Updated: Jul 19, 2019
From the early years of the first European settlers up until present day and the thrill seekers that are drawn to it, Queenstown has always inspired exploration and adventure. It will come as no surprise that the mountainous terrain that surrounds our wee town at the bottom of the world is full of huts and shelters that have given those pioneers shelter and warmth whilst pursuing their spirited endevours. From small, ramshackle abodes to cosy wee homes, there is a wide variety of huts sprinkled throughout this wildly beautiful landscape. We are going to share a few of what we believe are Queenstown's best historic huts that are worth putting on your list when you visit.
1. Sam Summers Hut
This one is a must see! You will find this little gem of Queenstown history located on the Mt Crichton Loop Track. The trail itself is worth checking out. Like the name suggests, the track is a 3-4 hour loop hike that takes you through native forests, past waterfalls, old quarries and the historic Sam Summer's Hut. A local legend from Queenstown's pioneering golden years, Sam built and lived in this hut, which still remains today and can be used for overnight accommodation by trampers. Visiting the site is like stepping back in time and gives hikers a glimpse at what life and accommodations would have been like for those on the quest for gold in Queenstown in the early 1900s. The hut is very basic, dusty and perfect for any adventurer wanting some truly unique overnight accommodation. For those not bunking down in the hut, make sure to sign the hikers log book on your way through.
2. Skippers Settlement Huts
Take on the legendary adventure of 'New Zealand's most dangerous road' to reach the next historic huts on the list. Sitting just outside of Queenstown, located along the access road to Coronet Peak is Skippers Road. This isn't for the faint-hearted. A warning sign greets all who enter that travelling on this particular road will void their rental vehicle insurance. Unless you have a 4x4 and are comfortable driving one, then we recommend checking out tour alternatives as a safer option. A white knuckle drive through some of the most stunning scenery you'll come by will have you arriving at the site of the Old Skippers Village. The village was home to a settlement of gold prospectors, who resided in the remote canyon from the 1860's until the early 1900's. The remains of some of the old buildings can still be found although unfortunately a fire in 2017 caused one of the last traditional structures to burn down. The old school house has been rebuilt to its original state and visitors can walk through and read about the history of the settlement and its inhabitants. You can still find the remnents of a few old hotels/pubs that would have been the center for community life in the settlement. Skippers is a perfect day-trip if you are after that true sense of adventure without needing expert hiking skills.
3. Arrowtown Chinese Settlement Huts
The Arrowtown Chinese Village is one of the most accessible on the list. Located right in the heart of historic Arrowtown, the Chinese village showcases the remains of what was once a thriving and bustling settlement during the golden era of the region. A handful of huts remain to this day and visitors are encouraged to wander through and get a sense of the hardships faced by those early prospectors. Some of which had no more than a few sheets of corrugated iron propped over a hole in the side of the hill to call home. Information boards are dotted around the village, sharing information on what life was like for those living there and a few of the colourful characters that resided in the area. If you have younger children or just looking for something more accessible that isn't going to take you hours to hike to then the Arrowtown Chinese Village is a must see.
4. Two Mile Creek Hut
This one is for the adventurous souls. The hut is located in what is today the Remarkables conservation area. It was originally built c.1900 and was used regularly up until the 1960's by mustering parties when the land was a working station. After years of not being used the hut had become dilapidated until a group of back-country skiiers stumbled across it and set out to restore the structure to its former glory. After its restoration, the hut once again became a popular spot for skiing, hunting and tramping parties seeking shelter. Unfortunately the hut had to be restored once again in the 90's after vandals left it barely intact. Luckily the hut still stands to this day and can be accessed by well versed adventurers. Situated in the Hector Ranges, the hut sits in a wee valley (just south of the Wye Creek South south branch). It's a great little overnighter for back-country skiers or trampers looking to access Lake Hope, the largest alpine lake in the Remarkables conservation area. Be warned though, only experienced/advanced skiiers and trampers need apply, as route finding skills are necessary.
5. The Glenorchy Boat Shed
Not quite a hut through its nature, but it looks like one and is about the size of what you would expect a hut to be, hence why it is here on the list. If you have been on Instagram in the last couple of years and looked up Queenstown or Glenorchy, then you will no doubt be familiar with this awesome wee structure. Situated on the water's edge at the top of Lake Wakatipu, you won't miss the iconic red boat shed. Whether you are into taking selfies and Instagram worthy shots or just want to check out a cool piece of local history, the Glenorchy Boat Shed is worth your visit. Inside the shed you will find plenty of information about its history and the vital part it played in the colonial days of the region; ferrying passengers and resources through its doors to build Glenorchy and Queenstown into the places they are today. Up until the 1950's, when a road was finally built, the main access route for visitors from Queenstown was via the lake and thus the wharf and boat shed where the gate keepers to this remote part of the region.
From its pioneering roots, Queenstown and the surrounding landscapes are filled with old huts and structures from the early years that are waiting to be discovered by visitors and newcomers. So get outside and start exploring. There's plenty more to be found!