By Mark Menzies, Waikato Services Ranger

We know it as the Hakarimata Summit Track, but fitness nuts in the region call it The Huks! It’s one of the Waikato’s best outdoor gyms and much-loved by the local community.

From Brownlee Avenue, in Ngaruawahia, it’s 335 metre climb to the summit of the Hakarimata Range—with 1,349 steps in between.

View from the Hakarimata Summit Tower.

View from the Hakarimata Summit Tower

The summit view tower, at 374 metres above sea level, has amazing views of the Waikato Basin and down to Ruapehu on a clear day.

The track meets the Hakarimata Walkway and is also part of the Te Araroa Trail.

Upgraded in 2012, from a slippery die-hard trampers track to a walking track, the Hakarimata Summit Track now attracts over 50,000 people a year (and growing).

It sounds fantastic, and it is, but with all those walkers, the wear and tear of the steps and track sets in. So, how do you maintain and carry gravel up 1,349 steps?

Stairs up to the Hakarimata Summit.

Hakarimata Summit Track stair section

In steps Reg Hohaia, a local who started a fitness campaign after undergoing a hip replacement, walking the track every day—sometimes two or three times a day.

Reggie inspired others; he encouraged and pushed them to try the track. First by going quarter of the way up, then half the way up and, finally, with a big high five, laughter and cheer, they are standing on the summit of the Hakarimata Range.

Reg Hohaia at the summit of Hakarimata.

Reg Hohaia—the MAN

Reggie started doing a few jobs on the track: cleaning off graffiti, clearing a bit of vegetation, that sort of thing. Then he asked for a pile of track gravel to be left at the entrance!

The end result is a wonderful community partnership; a track that is maintained and looks fantastic; people exercising, saving the health board thousands; and happy DOC rangers thinking “where is the next spot this can work?” “where do we find another Reggie?”

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Cornelia guiding on Fox Glacier.

Guiding at Fox Glacier

Today we profile Cornelia Vervoorn, Partnerships Ranger on the West Coast and recipient of the 2014 Stephen O’Dea Award, a scholarship for DOC staff set up in memory of Stephen O’Dea who died at Cave Creek in 1996.

At work

Some things I do in my job include:

Everything, from falling into mud and gorse while doing grazing inspections, to trying to look knowledgeable when discussing geological sampling.

I also answer questions like “what kind of eggs do stoats lay?”; prepare media releases and social media updates; and help to develop and foster partnerships.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Seeing more people invest their money, time, effort, or other resources, in conservation. We all benefit from being surrounded by healthy, functioning ecosystems and having conservation recreation opportunities as a central part of our lives.

Cornelia standing in a stream with a school student looking for macroinvertebrates.

Looking for macroinvertebrates with a student from Whataroa School

The best bit about my job is:

Everyone says this, but he tangata, he tangata, he tangata! It’s the people I work with who make my day. Not just people in DOC, but all those people out there who passionately support conservation efforts.

The other bit is the landscape I work in. It’s pretty hard to feel grouchy when Mt Elie de Beaumont is shining over the river flats and the frosted grasses are steaming in the dawn mist. Or when someone says, “hey, do you want to come along and inspect the tahr campsites in the Adams Wilderness Area?”

The loveliest DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

When one of the teenage students on a week-long Untouched World Charitable Trust education programme at Okarito said to me, “This week has changed my life. I can’t thank you guys enough for sharing this with me”.

We’d worked so hard to make the week challenging enough but not overwhelming—this showed that we hit just the right note.

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

Partnership Ranger Tim Shaw—who says he’s a cynic but has a grand plan to make South Westland weed-free, knows exorbitant amounts about ecology and always suggests a new angle for me to think about curly issues. And he never fails to remind me that there’s more to life than work—thanks Tim!

The South Westland DOC team.

The South Westland team last year—a great bunch of people to work with!

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that:

I had a picnic morning tea of louise slice and Milo with the ex-president of Slovakia, Rudolf Schuster, at Castle Rock, Ross Island, Antarctica, to celebrate his 75th birthday.

The song that always cheers me up is:

The Ship Song by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds or Central Reservation by Beth Orton

My stomping ground is:

I grew up in Canberra, Australia, so the Orroral Ridge was a favourite, as was the Kosciuszko Main Range. Especially the walk from Blue Lake via Lake Albina and Mt Kosciuszko to the top of the Crackenback chairlift.

