Where the mountains meet the sea and the seals relax close to the paths, Kaikoura is at the top of every New Zealand road trip itinerary – and rightly so. We’ve visited Kaikoura on several occasions and I have to say it’s probably one of my favourite little towns on the South Island. So on our most recent visit, we were looking for one of the lesser-known things to do in Kaikoura while we were there and that’s when our focus turned to the Mount Fyffe Hut walk.
Mount Fyffe hut is a full day hike and wasn’t something we had heard much about, unlike other popular walks on the South Island (I’m looking at you Roy’s Peak!) so I was keen to explore this track and check out the views from the top.
If you’re thinking about walking to Mount Fyffe Hut, or even further to Mount Fyffe Summit, keep reading. I’ll break down everything you need to know about this Kaikoura track so that when you walk it yourself, you’ll be fully prepared!
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Jump to What You Want to Know About The Mount Fyffe Hike
Whenever we visit Kaikoura we always stay at the Kaikoura Top 10 Holiday Park. It’s our favourite branch of the Top10 Holiday Parks and the staff here are always so warm and welcoming. They have several options for accommodation, from camping sites to basic cabins and fully self-contained apartments. Our top choice is one of their studio motel units with a basic kitchen and bathroom. They’re a little out of the town center, but they do have a free spa, their views are A+ and they have several really nice cafes just over the road – what more do you need?
Another place we’ve heard great things about is the Kaikoura waterfront Boutique. The Kaikoura Boutique is in the heart of town and is just a stone’s throw from the seal colony as well as other great things to do in Kaikoura. With an onsite cafe & bar, waterfront views & even a spa they’re a good option for people looking for a little more luxury before hiking Mount Fyffe.
With all our accommodation bookings, we always recommend you book directly with the hosts. They’re more often than not give you the best rate possible, as well
How Hard is the Mount Fyffe Hike?
Elevation to Mount Fyffe Hut is 1100m and approx 6km from the car park. The views from the top are incredible & definitely worth the leg burn. The walk itself to Mount Fyffe Hut is more interesting than Roy’s Peak, it has a lot more shade & there’s plenty of lookout points to take your mind off of the steepness. Oh, and you can’t see the hut until you’re actually there, which for me made it a lot easier. The track itself is easy underfoot, with only one or two patches of looser rock. I’d still wear hiking shoes though rather than jandals (flip-flops).
The DOC says it’s a 5 hours return. With flat hikes, we almost always come in under the DOC’s recommendations. But that wasn’t the case this time. We reached the hut in just after 3 1/2 long hours and made it down in just over 2. You can extend this walk by going from the hut to Mount Fyffe Summit but due to bad weather, we chose not to. This extra stretch will add another hour (max) to your day.
Now, I’m no mountain goat. I have bad knees & struggle with the down part of these hikes. The Mount Fyffe walk was my first full-day mountain hike since lockdown so I went into this expecting to struggle… a lot.
Truth is. While it’s consistently really steep for the first half. It isn’t too bad when you pace yourself and it isn’t as bad as Roy’s Peak (which I did for the first time a few days after the Mount Fyffe Hut track – post on that coming soon)
Realistically, unless you want to hammer yourself going up, plan for at least 6-7 hours with plenty of stops. I slept well that night, that’s for sure!
How to Get to the Start of Mount Fyffe Hut Track
The start of this Kaikoura walk is located just 15 minutes from the center of town, down a relatively well-kept road – although after heavy rain I can see it getting pretty messy. There’s a small car park here with plenty of room for bigger vehicles & a convenient drop toilet.
What is the Mount Fyffe Hut Walk Like
The Mount Fyffe Hut walk doesn’t give you a gradual start. As soon as you leave the car park it begins to climb quite steeply and continues this way for perhaps 50% of the track. Thankfully, there are plenty of lookouts and little nooks to stop off at to break up the journey. Starting with the official ‘Mount Fyffe Lookout’
Reaching Mount Fyffe Lookout
The signs and DOC website say the lookout is only 1 hour from the car park, making it a good option for people who only want a little taster of the Mount Fyffe walk.
BUT, in reality, it took us nearly 2 hours thanks to the relentless zig-zag steep climb, my lack of conditioning for uphill walking, and my dodgy knees (and I’m low-key blaming that on the fact I’m 30 now too).
Thankfully this part of the walk, though steep and rocky underfoot, was well-shaded thanks to the native bushlands surrounding the track. I’m not going to lie, I very nearly threw in the towel once we reached the lookout. If it took me this long, and I ached this bad already, I really wasn’t sure if I could reach Mount Fyffe Hut. But, I pulled up my big girl pants and plodded on further.
