How to get to Mt. Robert

Location in NZ

Mount Robert is located in Nelson Lakes National Park.  St. Arnaud is the main settlement of Kerr Bay at Lake Rotoiti and is approximately 1 1/2 hours drive from Nelson and Blenheim on State Highway 63.  The Mount Robert carpark is 5 km from St Arnaud.  Drive along State Highway 63 towards Murchison and take the signposted turn on the left towards West Bay.  A gravel road takes you past West Bay campsites and over a single lane bridge at the source of the Buller River.  The road then continues up the face of Mount Robert past the helicopter pad and ends partway up the mountain in lush beech forest at the Mount Robert car park. There are toilet facilities at the car park.

Walking Up Mt. Robert - A Parents' Guide

A 1 1/2 hour walk for adults. Allow 3-4 hours for young children. The track starts at the Mt Robert car park and after 5 minutes of walking through large beech forest it comes out onto the Mt Robert face burned by fires. The track then zig-zags its way up this face through grasses and regenerating bush. Some children can find this slow climb upwards very tiresome and the first few zig-zags often causes lots of grumbles! Other children rush ahead like agile mountain goats leaving their parents quickly behind. Be sure to not let them rush on ahead too quickly as it a long way to the top and they need to save their energy for much later.

Midway up the face of the mountain the track returns to the bush. There is a seat to rest on and great views of lake Rotoiti.  This is the "1/3 of the way" resting place.  The track then zig- zags up through the beech forest. You will know you are making progress through the bush as the height of the beech trees gradually becomes shorter until eventually you reach the bushline and bushline shelter.   Midway through your climb the track slightly flattens and curves through some ferns affectionately called the Fairy or Pixie Dell. Even the most determined whiners will often be silent in this magical part of the bush - always hopeful they might see a fairy!  

The Bushline Shelter is the recommended "2/3's of the way" resting place and it is also the place to put on warmer clothes and windproof jackets if there is any chance that it might be windy on the ridge.  As soon as you start to climb onto the ridge if there is any wind it will hit you pretty fast.  Relax Hut about 5 minutes after the Bushline Shelter is also a good place to stop and add warm clothing if it is windy.

The ridge track is clearly marked with poles and travels up the side of first basin.  There are tussock grasses on one side of the track and a steep scree slope on the other side.  This can sometimes be a disconcerting for younger children especially if windy.   Holding hands and walking from one pole to the next so they have something to hold onto is a good strategy.

At the top of the ridge is the whistling pole which is a great place for photos and you are nearly there.  The track finally flattens out and suddenly you can see the second basin and Christie and Robert huts nestled at the bottom. The descent is straight down the scree so best down with the bit of a run and digging your heels in.  Children suddenly find a new lease of life and often leave their parents behind! 

Barley sugars and scroggin mixes with lots of chocolate were traditionally the best distraction for the long tramp uphill. Nowadays if all else fails producing an ipod will silence even the most resistant child. Whats more when they get to the top and realise that they did manage to walk all the way, the jubilation that they feel will carry on for the rest of the day.   

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