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Rules for Camping Near the Luxmore Hut on the Kepler Track

Rules for Camping Near the Luxmore Hut on the Kepler Track

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

The reason New Zealand’s Great Walks were created (in 1992), was to safeguard the precious ecosystems they pass through, from being loved to death by a growing number of unlimited freedom walkers. 

The special protections put in place on Great Walks include limiting numbers through a booking system for a set amount of hut and campsite spaces, and the introduction of freedom camping by-laws alongside the tracks.

Camping Luxmore Hut is possible if you know where to go and if you are prepared. I am in no way recommending or promoting freedom camping on this trail. However, I know that many hikers will pursue this. Therefore, I have left my freedom camping experience below which may provide an insight into how we did it safely and sustainably.

About the Kepler Track & My Experience

New Zealand's Great Walks are amongst some of the best in the world. Amongst them, the Kepler Track is ranked as one of the best in all of New Zealand.

The loop track begins along lakeside beech forest and ascends up into vast tussock planes, following alpine ridgelines and even offering opportunities to climb the nearby Luxmore Summit.

However, the $100+ hut fees initially discouraged me from getting out on the trail. That's why I set out to find a way to hike the Kepler Track in 3 days and on the cheap. Back then, there wasn't much information at all about this.

Update: After diving into the bylaws and rules for freedom camping, I found that it was possible to freedom camp 500 metres from the Luxmore Hut and set out to do it. Since publishing my account, the DOC has told me that many irresponsible and unprepared hikers are having an impact on this sensitive alpine region. This has made me revise this post and offer alternative solutions to help keep the Kepler Track accessible for all while minimizing the impact on the environment.

Kepler track lake te anau
Lake Te Anau view from near the Luxmore Hut

Rules for Freedom Camping on the Kepler Track

Under the Fiordland National Park Bylaws 1981 no camping is allowed on land within 500 metres on either side of the Kepler track (including the Luxmore Caves Track), nor within a 100 metre radius of the Kepler Hut.

Here's what you need to know:

  • While there are several overlapping and confusing laws surrounding freedom camping, the DOC's general consensus is that freedom camping is permitted in any of New Zealand's National Parks as long as you are 200 metres from any track and 500 metres from any Great Walks Tracks*.
  • Since the Kepler Track is a Great Walk, it is allowed to camp near the Luxmore Hut, as long as you are 500 metres from the track. This applies to the main track AND the Luxmore Caves track.
  • There is no way around it, you will have to pay for a site at the Iris Burn campsite since there are no suitable spots near 500 metres from the track. This currently costs NZD $21 per night for Kiwis and NZD $32 for foreigners.
  • If you have your own alpine tent, it is technically possible to hike the entire Kepler Track for a much more affordable price, although not for free.
  • Hut facilities are only available to those who have booked and paid to stay in the hut.
  • People breaching these by-laws can be fined up to $500.

Tip: Remember, the DOC does a great job of protecting New Zealand's natural biodiversity and maintaining the trails for everyone. Remember, you are responsible for your own decisions. I don't recommend anybody follow my experiences or anything written online. I do recommend observing that the camping rules are there for a reason. If you choose to freedom camp, please do so responsibly and within the rules set by the DOC and New Zealand government.

*Sources:

Tussock plains hiking near the luxmore hut on the kepler

Alternative Way to Camp Along the Kepler Track

As of the recent developments, I would recommend hikers to avoid freedom camping near the Luxmore Hut. However, you can still hike the Kepler Track on a budget by following this alternative budget itinerary:

  • Stay at Luxmore Hut: $68 NZD (for Kiwis) or $102 NZD (for international visitors) per night.
  • Camp at Iris Burn Campsite: $21 NZD (for Kiwis) or $32 NZD (for international visitors) per night.
  • Freedom camp 500 meters from Moturau Hut (free) or finish the hike on the third day as I did.

This totals $89 NZD for New Zealanders or $134 NZD for international visitors, making it a much more affordable and accessible option compared to the full 4-day hut route.

Tip: You can also stay in the Moturau Hut for $5 NZD (New Zealanders) or $10 NZD (internationals) by purchasing an unserviced hut pass.

