Is Sayer Hut the oldest hut in the Tararua Range?

Sayer Hut at Totara Flats in the Tararua Range is the oldest hut in the Tararua Forest Park and it has an interesting history.

Aerial photo of Totara Flats in the Tararua Range showing the location of Sayer Hut
Location of Sayer Hut

Yes, Sayer Hut is the oldest tramping hut in the Tararua Range and has a fascinating story to tell.

In 1878 Sayer and Potts were prospecting for gold at Totara Flats and accidentally burnt much of the bush on the river banks to form the grassy flats that we know so well. In 1889 Sayer tried introducing hens to Totara Flats but they soon died out. Then in 1909 Sayer built his hut on the flats on the eastern side of the Waiohine River – the first private hut in the Tararua. Other well-known older huts in the Tararua Forest Park are Field Hut, built in 1924, and Cone Hut, built in 1946. All three of these huts have been extensively modified and upgraded but something of their original character still remains.

The easiest route to Sayer Hut is from the Mangaterere Road end – about a 3 hour fairly easy walk on a well maintained track. Other routes are via tracks to Totara Flats from either Holdsworth roadend or Waiohine Gorge roadend. Both of these routes requires a crossing of the Waiohine River – which will be easy enough if there has not been significant rain and so the river level is low, but difficult, or even impossible, when the river is running high.

The hut has a nice open fire place to warm the place and cook your tea. But don’t smash down trees for fire wood – simply collect the driftwood from the river. Even when wet this leached wood burns well and there is usually plenty to be found if you hunt about.

Pan the photo for a look around the interior of the hut.

And then finally pay the hut fee and leave the hut and surroundings neat and tidy so others can also enjoy their stay there.

PS. For more on Totara Flats visit Totara Flats 101

PPS. For more Tararua photos visit


In September 2022, members of the Sayer family, with a grant from the Backcountry Trust, reclad the hut together with other remedial work.
For the story of this upgrade, and more on the hut history, visit the Backcountry Trust website.

3 thoughts on “Is Sayer Hut the oldest hut in the Tararua Range?”

  1. Wow! That’s very interesting Keith,
    What relation was Vic Sayer to R Sayer who built the hut ?

  2. On a deerstalking trip in the late 1950’s came across this hut which at that time was very basic but quite suitable for overnight. stays. On one trip met Vic Sayers there and after that made several trips in there with him. He told us that for a period of time
    when the grass on the flats would be well grown he and brother {brothers} would drive a mob of cattle through the bush and live in the hut while they grazed the flats. He showed us and took us through the way they took the cattle in. It was
    much quicker but a lot rougher and steeper than the holdsworth track, can’t remember where the access was to this area but
    it was much quicker than the Holdsworth . I am coming onto 90 now, great to be able to reflect on memories like this.


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