In New Zealand: Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier and their névés have been my playground for the last 13 years. I’m also getting to know Kahurangi better now that my parents have moved to Nelson.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be:

A kea. Because they don’t take anything seriously, and get to explore from the mountains to the sea, creating havoc along the way. And I could explain to the other keas that lead roofing nails and green cereal pellets should be left well alone.

Before working at DOC:

I worked as an anthropologist in the Northern Territory in Australia in the late 90s/early 2000s. I then had a complete career change, becoming a glacier guide at Fox Glacier and then at the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska.

This led on to two seasons as Programme Support Assistant at Scott Base. From there I did a season at Whakapapa Ski Field on the Trail Safety Team, and two weeks with Ultimate Hikes on the Milford Track, before being poached by DOC.

Cornelia and partner standing in front of a sign to 1080 Beach.

1080 Beach, it’s a lovely beach! No pests, either!

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

Alone we are born
And die alone
Yet see the red gold cirrus
On snow mountain shine
Upon the upland road
Ride easy stranger
Surrender to the sky
Your heart of anger

-  High Country Weather (James K Baxter)

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is:

“Don’t let the bastards grind you down” — told to me by Alex Miller, ex-Chief Ranger, Westland Tai Poutini National Park and surrogate uncle.

In work and life I am motivated by:

My wonderful partner Jim Livingstone! And by new opportunities to explore New Zealand and the wider world.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

You don’t know how lucky you are, mate. (Sung in Fred Dagg’s voice). We face problems like deteriorating water quality, species threatened with extinction etc., but the difference between us and so many countries is that we could reverse the downward trend if we had the will and made the effort as a country.

The areas we have that are still largely untouched are of such value not only to us but to the world—we are the lucky custodians of these areas. We should never be tempted to sacrifice these for short term economic gain when they are worth so much more as a lasting source of joy, not to mention “ecosystem services”!

Cornelia at Icestock music event in Antarctica.

“Ice Stock” – a pretty amazing live music event at McMurdo Base

Question of the week…

What are you most looking forward to as the recipient of the Stephen O’Dea Award?

The award will enable me to attend the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney.

I look forward to seeing landscapes and ecosystems during the field trip part of the congress.

Being an Aussie kid, I am partly familiar with these places, but it will be different seeing them through “conservation goggles”.

For example, I love the Australian Alps for their landscapes, from reading “The Silver Brumby” as a 12 year old horse-mad kid, and for the ski trips and bushwalking trips I’ve done there. However, what I don’t know is how the area looks when you consider threatened species and ecosystems, or how these are being protected and valued by Australians.

The Fox Glacier neve.

The Fox Glacier neve—an amazing place to learn to climb!

Today is World Ranger Day, acknowledging the critical work of rangers on the front-line of conservation across the globe.

For us, it’s a chance to celebrate the amazing things that our hard-working rangers do across Aotearoa all year round.

We asked a bunch of our rangers what sort of things they get up to on an average day, and pulled together their responses to bring to you…

A day in the life of DOC’s rangers

9 am

Biodiversity Ranger Jamie Quirk, in Turanganui-a-Kiwa / Gisborne, was acting on a call from a member of the public about a New Zealand fur seal that had been found with its lower jaw removed.

Jamie Quirk investigates the death of  NZ fur seal.

Jamie Quirk investigates the death of New Zealand fur seal / kekeno

“This involved an investigation into the cause of death and then burial of the poor seal. It was smelly, cold, and windy, with no furry, cute critters to be seen.”

9.30 am

Out of the wind and cold, in In Kirikiriroa / Hamilton, Ranger Paul Hardy is hard at work on concession applications, while Ranger Jane Hughes is meeting with Waikato Biodiversity Forum Coordinator, Moira Cursey, to revamp the Memorandum of Understanding between DOC and the Forum.

9.50 am

A couple of kilometres away, Te Rapa Rangers, Mike Paviour and Amy MacDonald, are visiting Lake Serpentine Wildlife Management Reserve to inspect fish passage under the National Wetland Trust pest proof fence.

Lake Serpentine Wildlife Management Reserve.

Lake Serpentine Wildlife Management Reserve

“The fish pass is designed for eels to move between the lakes in the Serpentine complex,” says Amy.

10 am

At Port Waikato, Hamilton Rangers Carisse Enderwick and Andrew Styche are hanging out with the kids and planting pingao and spinifex at the children’s Beachcare Port Waikato planting day.

