Manuka Hut

Manuka Hut

Manuka Hut is a small hut in Hakatere Conservation Area along the Te Araroa Trail. It’s an easy trail which has a short walk in from the road end making it an ideal choice in winter as the shorter days are upon us or rather if you have small children who you are looking to introduce to hiking. Hakatere is a beautiful area of country that is home to a number of mountain ranges and beautiful tussock covered plains. The hike is a short, flat hike ideal for beginners that are looking towards venturing into their first hike off the beaten trail. You’ll be up for a bit of tip-toeing through mud, fighting off patches of long tussock and letting your legs swing as you follow well carved vehicle tracks. Over summer Manuka Hut sees an increased number of visitors being situated along Te Araroa.


2 hours


7.25 km







A picture perfect moment along the trail to Manuka Hut

43°33′16″S. 171°12′48″E

In Detail

If your’e mountain biker you can also visit Manuka Hut. Taking a slight detour when you reach Lake Emily where you’ll take the Stour River Track along until you reach the Manuka Hut Link Track. This avoids a steep terrace and ensures that the track is kept in good condition. Beyond Lake Emily it would be rather difficult to continue riding. Moutain biking access continues on to Double Hu to reach your car and make the trail a loop. You’ll likely encounter a lot of mud along the trail. Ensure that you have a change of clothes in your bag or car to keep your ride home clean.

Lissy walking back down from the Manuka Range back down to Manuka Hut

Getting to Manuka Hut

From Christchurch take SH1 (state highway one) out to Rakaia taking a right onto Thompson’s Track. At Ashburton forks make the dogleg and continue on Thompson’s Track taking a right shortly after bringing you onto Tramway Road. Make a small dogleg turn onto Ashburton gorge road which will take you through to Hakatere. At the T instersectin known as Hakatere take a right hand turn onto Hakatere-Heron Road. Follow this road until you reach a Castle Ridge Station on your right. Access to the track is located before the bridge across Jacobs Stream.

Manuka Hut Route

The route into Manuka Hut begins along a 4WD track into Lake Emily. If you are in a vehicle that is able to drive through the mud you’ll likely be able to make it into Lake Emily and further shorten the trip. During the winter and spring seasons the track seems to soak up a lot of water, turning the track to mud. You’ll find that it is easier walking alongside the four wheel drive track instead of on the actual track itself. Once you reach Lake Emily there is a DOC sign that will lead you to a ‘shortcut’ hiking track across the Stour River. Pick up the vehicle track that makes up a main stretch of Te Araroa and follow it to the hut turn-off. It takes approximately 5 – 10 minutes from the turn off to reach the hut.

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Manuka Hut Weather

Manuka Hut is an ideal winter hike to tackle. In Hakatere where you are surrounded by mountain ranges and small streams the risk of avalanches and rising rivers after heavy rainfall is removed. In the winter you’ll likely have snow right the way down many of the mountains to the scrub line, and snow along the track after a good storm. Come spring the snow is likely to stay around the peaks, fading into summer and non-existent at all during Autumn. If you can bare the cold then winter is an ideal time to knock out a hike into Manuka Hut. You’ll avoid the crowds walking the Te Araroa trail and are more likely to have the hut to yourselves.

Manuka Hut Car Park to Lake Emily

Park your car up soon after the road ends and the mud bath begins. The walk begins with some tree cover as you walk alongside the stream following the 4WD track. As the road takes a turn a slight turn the forest fades into shrub and tussock. Unfortunately the mud remains keeping you on your toes as you navigate the trail. Often walking alongside the vehicle track is the best way to keep out of trouble.

Clockwise from Top Left
Lissy avoiding one of the many puddles along the vehicle track towards Lake Emily.
Looking out over Hakatere marshlands as we continue further along the track towards Lake Emily
A picture perfect moment and lighting from the trail into Manuka Hut (as seen in the featured photo at the start of this post)
Trying to avoid getting completely caked in mud along the track as the puddles enlarged for periods along the track

Te Araroa Trail

As the vehicle track subsides and the trail becomes far more in shape as you pass by Lake Emily. There’s a very small climb as you branch off the track and follow along the connector track. Matagouri may cover sections of the track which can be a bit scratchy and spiky. Speargrass is the other savage plant that you may encounter during the scrub bash across the hill. If you’re riding into Manuka Hut that you’ll follow the Stour River Track to reach the Manuka Hut Link Track.

