Insider’s Guide to Southland
ANNIE STUDHOLME casts an equestrian eye around Southland to assemble the ultimate horse lover’s guidebook
Casting an equestrian eye over the south of the Mainland
Southland is (obviously!) New Zealand’s most southernmost region, and enjoys dramatic scenery spanning lush rainforests, fertile farmlands and sweeping coastlines. The weather can be a particular challenge, especially in the colder months of the year, but oldfashioned charm and southern hospitality ensure it’s a great place to fill all of your equestrian dreams, no matter what discipline you choose. There are plenty of trails to choose, varying in length from short rides to ‘lose yourself in there for hours’ rides. While some are equestrian only, some are shared tracks so be wary of mountain bikers and walkers.
The domain also has toilets, a sand rolling pit and picnic areas. The parking is good, but please remember to pick up all horse poo. The domain is also home to the Southland Rodeo Association and Southland Pony Club.
Oreti Beach, made famous by Burt Munro, stretches for almost 26km, perfect for a gallop.”
ORETI BEACH Sandy Point also provides access to Oreti Beach. Made famous by Southland motorcycle legend Burt Munro, Oreti Beach stretches for almost 26km. It’s the perfect place to ride, whether you want to go for a good gallop or a quiet stroll, boasting miles and miles of perfectly smooth sand. Often it’s just you, the wildlife and your favourite horse. Unless it’s otherwise signposted, you can ride on all beaches in the region.
DONOVAN PARK is also a great facility which is used by a number of groups for different events including the Lorneville-Makarewa Pony Club, Eventing Southland and the Southland A&P Show, but it can only be used as part of a scheduled event.
EYRE MOUNTAINS/TAKA RA HAKA CONSERVATION PARK
If you are looking to get off the beaten track for a longer ride, or perhaps an overnight trek, the 65,160 ha Eyre Mountains/taka Ra Haka Conservation Park provides unique opportunities for horse riders to enjoy a backcountry experience in a remote setting. The area is isolated and, for the most part, physically demanding and the weather can change in a flash, so you need to be well-prepared.
Access to Eyre Creek is from State Highway 6, just west of Athol. Follow the metal road through Glen Eyre and Eyre Creek Stations. From Eyre Creek Station you can continue on the 4WD track for about 10km along the banks of the Eyre Creek to Shepherds Creek Hut where there’s a stock holding paddock.
From there, you can head up to the historic Dog Box Hut (circa 1916) traversing through patches of mountain beech forest and numerous river crossings before arriving at the open grass valley where you get amazing views of the park’s highest point, Jane Peak. Due to the fragile nature of the building, overnight accommodation is not permitted.
UPPER MATAURA RIVER There is also a nice trek along the Upper Mataura River overnighting at the historic Beech Hut, which is one of the oldest musterer’s huts in Southland. You’ll get there from SH6 at Fairlight, making your way through Canard Station; it’s a four-hour drive from this point. For more information on DOC lands, phone (03) 211 2400 or check out www.doc.govt.nz
THIS PAGE Sunset at Oreti beach ABOVE RIGHT The historic Beech Hut RIGHT Trekking at Eyre Creek Station