The weather is looking remarkably different for Tim Paki, doing work further south in the Ruahine Ranges—brrrrr!

10.30 am

At the bottom of the country, Ranger Cheryl Pullar from DOC’s Ōwaka Base is releasing a yellow-eyed penguin / hoiho who has been at Penguin Place for rehab after being found underweight at Jack’s Bay in the Catlins.

Cheryl Pullar releases a yellow-eyed penguin at Jack’s Bay in the Catlins.

Cheryl Pullar releases a yellow-eyed penguin at Jack’s Bay in the Catlins

While in the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre, Simon O’Neill is: Explaining that crampons, ice axes and experience above the snow line are necessary to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and that one of the guided tours is the best option; advising visitors on local walks contingent on weather conditions and their ability and experience; providing directions to the ski fields and advice on road conditions; and selling lots of gloves, shades and beanies over the counter.

Tongariro Crossing 'You Are Here' sign. Photo: Russell Street | CC BY-SA 2.0.

Helping to prepare visitors so that they can explore Tongariro National Park safely

11 am

In Rotorua, Partnership Rangers Caraline Abbott, Amanda Vallis and Bella Tait joined staff from across the region to participate in an advanced driver training course.

Staff learnt defensive driving techniques, the importance correct tyre pressure and how ABS (anti-lock braking system) works. They also completed practical driving exercises such as controlling a vehicle in slaloms and correcting over and under steering, check out this video to see their skills in action:

12.30 pm

Ranger Jeff Hall.

Ranger Jeff Hall.

All this work builds up an appetite and Ranger Jeff Hall, on Mana Island, is “having a lunch break above the south point seabird colony site on Mana Island while clearing vegetation for artificial burrow installation.

“I’m doing this along with a bunch of volunteers from OMV (oil and gas mining) and FOMI (friends of Mana Island), who are supporting seabird restoration projects at the site.”

12.37 pm

It’s a busy time for the Visitor Centre Rangers at Pōneke / Wellington Visitor Centre—Don Herron, Jesse Butler and Wendy Challis who, in the space of a few minutes: gave directions to the French Embassy; answered phone call about booking a hut in Rimutaka Forest Park; answered phone call about when the bookings for the Routeburn Track open; replied to an email about camping on Matiu/Somes Island; answered phone call about when the bookings for the Milford Track will open; sold a soft toy kiwi (with sound); gave directions to the nearest public toilet; and answered phone call about Rimutaka Forest Park.

2.30 pm

In Hokitika, Ranger Inger Perkins is working on mining issues.

“I met some local people on site, following a small drilling operation undertaken to assess the gold bearing gravels at depth.

“We need to keep the local community informed and to encourage miners to work with them to understand and address their concerns.”

Inger Perkins deals with mining issues in Hokitika

Inger Perkins deals with mining issues in Hokitika

2.50 pm

In the same office, Biodiversity Monitoring Ranger, Cielle Stephens, is reviewing a report on deer pellet monitoring in the Arawhata Valley, South Westland.

Cielle Stephens reviewing a report on deer pellet monitoring

Cielle Stephens reviewing a report on deer pellet monitoring

“We’re based in Hokitika, but our team is a national team, with off-shoots in Palmerston North and Invercargill, and we undertake all sorts of biodiversity monitoring to establish what difference management is making.”

3 pm

In Christchurch, Kirsty Percasky is explaining to Girl Guides the importance of getting the roots of lupins out when clearing braided riverbeds.

Kirsty Percasky and Girl Guides clearing braided riverbeds.

Kirsty Percasky and Girl Guides clearing braided riverbeds

3.30 pm

At Taiaroa Head / Pukekura in Otago, Wildlife Ranger Sharyn Broni is heading out onto the headland to check the predator traps:

“I’m taking care not to disturb the albatross chicks, their hard-working parents, and other wildlife, as I make my way from trap to trap. I stop and detour to read bands of any adult albatross coming in to feed their chick. Necessary because one missing parent will mean a starving chick without ranger intervention.

Albatross at Taiaroa Head.

Albatross at Taiaroa Head

“Today there are many parents arriving due to the stiff southwester. The rain seems to slide horizontally off the harbour as I continue checking the traps for stoats and rats. There are none. After 40 years of continuous trapping on Taiaroa Head, this is not surprising.”

