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New Zealand backcountry hiking: why visit Ben Lomond Station

Hiking along the ridge line to the top of Ben Lomond | Colin Monteath
Hiking along the ridge line to the top of Ben Lomond | Colin Monteath

Don't you just love it when you head out for a hike and find a stunning spot all to yourself? Located just a short drive from Queenstown, Ben Lomond Station is one of the few remaining high country stations owned and operated by New Zealanders, which means you'll enjoy your sweet dose of uninterrupted wild adventure.

Not to be confused with Ben Lomond Track, which is owned by NZ's Department of Conservation and has public access, Ben Lomond Station is private land filled with old gold mining pack tracks, diverse landscapes and exclusive comfortable lodges. It makes the perfect place for hiking, relaxing and appreciating New Zealand's stunning beauty.

Here are 5 reasons to hike on Ben Lomond Station.

1. You'll be the only ones here

Ben Lomond Station is privately owned so there are no big crowds making it a truly rare and exclusive outdoor experience.

No better place to take a break and admire the view than on Ben Lomond Saddle |  <i>Janet Oldham</i>

2. The endless rugged landscapes

There's no denying the landscapes are one of the main drawcards to this 33,000-acre station. Where else can you experience expansive views of snow-capped ranges, sweeping tussock lands and beautiful beech forest all in one place?

Walk along tussock ridgelines high above the Shotover River, heli-hike along the sub-alpine flanks of Ben Lomond (1748m) and explore abandoned gold mining relics, water races, razorback ridges and river valleys right until the finish.

The walking tracks are graded moderate to challenging and are best fit for experienced hikers. You'll follow sheep tracks and the trails of hardy miners who preferred to take the straight line route instead of switchbacks!
 

Moonlight Station (MSQ) |  <i>Colin Monteath</i>

  

3. The Foster Family


True, local kiwi hospitality can be hard to come by when travelling in New Zealand these days but there's no shortage of it here. John and Ginny Foster are the proud owners and managers of Ben Lomond Station. Originally farming a small coastal property in Golden Bay, they moved to the high country in 1987.

 
John and Ginny from Ben Lomond Station |  <i>Colin Monteath</i> Forgotten gold mining machinery from the 1800s gold rush. |  <i>Colin Monteath</i> Vast tussock lands of Ben Lomond Station |  <i>Colin Monteath</i>


4. The history

Reading about the mining history on the Moonlight Track |  <i>Colin Monteath</i>


Ben Lomond Station has been a key part of Queenstown's history for over 150 years. The station was part of a run that was over 200,000 acres and included all the land in this area east of Lake Wakatipu. The original run holder William Rees reportedly flipped a coin with early pioneer, Nicholas von Tunzelmann, to decide who got which side of the lake.

Follow the tracks of historic gold mining water races built 150 years ago passing through beech forest and tussock lands. During your walk, you'll learn about the stations history and gold mining by the foster family themselves.

Fun fact: Over 3000 people lived in the Moke and Moonlight valleys during the gold rush. These rivers were some of the richest in the world.

 

5. Private Moonlight Lodge: uninterrupted views from your window

Moonlight Lodge easily makes the list as one of New Zealand's most comfortable and secluded backcountry lodges. Located deep in the Moonlight Valley, a 14km walk from the Shotover Valley will bring you to the comfort of the lodge. Fit with double/twin ensuite rooms, a spacious lounge, dining area with a licenced bar, large stone fireplace and commanding views of the peaks that surround, you'll feel relaxed in no time.

To top things off, you'll experience true local hospitality with a delicious meal prepared by station owners, John and Ginny.

World Expeditions' Moonlight Valley and Ben Lomond Backcountry Hike and Ben Lomond Backcountry Explorer includes stays at Moonlight Lodge. 

 
Private Moonlight Lodge accommodation |  <i>Colin Monteath</i> A cup of tea and a biscuit is the perfect way to end a days walking! |  <i>Colin Monteath</i> Cosy accommodation at Moonlight Lodge |  <i>Hamish Foster</i>
 


New Zealand, Hiking, queenstown, hiking trails, backcountry, private hikes, Ben Lomond

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