Rod Donald Hut: Easy Family Friendly Hut Adventure

Rod Donald Hut, Banks Peninsula

Wow this little hut is absolutely fantastic and really makes the outdoors accessible for practically everyone.  It has a cute cosy feel and is perfect for families with kids and beginner trampers who are getting this first overnight hut experience.

Located up the hill from Little River, the small settlement between Christchurch and Akaroa in Banks Peninsula, it’s also a great day trip from Christchurch.  This hut is so popular with families so Friday and Saturday nights do book up fast.  But I’ll teach you some tricks below to sort out your family weekend away.

In a nutshell this is a 45-60 minute easy walk, over 2.5km to the cutest little 9 bed hut.  Its a great beginner tramp with kids and anyone who is up for an easy stroll for the afternoon, or easy overnight adventure

If this is your first overnight walk, you might be interested in what to take with you.  See below for our article that may help

kids walk in the open paddock towards Rod Donald Hut Banks Peninsula
Walking out in the open farmland towards Rod Donald Hut, Banks Peninsula

How to get to Rod Donald Hut


I was a little confused exactly where the car park was, as when you drive up the hill from Little River, you can actually see the hut on the right hand side and then you keep driving.

But don’t stress… the Rod Donald Hut carpark is actually at the top of the hill.  There’s a pull off area on the left that has room for a number of cars, and there is the familiar green and yellow track signage on the right hand side of the road.  

If you are putting the route into google maps, you will want to navigate to “Port Levy Saddle.”  This is at the top of the hill.  But from Little River, you just want to veer left onto Western Valley Road (after you’ve driven through the “main” part of the Little River township” and head straight on this road up to the top of the hill

Western Valley Road isn’t recommended for caravans or motorhomes.  It’s quite a steep wee hill on the gravel and they say in rain, it isn’t recommended for 2WD.  So you’ll need to assess the situation and weather before you go.

Kids lean on the DOC start sign at the beginning of the Rod Donald Hut track
Walking along the Summit Walkway towards Rod Donald Hut. Our trail started here

What is the Rod Donald Hut walk like?


The Rod Donald Hut is part of the Te Ara Pataka Track / Summit Walkway.  The track turns off to its own trail about half way and takes you down to the hut.  The start of the trail has lovely views over Banks Peninsula, looking over towards the Lyttelton direction.

What makes this track unique is that you start at the top of the hill and actually head across and down to the hut.  Most people will have a lighter pack on the way back when its uphill which is a nice treat.

The trail itself heads across private farm land and scenic reserve,  and is very easy to follow with the classic orange marker poles.  You walk along the trail, head up over the rise and down through the big paddock and the famous “blown over” trees.  There’s clearly some decent wind here so make sure you bring a warm jacket and a hat here.

As the trail turns off towards the hut, with a 20 minute downhill section you head into the bush.  Not quite the idyllic native bush, but a ton of gorse.  The track is clear though and the gorse won’t bother the kids.  The trail is nice and wide.

And then you are there.  Welcome to Rod Donald Hut!

Tribe of kids walk down the Rod Donald Hut track
Check out that tree - it shows just how windy it can get here

How long does the Rod Donald Hut track take?


The Department of Conservation recommends about 50 minutes.  It took us 45 minutes with a few photo stops and 50 minutes on the way back in the morning.

Kids with little legs may take a bit longer.  It’s about 2.5km so definitely doable for most.

The Department of Conservation recommends 50 minutes each way.

4 kids walking down a gorsey bush track on their way to Rod Donald Hut
The gorse and bush section heads downhill, which means you are getting closer to Rod Donald Hut

What is Rod Donald Hut like?


I have to say, I loved the setup of Rod Donald Hut.  You enter the bunkroom from the “back” of the hut which has 9 bunk beds.  These are all separate single beds as opposed to the shared bunk platform that is common in larger huts.

Downstairs (yes I know, how fancy) is the kitchen and dining area that has some separate cooking spaces, perfect for sharing with other guests.  There are actually two extra sleeping mattresses in the lounge, perhaps for the snorers or early risers.

