• Mr and Mrs Walking with Kids

Totara Flats from Waiohine Gorge - Tararua Ranges (Overnight Tramp)

Updated: May 7

Saturday 4th December - Sunday 5th December 2021

Location: Waiohine Gorge Road, Carterton 5791

We have been to Totara Flats before but not with the kids so we thought it was time to take them.

This was our first tramp where we didn't stay in a hut (which sounds great for everyone except the mug who has to carry the tent - thanks Dad!).

We began at Waiohine carpark and started at the 'don't look down bridge', straight after the bridge we took a sharp right and headed up alongside the river.

The track starts off easy with a few well maintained boardwalks - but it quickly turns into your typical Tararua Ranges. Up and down, side to side, over roots, under branches and over bogs.

You then arrive at the turn off to Cone Ridge, here you take a right towards the flats. We think this is about 1/2 way, remembering that the last part along the flats is really easy.

After more scrambling you come to a fallen signpost just before you reach a big slip. We tend to take the river track which takes you down to the river - if the river is too high you will need to go up and over the top (or abandon the tramp and head home :))

There is a bit of scrambling down, jumping across the rocks by the river, over the slip and then on to the first part of the flats.

The trick here is knowing when the track starts after the toitoi, if you miss the track - bush bashing is in your immediate future (we say from experience ;)). But essentially the track runs next to the river so you can't get lost, you’re just separated from the track for a while.

The flats start just after the slip, although you do find yourself heading back into the hills one last time.

There’s one more scramble down a steep bank, we found that even the usually graceful, were graceless (it was just so slippery!) After this, you're on the home stretch, an easy meander through the grassy flats.


It was just beginning to rain as we started along the flats, looking for a place to camp. Why we committed to camping in the rain when there was a perfectly good hut 500m away is still being debated. In saying that, we found a good spot and got set up for the night, not too far from the river. The kids loved camping and didn't notice the rain. All the adult's slides were wet and our usual red wine by the fire wrapped up early. Oh, and the sandflies! We were stocked we brought repellent.

Camping has a way of getting everyone moving early. We had a warm breakfast (porridge, coffee and hot chocolate), under the flies of our tents, trying to keep out of the rain until we were ready for the pack down protecols.

We set off back towards Waiohine Gorge with our wet shoes and socks. The walk back was muddy, but we seemed to have a much quicker pace than on the way in.

Just a Typical Tararua Track :) - these kids are machines!

All up an awesome tramp! We'll definitely be back :)


Age of Kids: Miss 6 and Master 9.

Walking Time: 4.5- 5 hours each way

Length: 9.5km (each way)

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult.

Buggy Friendly: No way

Amenities: There are toilets and water in the Waiohine Gorge carpark and running water/toilet/fireplace etc at the Totata Flats Hut. Where we camped there was nothing. If you want to stay near the hut, then you could use the toilet and water etc.

Dogs: Generally no, there is often poison drops in the Tararua's so check out the DOC website

Be Aware: It's boggy and a few of the areas have drop offs so at times we needed to stay close to the kids. There's no cellphone coverage so treat this like a proper tramp and bring your PLB + enough equipment (check out our overnight pack list). Also, there was so many sandflies on the flats!


Kids Rating (0-10)

  • Overall Fun Factor: 8

  • Legendary Factor: 7

  • Would we do it again?: 8

  • Exhaustion Factor: 8


Totara Flats Hut: While we didn't stay at the hut this time below are some photos we took on another tramp. It's an awesome hut! Really new, two rooms with bunks + big kitchen/dining room. Double glazing and a wrap around deck.