Top 4 Kepler Track Day Walks

27 Mar 2016

The Kepler Track is located alongside the beautiful lakeside resort of Te Anau, and is one of New Zealand’s Premier Great Walks.  The full track is 60 km in length and travels through a diverse array of landscapes including sandy lake shores, wonderful alpine tussock fields, expansive rocky mountain ridges, ancient native forests, and flowing rivers.  The track is maintained to a very high standard, with care to ensure a safe hiking experience; streams are bridged, board walks cover boggy areas and steps traverse the steeper sections.  Being on the eastern side of the main mountain Divide it offers a drier climate and warmer temperatures than many of the walks in Fiordland National Park.

To walk the full Kepler Track takes at least three days to complete, but sections of this picturesque track can be experienced in just one day.  Day walk options exist for everyone, from those wanting a leisurely explore in the forest, to full days accessing the rugged alpine area.  Whatever your motivations, travel companions or energy levels the Kepler Track has a day walk for you. 

As a local who has hiked, run, pushed a pram and camped on the Kepler Track, here is my list of the 4 top day walks on offer (in no particular order). 

1. Forest, lake and bird walk - Brod Bay to Te Anau

Take a hike on the Kepler Track from the town centre, with this easy hike around the south end of Lake Te Anau.  Catch the Kepler Water Taxi to the sandy shores of Brod Bay and walk the 11 km back.  Awaken your senses in the native beech forest and enjoy the incredible views looking up the lake as you walk through the open grassland.  Encounter first-hand the ancient beech trees towering above you and vibrant ferns clustered below.  Plus visit the Department of Conservation Wildlife Centre (free entry, donation welcome) to view the rare Takahe and native parrot Kaka along the way.    Allow up to 4 hours for this round trip.

In Autum fungi can be seen all around the Kepler Track (how cute are the bosses kids?!)

Children investigating fungi on the Kepler Track in Autumn

2. Kepler Ramble – Control Gates

This area is great for those just wanting to explore in Fiordland’s forest with a gentle stroll.  Access to the Kepler Track control gates is a 5 minute drive from Te Anau. Visit the lake shore, listen to the birdsong in the tree tops (including the fantail and bell bird), and enjoy the native forest.  If you are visiting in autumn you are likely to see large numbers of colourful fungi and the native Easter orchid around here too.  Allow at least 30 minutes, or 1 hour for a return walk as far as Dock Bay.

Big Tree Kepler Track Trips Tramps Web v2

Looking at ancient beech trees on the Kepler Track with Trips and Tramps

3. Water Wonderland – Rainbow Reach to Motorau Hut and return

Access the track at Rainbow Reach (15 minutes’ drive from Te Anau) by crossing the big swing bridge spanning the mighty Waiau River.Enjoy the vistas from the middle of the bridge of scenery used in the Lord of the Rings film.Rivers, streams, wetlands and lake landscapes are enjoyed on this hike. Your half way point is Motorau Hut and its sandy beach overlooking Lake Manapouri. Check out this DOC tramping hut, then retrace your steps back to the swing bridge. Allow 4 hours for this 12 km return walk.

Luxmore Hut in the sunshine, our hike starting point

Landing at Luxmore Hut on the Kepler Track

4. Kepler Heli Hike – Mt Luxmore to Brod Bay

This is definitely one of my favourites and uses a helicopter to get to the top of Mt Luxmore, adding the ‘wow’ factor (and a cost to your day walk) but so worth it! Start your day hike with a scenic helicopter flight to Luxmore Hut from Te Anau. On arriving you can explore the alpine tussock fields and check out the amazing array of unique plants adapted to this harsh alpine environment, it really is a botany enthusiast’s delight.From the hut you have the option of a 3 hour return walk to the summit of Mt Luxmore with unrivalled panoramic views of the mountain landscape as far as the eye can see. Otherwise begin the descent down the track, traversing past gigantic limestone bluffs and through the mossy beech forest. Return to Te Anau via water taxi from Brod Bay for a relaxing end to the day.Allow 4-7 hours for this walk of a life time!

Get a feel for what you might experience when you're on the Kepler Track, high up on Mt Luxmore in Tourism New Zealand's latest video - the Kepler features in the opening shots!

Are you interested in enhancing your Kepler Track day walk? Trips & Tramps offer a selection of guided hikes on the Kepler Track, bringing the area to life and co-ordinating the logistics for a safe, seamless experience.  Join a small group on a scheduled or private trip departing daily from October through to May.  Your friendly, knowledgeable guide will show you the native fauna and flora, explain the unique beech forest life cycle and share local conservation stories to give a wonderful insight and introduction to this World Heritage Area.

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