There is running water in the kitchen, although boiling is recommended and stainless steel benches to cook on.  You will need to bring your own gas cookers and everything you need for cooking.

There’s a good log burner inside and wood provided.  Just make sure to chop some extra kindling for the next people when they arrive.

There are a number of card games kept in the hut, perfect if you forget yours or need a new game.

The best part of the hut is the big open windows in the lounge area that overlooks the Little River Valley. You can see a few twinkling house lights down below at night.

There is a long drop toilet outside

Backyard Travel Family stand outside the green Rod Donald Hut
Outside Rod Donald Hut
Boy roasts marshmallows on the log burner fire at Rod Donald Hut
Bring matches for the log burner, wood is provided
9 bed bunk room with thick plastic mattresses at Rod Donald Hut
9 bed bunkroom. No shared sleeping platform here
Kitchen and dining area at Rod Donald Hut
Kitchen and dining area at Rod Donald Hut

How hard is the Rod Donald Hut walk?


This walk isn’t hard at all.  It is a bit undulating to start, then you head downhill to the hut.  On the way back up, it’s about 20-25 minutes uphill and then a few undulating pieces after that.

If you have young kids and are keen to start, I’d definitely look at it for 2 year olds and up.  It might not be fast, but it’s totally doable.  The total length of the track is 2.5km.

Walking on the summit walkway to Rod Donald Hut

How much does it cost to stay at Rod Donald Hut?


As at 1 July 2023, the huts cost:

  • Adults pay $25 per night (Monday – Thursday) and $30 per night (Friday – Sunday)
  • Kids pay $12.50 per night (Monday – Thursday) and $15 per night (Friday – Sunday)
  • Under 5s are always free

Bookings need to be made in advance, online using the DOC booking system.  There is cellphone reception at the hut if you forget, but it does book up fast, so I wouldn’t risk it.

4 kids with backpacks on smile as they are ready to walk the Rod Donald Hut Christchurch

More Family Friendly Huts in the South Island

More great family friendly huts

  • Packhorse Hut (not too far from this one): an 1.5-2 hour walk into a historic stone hut
  • Woolshed Creek Hut: 2-3 hours walk into a big hut in Mid Canterbury
  • Hooker Hut: Easy 1-1.5 hour flat walk to the hut in Mt Cook National Park
  • Bushline Hut on Mt Robert Track in Nelson Lakes National Park:  A harder uphill climb of about 2-3 hours.  Incredible views
  • Routeburn Flats Hut:  2-3 hour walk over 9km at the start of the Routeburn Great Walk
  • Lake Daniells Hut:  About 3 hours one way, on our list but we haven’t done it yet.  Near Hanmer Springs


Founder of Backyard Travel Family

Jen is a super organiser when it comes to travel. Having travelled extensively in Europe and Africa, has lived in London and the USA and holidayed in many parts of Asia, she is not a newbie to the travel space

Jen has three young children, 9 and under and travels around New Zealand with them.

Backyard Travel Family New Zealand. Lets share these articles and spread the love

what you need to know


- Just over an hour from Christchurch on Western Valley Road
- narrow road, not recommended for motorhomes and caravans

The track

- mostly farmland. Think tussocky grass and a bit of bush and forest covering nearer to the hut
- Is quite out in the open for half the trail and they get strong winds up there. Dress appropriately

Suitable for kids?

Yes! The perfect track for young kids to walk. Kids at primary school shouldn't have a problem with this at all


- No toilets at the carpark, so use the toilets in the Little River township before you start.
- Toilets at Rod Donald Hut

What to bring

- Warm jacket and hat (can be very windy)
- Warm layers
- All cooking supplies such as pot and gas cooker, cutlery and plates
- Sleeping Bag
- Food
- Water (there is a tap but boiling or treating it is recommended)
- Rubbish bag to pack out your rubbish

Food options

- closest facilities are at Little River. There is a cafe and store here with reputably good coffee as well as fuel in the township too.

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