4 pm

Over in Aramoana, Rangers Tane Belsham, Arnie Elbers and Barry Atkinson are undertaking track maintenance work.

Tane Belsham, Arnie Elbers and Barry Atkinson at Aramoana.

Tane Belsham, Arnie Elbers and Barry Atkinson at Aramoana

In Invercargill, Daryl Eason, Kākāpō Technical Advisor, is teaching kākāpō chicks Heather1, Lisa1 and Rakiura2 to hop on a weighing perch:

“Weighing the chicks daily throughout hand-rearing (and those raised in nests) is the quickest form of health check.

“Up until 45-55 days old the chicks should be putting on weight daily (usually 20-45 grams). Static weight or loss can be the first sign of illness and the cause needs to be rectified before it progresses too far.

“Teaching kākāpō to be weighed on the swing is very simple and learnt in a few days by the chicks, once they are walking well and have good balance with climbing. They simply learn to step up onto the swing when it’s placed in front of them, initially this may be reinforced with a treat such as a half pine nut.”

4.30 pm

We end our day with Gary Cocker, Visitor Centre Supervisor at the Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre on Stewart Island/Rakiura.

4.30 pm: It is closing time but a large family with 5 children have just arrived, so I leave them to play and create havoc in the Interpretation Room while I go outside to bring in the signs.

4.35 pm: I usher the children and parents out the door. It has been a perfect winter’s day, cool but with clear blue skies, and in the morning they flew across to the other side of the island and back. They are bubbling with joy and the beauty of what they have seen.

4.40 pm: Inside I have to focus on more mundane matters such as balancing the day’s banking.

4.50 pm: I just finish the banking when a local appears at the window. I had promised to check the name of a shrub for him. With a sample in hand and plant books open we quickly confirm that it is mountain cottonwood (Ozothamnus Vauvilliersii) common in coastal to montane shrubland on Rakiura/Stewart Island.

4.55 pm: I take the recycling (and the local) out.

5.00 pm: It’s time to close up. I have the privilege of turning the lights out in the southernmost DOC office in New Zealand.

Ranger Gary Cocker turning out the lights at the end of the day in the Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre.

Ranger Gary Cocker turning out the lights at the end of the day in the Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre

A message to us all from HRH Duke of Cambridge this World Ranger Day

This week’s photo shows Waituna Lagoon—the location of a recent community open day marking the first year of DOC’s partnership with Fonterra.

Waituna Lagoon, Southland, New Zealand.

The natural habitat at Awarua-Waituna, including the 1350 hectare Waituna Lagoon, is one of five key areas that DOC and Fonterra are working together to improve over the next ten years.

The open day was a chance for the local community to see the work being undertaken at Waituna by Fonterra and DOC, in conjunction with Ngai Tahu, the Southland District Council and Environment Southland.

“In the first year our focus has been on monitoring and science. We’ve got to get this right to ensure the whole project sets off in the right direction and can make a real difference,” said Fonterra Living Water Project Manager, Nicola Toki.

On Friday 18 July DOC Ranger, Guy McKinnon, completed the first-ever solo winter ascent of the east face of Popes Nose, in Mt Aspiring National Park.

DOC Ranger, Guy McKinnon.

DOC Ranger, Guy McKinnon

Guy, who is part of DOC’s Search and Rescue Alpine Rescue Team in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, walked for two days in cold and difficult conditions from northwest of Lake Wanaka to the base of the east face of the ice-covered Popes Nose. He then scaled the incredibly steep 2700 metre peak in just five hours.

Mount Aspiring / Tititea is New Zealand's highest mountain outside the Aoraki/Mount Cook region

Mount Aspiring / Tititea is New Zealand’s highest mountain outside the Aoraki/Mount Cook region

Although the peak has been climbed three times before, Guy is the only one to have achieved the feat solo, and all his predecessors were flown to its base by helicopter.

New Zealand Alpine Club general manager Sam Newton said the only other winter climb, 24 years ago by a party of four, took two days.

“It’s an incredible climb—an incredible feat of talent and endurance,” Mr Newton said.

The Climber magazine editor, Kester Brown, said Guy’s ascent “must rate as possibly the finest alpine achievement of New Zealand’s modern era”.

The east face of Popes Nose, Mt Aspiring. Photo: Guy McKinnon.

