Kepler Track: Rainbow Reach to Moturau Hut

First opened in 1984 the Kepler Track is one of the “Great Walks” in New Zealand. Located in Fiordland National Park, the track is 60km long and crosses a number of different environments near the town of Te Anau.

Ideally the Kepler Track is done as a multi-day hike ( most people take 4 days ). But time constraints have forced us to experience the Kepler as a series of day hikes rather that one long event.

Sign maps out the Kepler circuit and the common stops along the way.

The majority of hikers tend to walk the Kepler in an anti clockwise direction with Moturau Hut often the last sleep over point before heading to the control gates and finishing the track. So that means we are doing the last part of the track first.

Leaving the car park, the track first crosses the Waiau River, the track then heads up hill for a short stretch. Before levelling out to follow the river downstream for a few kilometres.

Looking down the Waiau River from the swing bridge.

Be forewarned first part of the track is a little misleading as its steep and acts as a great heart starter, so you are left wondering if the rest of the track is going to follow the same pace. Its all a lie though after 5 – 10 minutes the track levels out and stays mostly flat until the hut.

The track is well formed and walking through the Beech forest its hard not to be taken back with the “greenness” of the undergrowth. Thanks to abundant rainfall the forest floor is carpeted with moss, ferns and fungi.

Beech Forest Moss
Thick moss covers the forest floor.

Moturau hut itself is around 6 – 7km from the car park and is fairly big. Boasting 40 bunk beds and a rangers hut for the peak season. Arriving in Winter though its a different story the main toilet block was locked and the water turned off to avoid freezing. A couple of hikers were the only other visitors to be found. Only having stopped for lunch and a cup of tea before continuing their trek.

Looking at Moturau Hut
Moturau Hut from the outside.

Despite the relative “abandoned” feeling of the hut in the off season. It is situated on the banks of Lake Manapouri you still get great water views while you rest your feet.

Lake Manapouri
Looking across Lake Manapouri from the beach at Moturau Hut.

But beware it all comes with a catch! During our visit a healthy population of sand flies were on the beach so if you aren’t covered up some bug spray is advisable.

Turning back and still feeling reasonably fresh we decided to take a side track to Shallow Bay Hut. Its not too far out of the way but it stretches the total trip from the car park and back to 16 – 17km in length.

Shallow Bay Hut

Shallow Bay Hut is a much simpler affair compared to Moturau Hut. There is room for six to sleep. During the colder months the fireplace and the ample supply of firewood surrounding the hut should keep you cosy enough. But in summer you also have your own private beach! So your covered both ways 🙂

From Shallow Bay Hut just a matter of backtracking until we rejoin the main track again. Then following it back to the river and the car park ( ~1.5hrs ) for well earned lunch.