Sunrise Hut and Hike – Hawkes Bay

I’m guessing by the name you already know what the Sunrise Hut is famous for! And that’s right prominent position to experience New Zealand’s epic sunrises. 

My hike and experience at the Sunrise hut must be one of my most memorable experiences I had in New Zealand. I am not sure whether it’s because I woke up there on my 26th birthday or because I was treated with the perfect sunrise. Finally seeing an inversion for the first time, after who knows how many sunrise hikes! 

Seeing the blanket of clouds (as I like to call it), was such an incredible experience and just absolutely gorgeous. The best treat after having a few of my recent hikes did not go to plan. 

Sunrise hut and hike
From the ridge behind the Sunrise Hut

Where is it?

The Sunrise Hut is in the Ruahine Forest Park, in the Hawkes Bay region. Roughly a 1hr drive outside of Hawkes Bay. The road to the trailhead goes through farmland, so please make sure you close the gates behind you or leave them open if you’ve found them open. The road to the trail head is rocky with some potholes. However, I was able to get my car down there, so it shouldn’t be a problem for any vehicle. Just go slow. 

The Hike

The hike is a 6km one way or roughly a 1-3hr walk. At the start of the trailhead, you will need to make your way over the steps on the fence, before passing through a small section of farmland. At the end of this you will pass over another set of steps. 

From here the trail leads through some beautiful forests. The path is extremely easy to follow and well sign posted. The track is pretty much all an incline the whole way to the hut. With a series of switch backs and false hope thinking you have reached the top of the hill. 

You will get some very impressive views through the tree line the higher you hike. You will continue ascending until you eventually see the hut. The whole hike took me about 2 hrs to get to the hut, and that was with a 15kg backpack on. 

At the back of the hut, there is a path which leads you to the ridge. This part of the hike should not be completed if the weather is not looking favourable. You will be walking on a small path with steep drop offs, so hiking in strong winds is not advised. Although the sunrise is beautiful from the hut, it is hundred times more beautiful from the ridge. 

Although this ridge can get muddy, and flood in a small swamp section. So, it’s best to wear shoes with some grip. 

This hike can defiantly be completed in one day, as it only takes about and 1-.5hrs to get down from the hut. If you plan on hiking this for sunrise, make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the ridge, which is about another 10-15mins from the hut! Give yourself anywhere between 4-5hrs to completed this hike in full.

The Hut

The hut is probably the cosiest hut that I stayed at in my time in New Zealand. It can has 20 bunkbeds and will cost you $15NZD pp/pn. You also have the option to camp in the designated areas. You can book the Sunrise Hut here.

Sunrise hut - Hawkes Bay

The hut has 3 open bedrooms. One of these bedrooms has bunks, which the top bunks have massive windows, giving a beautiful view of the valley. The second bunkroom is right off the communal area, and the third in the back. The back bunkroom is by far the darkest room, so if you don’t want to wake up at sunrise, I recommend staying here. After all the Sunrise hut is designed to give you those impressive sunrise views! 

The communal area contains a fireplace, and two big tables for eating. There is also a fair bit of counter space for cooking. This hut does have a sink and running water; however, you will need to bring all your cooking equipment with you. Some hikers have left some cooking utensils to be used, but there are no gas stoves. 

There is also a mud room as soon as you walk into the hut. The porch has plenty of seating, so you can cosy up and watch the sunrise in the morning. There are drop loos to the right of the hut and a woodshed out front. There is also a water tank, but this water will need to be treated. 

This hut does book out quickly in peak times, as well is popular with school trips. So make sure you book in advance, especially if it’s a weekend. 

Is it worth going and staying?

Although this hike can be completed in a day easily, I think it’s special to stay in the hut. Firstly, you are only 10-15mins away from the ridge, so you won’t need to wake up and start hiking very early in the dark. 

Secondly, the first thing you see when you wake up is the sunrise, and if you are lucky like me, the sea of clouds!

So if you are planning on doing this hike and have the time, I recommend spending on night there to truly take in the beauty of your surroundings! 

Click here for a detailed two week North Island itinerary!

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