down – but at that time it was clagged in).

After some more steady climbing, we started to get some pretty epic views, and before we knew it, at 3.20pm, we arrived at Mt Fyffe Hut!

Views from the ridge nearing the hut. Looking down on Kowhai River near Spaniard Spur Track [Megan]

Along the way we’d seen a lot of University of Canterbury students who were doing a variety of different walks in the area, all ending up at Kowhai Hut. We were definitely grateful for this, as a lot of them stopped at Mt Fyffe Hut for a break and it would have been quite daunting being there with 70-80 university students. They did invite us all to join them if we wanted to, and apparently a group had walked in a couple of kegs up the river for the evening.

Hiding from the sun, WTMC in the left of the photo with UC students on the right [Rory]

Once at Mt Fyffe Hut, we had three people (Sally, Hannah, and Josh) join us from the medium group as they’d decided to turn back either before or at the Mt Fyffe summit. It had been a really hot day, so this wasn’t particularly surprising as there was basically no shade for most of the climb. There had also been a no water notice for Mt Fyffe Hut, so I think some of them had been conserving their water on the way up and had got a bit dehydrated. Luckily the hut tank had some water in it, so the UC students and us had some drinking water. A few of us (Jane, Ingrid, and Sara) went for a bit of a walk up the summit track to see what the views were like before coming back down and we all started on dinner. We had a yummy summer vegetables with lentils and rice dinner from the WTMC cookbook organised by Jane and cooked as a group.

After dinner we all relaxed and enjoyed a perfectly positioned seat to watch the sunset. We also set up a few tents, as Rory and Ingrid, and Sally (from the medium group) slept outside. Mt Fyffe Hut is surprisingly small, with only 8 bunks, which was definitely interesting as quite a few people seem to visit this hut. We had a full hut, as another pair joined us. And then outside there were quite a few tents set up, as a few people came to stay the night – either from the road end like us or from Kowhai Hut (a couple were particularly glad they’d spent Friday night at Kowhai Hut instead of Saturday night there with the UC students). It was quite a windy night for those in the tents (with the couple that had used Josh’s tent retreating into the hut in the middle of the night) but otherwise uneventful.

Sunset from Mt Fyffe Hut looking out towards Kaikoura and the Kowhai River [Megan]

In the morning a few of us decided to head up to the summit. This was expected to be a 2-hour return trip and as we only had to head down the hill and drive 20 minutes to pick up the remaining two members in the medium group, we decided we had plenty of time.

Cloud rolling over Kaikoura [Megan]

However, a cloud front rolled over Kaikoura the next morning and quickly enveloped Mt Fyffe. This resulted in the three of us (Julia, Josh, and Megan) going up to the summit despite having no views. But it was still fun to see what the track was like (basically a 4WD track all the way to the top). We took some light gear and a PLB and set off at 8:15am. We got to the top at 9:15am, had a few minutes break to take some photos and then arrived back at the hut at 10:15am. Jane, Rory, and Sara also did some exploring to check out the summit track.

Mt Fyffe Summit [Megan]

At about 10:40am, we quickly began our descent back to the carpark. As it was raining/drizzly, we didn’t take many stops and it took us about 1 hour 20 minutes, arriving at the carpark at midday. Once back at the carpark, we quickly packed up and drove around to the Parson/Grange Road to pick up Sara and Daniel – the remaining two members of the medium group. Now that we were all together again, we drove back to Kaikoura to grab some lunch in town. We all ended up at The Beach House Café in Kaikoura, which I would rate highly, as the portions were massive and the food was delicious. After lunch we set off back up the road to Picton, with a quick stop at Nins Bin for some photos (and a whitebait sandwich for Daniel).

Post lunch photo at The Beach House Café [Rory]

The drive back to Picton was fairly quick and after some ice creams we boarded the ferry and even set off 30 minutes early, sailing at 6pm. After a smooth sailing we all departed ways at the Railway Station. We had definitely had a great weekend with awesome company and were quite grateful for the good weather we had had on the Saturday so we could enjoy the epic views.

Saturday – 2 March 2024
Kaikoura Peninsula Walk – 4.32km, time: 1 hour, 40m of ascent
Mt Fyffe Carpark to Mt Fyffe Hut – 5.8km, moving time: 1 hour 50 minutes, total time: 2 hours 45 minutes, 900m of ascent.

Sunday – 3 March 2024
Mt Fyffe Summit (from Mt Fyffe Hut return) – 6.11km (~3km each way), 1 hour up and 50 minutes down with 10 minutes of breaks (2 hours total return), 500m of ascent/descent.
Mt Fyffe Hut to Mt Fyffe Carpark – 5.8km, total time 1 hour 20 minutes (took no breaks), 900m of descent.

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