A 45-minute drive north-west from Queenstown, along a lakeside road with world-renowned views, the town of Glenorchy is on the doorstep of one of the country’s most important natural taonga.

Te Wāhipounamu, or the Unesco South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, covers 2.6 million hectares. This is 10 per cent of Aotearoa’s land mass, and over eight times the size of another of the world’s mountainous wonders, the US’s Yosemite National Park.

Doug and Liz Rikard-Bell founded The Great Glenorchy Alpine Base Camp, and they operate it with a small and knowledgeable team who will host you warmly at the actual “camp” in the Glenorchy township, as well as lead you on guided adventures in the wilderness.

Bookable adventures include mountain hikes of various levels that begin from your helicopter-accessed starting point – or maybe free diving and spearfishing is more your bag. Sleep on stretcher beds in a traditional canvas tent under breathtaking stars, warmed by a hot meal and a wood-burning heater that’s raised off the ground to leave no footprint.

You can also stay at The Base Camp before or after going out on your own missions, such as one of the area’s many famous hikes – the Routeburn, the Greenstone and Caples tracks, or the Rees-Dart track.

The Base Camp is formed of 14 huts of various sizes – designed, as the project’s architects RTA Studio describe, in a village arrangement. It combines touches of luxe with comforting nostalgia – like the best family holidays you went on as a kid.

The main hall is fronted by a yellow door with poppy-red font and topped with a huge metal falcon sculpture made by local artist Dan Kelly. Inside, you’re greeted by a toasty fire and a large, shared table with the kitchen on one side and wooden booths on the other. It’s a licensed restaurant called Food Over Fire, where all the meals are served family-style and cooked over the flames, hosted by the team with beautiful linens and candles.

After a day’s intrepid adventures, return to base and gather around its huge outdoor metal barbeque and open fire, which is as good for gazing into with a glass of wine as it is for toasting marshmallows – or roasting a whole feast.

The huts are enchanting; made from pale, sustainably-sourced and thermally-treated timber, they’re filled with chic yet pared-back trimmings such as ultra-soft, striped cotton bedding and potbelly wood-burners with enough chopped wood to keep you cosy through the night. The family cabins have double or even triple bunks that would make any kid squeal.

Other nice touches are the super-fast wi-fi, a Scandinavian-style sauna, and Sans Ceuticals products in the bathrooms and showers.

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Updated: October 18th, 2023

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