From the lookout, we were greeted with a really nice view over the ranges, the town below, and on a clear day, out to the ocean as far as you can see. It’s beautiful so we spent quite a while here – and I’m glad we did because it was the last time we got clear weather for the rest of the hike.
The Mount Fyffe Hut
It’s hard to say whether the track gets easier from the Mount Fyffe Lookout or whether I just got better at not focusing on the leg burn. There are definitely more drawn-out flat saddle sections as you get closer to the top but either way, from here we managed to reach Mount Fyffe Hut in under 2 hours. Bringing our total hike climb so far to around 3 ¾ hours.
At around the halfway mark, we rested at a bench that overlooks the ranges and watched the clouds roll in. It was obvious at this point we weren’t going to get amazing views but I had shifted into stubborn gear and knew I had to reach the hut. Even if my legs fell off; which, judging by the way they were feeling – was a very real possibility.
The landscape had changed by this point, from towering native trees to low-lying shrubs and grasses. It opened up the track and had use trying to guess where the hut might be hiding further up Mount Fyffe – we were almost always wrong.
I’m thankful for choosing to take my puffer coat & wearing my hiking boots because as we gradually approached the top the ground got more and more covered in snow. So while we didn’t get amazing views, we did get to see Mount Fyffe Hut with a good coating of snow – something we haven’t seen for a few years!
Mount Fyffe Summit
If you reach Mount Fyffe Hut and you fancy extending your day, you can continue up to Mount Fyffe Summit. This supposedly only adds another 1 hour to your overall hiking time but the views on a clear day are incredible.
Unfortunately for us, the weather at the top wasn’t great. Heavy snow & strong winds, paired with my achy legs, made us not want to continue to the summit. I was happy to have reached Mount Fyffe Hut, especially after my tantrum at the lookout, so turning around here didn’t put a damper on my day.
Highlights of Mount Fyffe, Kaikoura
Putting aside my personal pride for actually reaching Mount Fyffe Hut, here are some of the highlights of this day walk in Kaikoura;
Amazing views all the way up
Relatively quiet track – we were the only ones there but in pre-pandemic times I can’t see it being too much busier, it’s certainly not had the same publicity as other South Island Hikes
Also has a mountain biking track
How to Stay at Mount Fyffe Hut
Of course, Mount Fyffe Hut isn’t here to act as a shelter for day walkers. There are bunks here for anyone who wants to spend the night; I imagine astrophotography from here would be amazing.
Booking is not required for this 8 bunk hut so if you do want to stay here and it’s a busy time of year, you might want to take a tent just in case, but the visitor’s book didn’t suggest that the track is too busy.
The current fees are $5 per adult and $2.50 for children (10+) but always check the DOC website in case this changes. You’ll need to buy your hut pass before you go.
What to Take on Your Mount Fyffe Hike
I’m going to kick off this section by saying Dec & I are what some might call, over-packers. We like to be prepared, which is so important for walks like these because you really never know what nature might throw at you. We started our day by letting someone at our accommodation know that we were hiking Mount Fyffe – that’s how prepared we are. So here’s what we packed for our Mount Fyffe day hike;
It’ll come as no surprise that the weather on Mount Fyffe can be unpredictable. We did this Kaikoura walk at the start of spring and had a good few inches of snow at the top. Summer in Kaikoura is beautiful but at the top of Mount Fyffe you’ll need to be prepared for strong winds all year around. Always be prepared for adverse weather when you’re doing mountain hikes.
Other Walks in Kaikoura
There are quite a few really nice walks in Kaikoura so if you’re looking for an alternative, either something longer or smaller, here are your options;
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
A varied walk that takes you around the peninsula, past the famous seal colony & through town if you wish to do the full loop. It can be from a 5 minute walk to 3 hours, depending on the route you take.
Hinau Track – Mount Fyffe Loop Walk
This track forks off from the start of the Mount Fyffe Hut track. It’s a nice woodland loop that takes you through native forests and over an unabridged stream. A lovely option for families as it’s only 45 minutes return.
Here’s one for the more adventurous. The Kowhai-Hapuku Circuit is a 2-3 day hike that follows the river before taking you through the ranges. This is a challenging tramping track with earthquakes & flood debris scattered regularly. There are also two first come first served huts along this track
Another short family-friendly option. The Fyffe-Palmer Track is a 1 ¾ hour hike through farm and bushland that starts at the end of Fyffe Road, before reaching the Fyffe Hut car park.
Mount Fyffe Hut Track Quick Bites
5-8 hour return
Toilet at the top & bottom
Plenty of parking
Dogs by permit only
No water on the track
Have you done this beautiful day hike in Kaikoura? If not, the Mount Fyffe hut track should be at the top of your Kaikoura bucket list. Stay tuned for my post on more things to do in Kaikoura
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