Top: Light breaking through the clouds looking further up and along the track back towards the car park
Middle: Lake Emily in the near distance
Looking out over the plateaus of Hakatere towards where Woolshed Creek Hut lies

The entirety of the walk is marked by poled orange markers. On the last ascent before a steep descent to the Stour River take a walk out along the peninsula. The route offers up views of the Manuka Range and Mount Somers Range. It’s a beautiful spot to appreciate the views before you dive down into the valley and make your way back along the vehicle track to Manuka Hut.

Top Left: Looking out over the highest point along the Manuka Hut Track, a small peninsula in the wilderness of tussocklands
Top Right:
Looking along the Manuka Hut Track making up a part of Te Araroa
Bottom Left:
Approaching the highest point along the track the Mount Somers Range just behind
Bottom Right:
Looking down along the Te Araroa Trail towards snow covered mountains marking the way into Clent Hill Saddle

Stour River Track

The walk alongside the Stour River is a quick speedy walk flat and easy walking. The track is well defined and very easy to follow. It won’t take long to follow the track along and make it to the turn-off to the hut. You’ll find that the trail is relatively easy to find. On your right as you approach from the Stour River you’ll find the track marked by a small DOC sign pointing you in the direction of the hut.

Top: Nathan (the Author) having a quick read of the map to locate how far out from the hut we were
Bottom Left:
Melissa making her way down the vehicle track with ease
Bottom Right:
Looking out over Lake Manuka part way up the track towards Manuka Hut

Manuka Hut turn-off

The turn off takes you on a short trail before you have to make a crossing of an unnamed stream and then making your way up and along the river bed. There isn’t necessarily a marked track along the route into Manuka Hut, but it’s easy enough to find your way up to the hut. The streams don’t run high usually, meaning you should be able to jump across the river without getting your feet wet.

Lissy walking the final few metres before reaching Manuka Hut, our sleeping quarters for the night

Manuka Hut

Manuka Hut is an old muster’s hut that’s made out of corrugated iron and definitely has a good bit of character lying around the hut. Stickers plastered around the hut in random places amongst an open fire place, rickety bench seats and an old wooden dinner table just big enough to fit four people around it. Within the hut there are a six bunks, on two levels with a mattress to accompany each of the beds. There is a small open fire place within the hut that usually will need to be cleared out from ash and soot. Unfortunately the hut doesn’t retain much of its heat being constructed out of corrugated iron. In the winter months and cooler summer/spring/autumn months ensure that you have a good warm sleeping bag to keep you warm throughout the night here.


6 Bunks


Toilet, Fire place, Mattresses



Looking back down towards the hut in the evening blue hour from just behind the hut along the Manuka Range

The hut doesn’t often have a large supply of fire wood. With the limited amount of scrub that surrounds the hut, there’s only so much you can break off for kindling before you have enough to burn for a small fire. It would be recommended to bring in your own firewood if you’re visiting Manuka Hut, and possibly even a little more if you’re feeling kind. It really makes the hut a much warmer, comfortable home to spend the night. Behind the hut is a small mountain range that you can climb to get a view out over Hakatere and the ranges in the area.

Top Left: Lissy breaking up a few twigs outside the hut for some kindling for the fire to begin
Bottom Left:
Stashing the kindling within the fire whilst trying to make some room amongst all the mess left behind in the fire place
Top Right: A small flame beginning to grow amongst the kindling that we hoped might turn into a fire that would burn all night
Bottom Right:
The fire absolutely blazing through the kindling that we could find

Manuka Hut Ammenities

Not far from the hut is a long drop toilet (slightly further upstream). Next to the hut there is a rock couch, an ideal spot to catch some rays on a warm winter morning whilst chowing down a bit of brekky for the hike back to the car. Ensure that you sweep the floor, clear your rubbish from the hut and latch the door shut for the next party to come and visit Manuka Hut.

Top Left: Nathan (the Author) peaking through the doorway to check on how things are going inside
Top Right:
Nothing to see here, just a Scandinavian model posing in the door way
A happy champ eating some good nosh for breakfast

Return Journey

Returning back to the car from Manuka Hut is relatively straightforward and doesn’t seem to take a moment as you retrace your steps. If you’ve done a night walk in after work on a Friday the entire hike will come and go a lot faster than it took you coming in. If you’re feeling in need you might even be able to sneak in a swim at Lake Emily along the route back. Be warned that it’s likely to be marshy around the edge of the lake and take a while to get deep.

Top: Looking back along the section of tramping track the next day along the way back to the car as we headed back out from Manuka Hut
Searching for the route amongst the long tussock was at times a bit of a battle
Lissy looking pretty stoked after a night out in the bush on a beautiful winter morning around Ashburton Lakes