Camping Near Luxmore Hut

No matter which way you look at it, the most expensive part of the Kepler Track is the fact that there is no "official" campground near the Luxmore Hut. Therefore, when trying to save money on this hike, many try to freedom camp nearby.

Remember, the area around Luxmore Hut is classed as an alpine area. The DOC recommends that you do not try to freedom camp here because the tussock plains are completely exposed and there is little to no dry, flat ground.

However, I'm writing this post based on my personal experience camping within the rules of this trail and taking my own calculated risks. I used a 100km-proof alpine tent and have several years of wilderness camping and mountaineering experience behind me.

Remember, anybody who is freedom camping near the Luxmore Hut shouldn't use any of their facilities, since they are for paying customers. This includes water refills and toilets. We avoided camping on any sensitive vegetation and always prioritized leaving no trace (including packing out our own human waste).

If you're not prepared to do this, don't try to freedom camp.

Hiker with garmin inreach satellite device

How I Stay Connected Off-Grid

I've been using the Garmin InReach Mini satellite communicator for all serious treks and expeditions since 2020.

It lets me send unlimited SMS anywhere on earth and has an emergency SOS feature that could save your life.

Where I Camped on the Kepler Track

There are a few blogs and guides online with limited information about camping near the Luxmore Hut. However, none actually provide exact directions or locations.

So, after arriving at the hut, most people try to find a freedom camping spot just past the track to the Luxmore Caves. This is not responsible or within the rules, since this track is also considered a Great Walks track and camping is not permitted within 500 meters of the caves track.

So, I've kept the information from experience below to show just how far you have to camp to do this properly.

Following the tracks already carved out by other freedom campers, we headed west for around 100 meters and then followed the edge of the hill southwest until we rounded the bend where we saw a mostly flat (although bumpy) plain.

We decided that this area was best because we were out of sight of the Luxmore Caves track and 500 meters from it. We spoke to the warden at Luxmore Hut about our intentions, who told us that if we were freedom camping, their priority was to be "out of sight".

However, we also ensured we were 500 meters away as well.

This area was far from perfect since the little flat ground that exists is usually either too wet or rocky. However, there are a few "okay" spots. The GPS coordinates below is roughly where we set up our tent but I'm only publishing this as a rough guide to show you roughly how far you really do have to walk if you want to camp within the rules.

Camping at luxmore hut
Our camping spot near the Luxmore Hut

Fresh-water Source Near Our Camping Spot

Of course, since we couldn't use the hut facilities to fill up our water bottles, we needed to either pack up extra water or rely on the availability of fresh water from the nearby stream.

When I camped here in March, there was a healthy, flowing clear stream just 100 meters behind our camping spot above. We could hear it from our spot to we searched for it.

I'd imagine that this stream will be flowing during most of the Great Walks Season. However, it's important to pack extra water on all treks so don't rely on seasonal streams.

Grayl water filter bottle

Get Clean Drinking Water on Your Hike

I take the Grayl GeoPress Purifier Bottle on every hike and use it as my go-to source for filtering water all over the world. I've even used it to drink tap water in India!

Compare how the GeoPress stacks up against the best water bottle filters on the market.

What Camping Gear Did We Use?

Here's a bare minimum of what gear I use when freedom camping in New Zealand's wilderness plains.

  • Waterproof alpine tent rated to 100 km+
  • Water
  • Warm sleeping bag (-10°C)
  • Insulated sleeping mat
  • Means of packing out your own waste (including human waste)

When I camped, we were pretty lucky to have fairly calm conditions. However, this alpine area is exposed and is known to cop some very strong wind and frequent rains.

We were fairly disappointed to see that one camper had brought up a non-waterproof $15 "pop-up" tent. These guys were very lucky that the weather didn't turn on them. Don't be like them.

Luxmore hut on the kepler track
Kea bird at the luxmore hut
Kea bird on the Kepler Track

More South Island Hikes and Travel Guides

I hope that you've enjoyed reading about our experience camping near the Luxmore Hut in a safe, legal, and responsible manner. If you have any questions or updates from a recent trip, help out other travelers by writing a comment below.

If you're interested in free travel guides and articles for New Zealand's South Island, you'll find them in the links below.

Camping luxmore hut
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.