Yes it’s steep! The east face of Popes Nose, Mt Aspiring

“There are still a lot of new routes and records to be broken up on these faces but after two -10° nights out, I think I’m done for the winter!” said Guy when we contacted him to see if he’d mind us sharing his achievement here on the blog.

Massive congratulations Guy!

Hewn through steep hill country 100 years ago as a stock route, the Pakihi Track on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, is now a magnificent wilderness ride. Jim Robinson, Executive Officer for Motu Trails Charitable Trust, writes:

The Pakihi Track is now a magnificent wilderness ride. Photo copyright Motu Trails Cycleway.

The Pakihi Track—a magnificent wilderness ride

My most recent Pakihi escapade came hot on the heels of Easter’s ex-tropical cyclone Ita, which slammed the Eastern Bay of Plenty with an all-night lightning storm, tree-downing gales and, in one terrific downpour, 100 mm of rain in less than two hours.

Two days after that, I was joined in Opotiki by Toni Keeling, who had already finished the GODZone expedition adventure race and the Coast to Coast Longest Day this year.

“I’ve only done one ride since GODZone,” Toni grinned. But, typically, she was dead keen to do the whole 93 km loop of the Motu Trails: out on the Dunes Trail, up the historic Motu Coach Road, down the Pakihi, and back on the tar seal to Opotiki.

Tirohanga section on the Dunes Trail in the Saturday sun. Photo: Mike / Motu Trails Cycleway.

Tirohanga section on the Dunes Trail

The Dunes Trail

The Dunes Trail is a cinch, purpose built to answer New Zealand Cycle Trail (NZCT) standards. But it’s still a great legwarmer, rolling east over tussock-dressed sand dunes, with panoramic views of the Pacific.

Surprisingly, there were no other riders. And the usually common weka must all have been sleeping in.

Dunes Trail. Photo: Project Crimson.

Dunes Trail

The Motu Road Trail

After an hour, the Motu Coach Road clicked up the challenge (a big yellow road sign pulls no punches: “NARROW WINDING ROAD NEXT 48 KM EXTREME CARE”).

Meremere to Toatoa on the Motu Road Trail. Photo courtesy Motu Trails.

Meremere to Toatoa on the Motu Road Trail

With tight corners and precipitous drop-offs, ‘The Motu’ used to be one of the famed stages on the World Rally Championship calendar. It’s still the highlight of the Motu Challenge multisport race — a fave of ex-Whakatane MTB rider and 2011 national XC champ Carl Jones.

Motu Road Trail. Photo copyright: Motu Trails Cycleway.

Motu Road Trail

A few times I could admittedly have done with the horsepower of a Jonesy or a Colin McRae, but we made steady going, and reached the start of the Pakihi by early afternoon.

The Pakihi Track

The day was awesome, though a long way off tropical. So, stopping at the mini trailhead shelter, it was fuel up and jackets on for what Jonathan Kennett rates as “one of the longest most scenic downhill cycle trails in the country. It is virtually impossible to ride the Pakihi without a grin from ear to ear.”

Riding the Pakihi. Photo copyright Motu Trails Cycleway.

“It is virtually impossible to ride the Pakihi without a grin from ear to ear.”

Bringing the Pakihi back to life

Jonathan first rode the Pakihi in about 1996, while researching for Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides.

One of my dog-eared early editions of the biker’s bible rates the track “50% semi-rideable jungle country, 50% sweet single track”. But by 2008, edition seven cautioned with an almost audible sigh: “in 2007, a big storm closed the Pakihi Track … it doesn’t sound like the Pakihi will ever be fully rideable again.”

Fortunately, in 2010 there was an unexpected saviour in the form of the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) had been aiming for some years to restore the Pakihi for trampers and hunters, and got behind the concept of reopening access to bikers as well.

Rugged! Photos of the Pakihi before restoration

With two work teams, one from each end, DOC brought the Pakihi back to life, better than ever.

Riders on the Pakihi. Photo copyright Motu Trails Cycleway.

The Pakihi—back to life

As soon as we dropped off the Motu Road, Toni and I were into magic riding, below a dense canopy of forest, with punga fronds pushing in.

It’s wide and evenly graded, but a glance down confirms that you’re sidling an extremely steep slope.

Biking the Pakihi

Biking the Pakihi

Time and again, you skirt into a tight gut, cross a short wooden bridge, and return to the bush-clad face of the hill, all without changing more than a few metres in height.

I pedalled the Pakihi a year ago with four keen Australians, and they kept commenting how the scale of track work is unreal.

