This hut is in a low open saddle on the ridge between Mt Bradley and the Remarkable Dykes. It can be seen against the skyline from many parts of the reserve and the Lyttelton Harbour basin. From the hut there are sweeping views of the entire Lyttelton Harbour basin, including Lyttelton Harbour and the Port Hills opposite.
Packhorse Hut makes an excellent introduction to overnight tramping for families and youth groups. The hut is above 450 m in altitude and can get chilly at night, even in summer.
This hut was planned as part of a series of rest houses built by Harry Ell for a proposed summit route from Christchurch to Akaroa. Only four houses were ever built, all in local stone, including the grand Sign of the Takahe (built between 1918 and 1948) in Cashmere, the Sign of the Packhorse (1914), Sign of the Bellbird (1914) and Sign of the Kiwi (1917). These buildings were designed by Samuel Hurst Seager, one of the earliest architects to move away from historical styles and seek designs and plans with New Zealand character.
Being built of stone, Seager was able to blend the houses into and harmonise them with the surrounding landscape. During construction, materials were delivered to the Parkinson homestead in Kaituna Valley and then taken to the pass by a sledge towed by a team of six bullocks. It was originally thought the rest house had been built on land donated by William A. Gray. Later, it was discovered to be on freehold land held by Cyril and Ivor Gray. They agreed to gift 1434 sq m to add to the Scenic Reserve and secure the rest house onto public land.
The hut is built of locally quarried volcanic stone with timber joinery – windows on three elevations – affording remarkable views of the Scenic Reserve, Mount Bradley, Lyttelton Harbour and the distant Southern Alps.
The hut has regional importance for the development of tourism and in particular the opening up of Banks Peninsula, the doorstep of Christchurch.
All hut users need to book via the DOC online booking system.
Monday to Thursday:
Friday to Sunday:
Pay at the time of booking.
Backcountry Hut Passes can be used at this hut. To pay with your Backcountry Hut Pass, create/update your account on our booking system. Under 'Apply for a discount', select 'Backcountry Hut Pass Holder' and upload a scan of your pass. Once we've verified your pass, it will automatically be applied when you make a booking.
Fees to camp at this hut are paid using hut tickets.
Before you go, buy 1 Standard Hut Ticket (blue for adults, yellow for youth) for each night's stay. Put this in the honesty box at the hut. Or buy a Backcountry Hut Pass, which includes unlimited use of campsites at Serviced huts for a 6 or 12 month period.
Bookings are open for stays up to 30 June 2023.
Bookings are required all year to stay at the hut. Bookings are not required to camp at the hut.
A $10 service fee applies to phone and in-person booking. This is a limited service – book online first. An in-person booking is dependent on there being space available.
Your hut booking is for any bunk bed, not for a specific bunk bed – select your bunk bed on arrival.
NZTopo50 map sheet: BX24
Grid/NZTM2000 coordinates: E1575199, N5161096
Te Ara Pātaka/Summit Walkway cannot be walked completely from end to end (Gebbies Pass to Hilltop) during lambing season.