Archives For Track

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?”

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.


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.

Des Williams takes a 30 minute drive out of Hamilton to walk the popular Mangakara Walk in Pirongia Forest Park.

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By Angeline Barnes, Outreach and Education Coordinator – Lower North Island

Busy mums dream of a weekend away, we need it and deserve it.  We long for a window of time away from daily life, away from our dearly beloved children.  Imagine being able to pee alone, not have to share the food off our plate or deal with the ‘but why’ questions. Just imagine.

Mums starting on Orongorongo Track.

Orongorongo Track

Ladies, when planning a trip away, don’t let the perceived barriers of cost, travel distance or general complication get in the way.  It really is easy.  If your key ingredients are good company, good food, easy travel, light exercise, swimming, laughter and peace and tranquilly, I have the solution for you. Book a DOC serviced hut and get going.

This weekend, my friends and I set off for our third annual mum’s weekend away to the Orongorongo Valley, in the Rimutaka Forest Park. Our mantra is fun comes first and we must have good food.

Once the Saturday morning children’s sport was done, we gathered at a cafe for a spot of lunch and a cheeky glass of bubbly. The 40 minute drive from Wellington to Catchpool Valley was easy. Following a quick toilet stop, costume change, redistribution of supplies, application of lippy, packs were on and we were off!

Five minutes to Papatahi Hut.

Five minutes to Papatahi Hut

This year our outfits symbolised who we are, or who we dreamed of being. The large scrabble letters of YUM on our front and MUM on our packs kept other trampers intrigued, the sweatband of the flapper’s headpiece kept the brow smooth and I wonder what the birds thought of the sun reflecting on our tiaras?

The weather was perfect, so we walked up the river bed (rather than the alternative track). The walk took about 3 hours. We stopped for a pre-dinner river swim to freshen up before the climb up the perfectly formed stairs to Papatahi Hut.  As we relaxed and appreciated the tranquilly of the bush, we smiled smugly and wondered how our husbands were coping with the demands of the 30 children we mums left behind!

Nestled in the hills, Papatahi Hut very affordable and is bookable. With the knowledge that there would be no late night trampers join us, we got settled in. It was agreed that drinking our cocktails from a coffee cup is a small price to pay for the benefits of a posh hut.

Banish all visions of dirty cold tin huts, stinky unknown trampers, freeze dried food, smelly long drops and mice – there now is an alternative.

Mums walking along the track.

Mums on track

Food is important to us. Our entree was ‘hut made’ guacamole and salsa with corn chips. The main event was green Thai chicken curry with sides of chickpeas, fluffy rice, freshly prepared nann and popodums. Dessert was meringue with freshly whipped cream and berry coulis. Why settle for anything less?

As night fell, we chatted and laughed and sung, played card games, discussed topical issues such as pocket money, perfecting scones, and preparing food children will eat, and ate a year’s worth of chocolate. Unfortunately our Sherpas were unable to join us, so we all pitched in with dishes and made our own beds. Before bed, I sat outside and listened to silence and was memorised by the stars.

Angeline and the other mums stopping for lunch.


Following a quiet night (no snoring and limited sleep talking) breakfast was served, eggs Benedict no less, with hollandaise and cracked pepper and the essential freshly brewed coffee. Instant coffee not welcome.

Following a lazy morning, the hut was swept and we leisurely walked back down the river to our next swimming sport. Lunch was prepared on the water’s edge, my favourite was the home made ginger crunch, where others preferred the lemon cake.  As I lay on the warm stones, I listened to the sound of the river, the sun dried my socks, I had found my happy place and I drifted off. Peace.

Looking skyward.

Looking skyward

Then it was a short walk along the track back to the car. Easy as.

Our weekend was not expensive or complicated.  We had the comforts of home, in the company of friends in a beautiful setting.  I’ve had my injection of nature; I have hit my reset button; I’m ready to tackle another week.

You don’t have to be an expert mountaineer to explore exhilarating alpine environments. The Manawatu has a great option for first-time alpine adventurers.

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By Chrissy Wickes, Biodiversity Ranger, Te Anau

My partner, son and I recently went for a walk up to Fern Burn Hut along Motatapu Track which is out the back of Glendu Bay just twenty minutes drive from Wanaka.

Chrissy and her son walking through farm land.

The start of the track follows a river through farm land

The track starts in farm land and follows a lovely river all the way through beech forest and up to the tussock lands around the hut.

Chrissy's son playing in the mud.

Stopping for a quick play in the mud

It is a fantastic short walk and a great hut to stay in overnight. The track to the hut is the beginning of a longer walk. It took us three hours with my son Shannon walking the easier sections. The section through the bush is like a small goat track and perhaps not so suitable for a child to walk alone due to the drops into the stream below. But the track is relatively straight forward for big people.

There were heaps of fish in the stream and we came across a group fishing and they caught a lovely trout as we approached which was neat to see.

Chrissy and her son looking at the caught trout.

Fishing for trout

It is a hot area in the summer so I recommend hats and sunblock and avoiding the heat of the day.

We were lucky it was over cast but we still felt the heat and it is not even summer yet. The stream that the track follows is lovely with small waterfalls and pools which would be great to cool off in on those really hot days. We had a great time on this beautiful overnight walk in a stunning part of the country.

Walking along the track to Fern Burn Hut.

Nearing Fern Burn Hut

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By Chrissy Wickes, Biodiversity Ranger, Te Anau

My partner, our child and I recently biked the Queen Charlotte Track.

Chrissy and her family by the DOC Queen Charlotte Track sign.

Setting out on the Queen Charlotte Track

It was a challenging but fun adventure with our two and a half year old son Shannon. It was obvious that Shannon enjoyed the camping experience and being in the bush.

Chrissy's son Shannon in his chariot.

Shannon in his chariot

The Queen Charlotte track was good enough for Shannon’s chariot to be attached to our bikes and we only had to push the chariot for around one tenth of the track. The rest of the track is ridable if you are fit, which luckily my partner is and he was even able to pull the chariot up some small sharp steep hills that I had to walk.

Chrissy's partner and son biking along the track.

Along the track

We took it pretty slow along the track to make it more comfy over the more rough terrain. Some sections were gorgeous and smooth, others were rocky and a bit rooty.

Chrissy and her son on the Queen Charlotte Track.

A spot of dancing?

We chose to take the road from Cowshed Bay to Mistletoe turnoff just to avoid a big hill that we would have most likely just pushed up rather than ride. This was a great decision!

Shannon being pushed along the track on the bike.

Give me a push

We got all our gear water taxied to our next camp spot which was so great. We met some lovely people on the way. The tops were gorgeous with some stunning views of the sounds.

Stunning views of the Marlborough Sounds.

Stunning views

I would recommend this adventure only in really good weather which we were lucky to have. The clay surface of this track would mean that a bit of rain could make it quite yucky!

A view along the Queen Charlotte Track.

How about that view?

Experience the Queen Charlotte Track

In the heart of the Marlborough Sounds, the Queen Charlotte Track stretches 71 km.The track is suitable for both walkers and mountain bike riders, taking 3-5 days to complete walking, or 2-3 days for mountain bikers. You can find more information on the DOC website.