The 11 km upper section, with a dozen bridges and a total descent of about 300 metres, ends with a short sidetrack to the Pakihi Hut, which was built in 1969 by the New Zealand Forest Service (forerunner to DOC), for hunters.

The hut was originally big enough for 6, but the 2013 addition of an enclosed verandah and benching stretches that capacity.

It’s backcountry basic. But, for a lunch stop, it’s the best place on the trail — and if it’s sunny, there’s a picnic table.

Toni and I rolled straight on down, into the spectacular 10 km lower section, which starts by taking a tight twist into a shady gully with a small crashing waterfall.

One of many trackside waterways on the Pakihi. Photo copyright Motu Trails Cycleway.

One of many trackside waterways on the Pakihi

A few minutes more and we’d reached a 35 metre long suspension bridge, crossing the Pakihi River just above the confluence with Papamoa Stream.

The Pakihi Swingbridge. Photo: Jamie Troughton.

The Pakihi Swingbridge

The bridges keep coming, all numbered: 18, 19, 20, 21…. We paused several times to look left to small waterfalls, the cold hanging in the still air. I love these spots most of all in summer: the lichens and ferns stay fresh, the nikau throw shade, and there’s still ample water to fill a bottle.

Then, around bridge 24, the valley stretches open. The track widens and straightens. The sun warms. Suddenly, you pop out on the road end, and it’s over.

“There’s stunning scenery all the way down, and a great variation,” said Toni, when I asked for her perception as a Pakihi first-timer.

“There aren’t many places that you can easily ride so close to a river without being in a riverbed, or way up high on a cliff. It was amazing to be so close, seeing the sunlight glistening off the river and hearing the water.”

The Pakihi River

The Pakihi River — glimpses of perfection

“From what I’d been told, I was expecting a far narrower track with steep cliffs,” Toni commented. “In reality it was much better than I expected. You need to be cautious at times. But really why would you want to rush!”


Several shuttle providers offer group drop-offs and pick-ups around the Motu Trails. There’s a range of accommodation, including in Opotiki, Ohiwa, Tirohanga, Toatoa, Motu, Pakihi Valley and Te Waiti.

If you’re not keen on riding, the Pakihi Track is also a superb walk. From the Pakihi road end you can walk to the hut and back in about 5-6 hours.

Find out more at www.themotutrails.co.nz or ask in the iSITE at Opotiki or Gisborne. Get news and track updates on the Motu Trails Facebook page.

Abridged from ‘Glorious Pioneering’ in the June/July issue of New Zealand Mountain Biker Magazine

Looking for a slightly different day walk in the Wellington region? Then the Makara Walkway could be it. It’s one of my favourite short walks in the area.

Makara Beach.

Makara Beach

The Makara Walkway starts at Makara—a 16 km drive from Karori, over Makara Hill (watch out for cyclists).

Ohariu Bay is the starting place for the walk.

The best option is to walk around the beach, past Wharehou Bay, into Ohau Bay.

Both of these bays are popular with local fisherman and divers.

This is a fantastic piece of wild coastline, with a number of impressive rock formations and large number of seabirds—especially the loud and bright beaked oystercatchers.

makara-walk-variable-oystercatchercatcher

Variable oystercatcher

Another plus with this walk is that it is sheltered from the cold southerly wind. So, even if there’s a strong southerly, the walk is still pleasant.

Having said that, it does get hammered in a Nor’wester, so check the wind direction and speed before you head off—there is very little shelter along the track.

Rock formations along the Makara Walkway.

Rock formations

Once you get to Opau Bay the track heads up the hill (a little steeply) to Fort Opau, which was garrisoned by 100 soldiers during World War II. There is also an historic Māori pa site.

The views from the top are breathtaking: 360° views, including Mana Island, Kapiti Island, the Tararua Range, Mount Taranaki, the Marlborough Sounds and the giant wind turbines from Project West Wind, which has its own network of tracks.

This point is also a perfect place to watch the sun go down, or come up, if you’re super keen!

Views of the coastline along the Makara Walkway.

Great views along the track

From here it’s a downhill walk back to Wharehou Bay, and a short walk back to Ohariu Bay and your vehicle.

Wind turbines on the hills of Makara.

Wind turbines in Makara

The secret reason I love this loop track is that I proposed to my wife at the top—in a spot where we could see all the places that we had been tramping together.