Welcome Rock: the incredible mountain getaway for less than $150 a night

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$138 doesn’t buy you much for a night these days. But, in the beautifully rugged mountains south of Queenstown, you can enjoy world-class views and an exceptional outdoor bath – all for less than the price of a three-star hotel. The secret is out.

You’ll need to head to a high country farmhouse known as Welcome Rock – it’s on a low mountain with a colorful history. It housed one of the first ski clubs in the country. In 1933, when the sport was in its infancy, the New Zealand Alpine Club climbed the hill and were delighted to learn that they could ski at relatively low levels. A hut was built and still exists today. But this is not where you will stay, this is the starting point of your adventure.

The Slate Hut is in a spectacular location.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

The Slate Hut is in a spectacular location.

The farm is run by Tom and Katie O’Brien and has been in the family since 1911. A few decades ago, Tom’s parents decided to take half of the farm, 1000 hectares, and give it a status of conservation. This would allow the land to heal after its early years of gold mining and farming.

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Tom took regeneration to the next level in 2013 when he started building the Welcome Rock Trails, which would become a 27 kilometer circuit that would follow an old water course in a gold mine.

It's an easy walk to reach the slate hut.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

It’s an easy walk to reach the slate hut.

What is even more remarkable is that 21 km had to be built and restored by hand, using picks and shovels. Tom and a few volunteers worked in the sun and snow for two years to create the trail, making between five and 150 meters of progress each day.

In December 2014, the pedestrian and mountain bike trail opened to the public, with two alpine huts on the trail, which makes it possible to do the route in a big day or in two with a little more comfort.

The Slate Hut bath is heated by a fire.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

The Slate Hut bath is heated by a fire.

Some people, like us, come here just for the chance to experience the huts – the easiest to reach is the slate hut. It’s a gentle two kilometer walk from the historic ski hut – with breathtaking mountain views at every step.

The cabin is in the most spectacular location on the property; a few hundred meters from the highest point of the farm. It also offers a view of the backbone of the mountains running down the South Island – the Southern Alps.

Inside the slate hut.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

Inside the slate hut.

The hut is basic; you have to bring sleeping bags and toilet paper, for example. But this is not luxury in the traditional sense; it’s the luxury of discovering some of the country’s most pristine landscapes.

At the refuge, you can admire the sunset over the mountains in the rustic bath. It’s almost like an experience that money can’t buy. Well, it is possible. At $138, it’s a bargain.

Slate Hut is a perfect escape for couples.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

Slate Hut is a perfect escape for couples.

Essential:

Getting There : Entrance to Welcome Rock is just over 45 minutes south of Queenstown; just over an hour from Te Anau and an hour and a half from Invercargill. If you Google Welcome Rock it will take you down the windy Nevis Road to the historic ski hut, where you can start your walk. A 2WD is generally fine during the summer months.

Stay there: A night in the Slate Hut costs $138 per couple, with a room for two more at $60 per person. To see: welcomerock.co.nz. Use of the trail is included with overnight reservations. Day trippers hiking or biking the trail will be charged a fee. The Mud Hut, first built by Chinese gold miners in the 1890s, also costs $138 a night and involves a nine-kilometer walk.

Season: Welcome Rock is open from October 1 to April 30.

What to bring: For a list of essential supplies you should bring, including sleeping bags and toilet paper, see: welcomerock.co.nz/slate-hut

Carbon footprint: Flying generates carbon emissions. To compensate yours, go to airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability-customer-carbon-offset.

Stay safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. For the latest tips, check out: covid19.govt.nz.

A few hundred yards to reach Slate Hut.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

A few hundred yards to reach Slate Hut.

The author’s trip was supported by the Deep South. To see: southlandnz.com.This story was produced in an editorial partnership with Tourism New Zealand. Learn more about our partnership content here.

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