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The best hike in the South Island, New Zealand – Mount Fyffe, Kaikōura 2020

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

If you’re looking to do a *relatively* easy overnight hike in the South Island – why not consider Mount Fyffe in Kaikoura!? Rugged mountains in every direction, beautiful views over the Kaikoura Peninsula and for some unknown reason, barely a soul in sight! Easily one of our favourite hikes in New Zealand to date.

Mount Fyffe Kaikoura Sunset


  • DOC states the hike to the summit takes eight hours return, it took us (with our heavy packs) about five hours one way haha

  • The Mount Fyffe Hut has eight bunks, a toilet and water tank (although it does state the water needs to be treated). The hut is $5 per person.

  • From the Hut, it’s approximately an hour and 15 minutes until you reach the summit. (DOC says three hours return from the Hut to the Summit).

  • If you can time the hike for early Spring, you should get beautiful snow capped mountains.

  • If you have the luxury of choosing when to do the hike, we highly recommend a weekday (we only saw two people in the hut when we walked it), whereas we have heard the hut is often full during the weekends.

  • We thought the section of path right before the hut was equally as incredible as the summit!

  • Both sunrise and sunset are incredible up here so it's worth staying a night.

  • The last 5.5km to the carpark is unsealed however okay for a 2WD.

Here’s our Mount Fyffe hiking experience:

We packed our hiking bags and set off about 3pm, excited to test out our new hiking tent from MacPac. For most of the tramp, you follow an old 4WD track, and if I’m honest, usually James and I don’t particularly enjoy these walking tracks. We usually think that while they have an epic finale/destination, the actual trail/journey always seems to lack a little. But this time we were wrong. So very wrong. The scenery was exceptional.

The track winds its way up and up (and up!) the mountain, offering you incredible views each and every way you look. The rugged Kaikoura Peninsula, the precisely lined farm paddocks below, the domineering Kaikoura Ranges. It was all beautiful.

It took us about three and a half hours to reach the Mount Fyffe hut, and the reason for this was two-fold: firstly, we discovered we were grossly unfit and really struggled carrying our heavy packs, and secondly we were stopping every 20 minutes or so to capture the beautiful landscape in front of us.

Once you reach the hut, the path changes, becoming a narrow foot trail and you only have an hour or so until you reach the summit. The hut has a toilet, bunk beds and a water tank (although the water tank did have a wee sign suggesting you boil or treat the water before drinking). Just before we reached the hut, James and I also noted the incredible section of the track - it was a really defined, almost ridge line section with the mountains sitting right behind.

Mount Fyffe Kaikoura Sunrise

As we were so excited to test out our new hiking tent (Sunny) we chose to continue walking towards the summit and look for a clearing to set-up for the night. When doing DOC hikes, you must pitch your tent 200m away from the track (and 500m away if a Great Walk). We eventually found a good clearing about 30 minutes past the hut, which was just big enough for our tent. Our initial plan was to have dinner, set up Sunny, sit down and rest our feet for a bit, and then slowly meander up to the summit for sunset. But this was not the case. And to be perfectly honest, it never is with us. We always get overly excited with the scenery in front of us and end up in a rush as mad as the time we needed to do printing at the Warehouse Stationary and it was 6:56pm and they closed at 7pm. So of course, we pitched the tent, had no time for dinner or the sit down we were so eagerly awaiting and ended up running to reach the summit in time.

We got to the summit and it was bloody windy, and while the view was incredible, we decided (with about ten minutes spare) that a little further back down the track was even better as it had a few overhanging rocks. So off we shot, running back down Mt Fyffe (sorry knees) trying to make it in time for sunset. And oh my hat of all hats, it was one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen. Sweaty, out of breath, exhilarated beyond words and staggering to get there just in time. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Mount Fyffe Kaikoura Sunrise

We slept super well that night, and woke up early the next morning to catch the sunrise. We thought it would be pretty hard to beat last night’s sunset but decided to give it a go anyway, and oh my hat of all top-hats, we were so grateful we got up. You might recall us saying we loved the section of the path right before the hut? This is where we thought it would be nice to watch sunrise, and we are so glad we did. We also (unknowingly) timed our hike so it coincided with the full moon and the moon happened to set just as the sun was rising. We sat there in awe, watching the moon set in a sky full of explosive pinks and purples and were just speechless. A morning we will hold on to forever.

Mount Fyffe Kaikoura Sunrise with Full Moon

So, if we could have our time again? What would we do differently?

  • We would definitely start the hike earlier than 3pm (no surprises there haha). In hindsight I don’t know why we did this? Actually I do, we got distracted watching all the cute seals in Kaikoura. I think having an early lunch and setting off at 12pm(ish) would make a real difference. You want to allow yourself lots of time to stop and take photos on this track.

  • Secondly, there was a really good clearing right near the hut which was quite sheltered, and in hindsight would have been better to pitch our tent Sunny there. You also get the added benefit of having a toilet if you do this option.

  • We would try and do the hike between August and October to catch the mountains covered in snow! The sun sets over the mountain range and rises over the Kaikoura flat.

  • We would pack wind-proof jackets as the summit is very windy!

If you’re looking for an overnight hike with breathtakingly beautiful scenery we highly highly recommend Mt Fyffe!!

By the way, we did get our printing done at the Warehouse Stationary. It was touch and go for a bit but we made it.

Any questions about the hike, feel free to ask away! :)

#awaywithcj #nzblog #nztravelblog #mtfyffe #hiking #newzealand #nz #aoteaora #kaikoura

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