Paekakariki Escarpment Track

Where: Kāpiti Coast, Wellington
Distance & Time: 8-10km, 2-3 hours
Take: Water, sturdy shoes, sunscreen, snacks
Amenities on route: If you start in Paekakariki, there are shops + a public bathroom
Cost of the walk: $14 for a return train ticket from Wellington


If you like stairs, you’ll really like this walk. There are lots of them. And they are perched on hillsides where if you slip, there is nothing to stop you until you hit the ground far below. So my hint for this walk? Take it slow going up and down the many, many stairs.

We walked the track from Pukerua Bay to Paekakariki. We’d previously walked it two years ago in the opposite direction and the memory of all the stairs had somewhat faded, so we decided to attempt it again but in the opposite direction. Turns out there’s still loads of stairs no matter what way you go!

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Have you got the puff?

The first time we’d down this walk, while we were on the train from Wellington to Paekakariki we could look up the hillside above us and see teeny tiny people doing the walk, and the swing bridges we’d get to cross, and we got excited!

Amy’s Advice: Take the train – it’s much easier than trying to co-ordinate having a car or pickups organised at each end. And the walk starts and ends super close to the train stations at Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay.

This time we got off the train at Pukerua Bay. The walk is really well signposted from the station – all you have to do is follow the signs (or follow people who look as though they’re walking the trail, which is what another lady on the train ended up doing – she just followed us)

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All the signage!

We were just walking the trail but were surprised by how many people passed us who were running it. Running up stairs on a hill. Bizarre people.

This trail is part of Te Araroa, the trail that traverses New Zealand from top to bottom. We passed one guy carrying a massive backpack and felt a burst of sympathy for him – rather him than me!

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Stairs. And more stairs. All uphill

We lucked out with one of those rare Wellington days where there was barely a hint of wind. There’s no way I’d want to do this walk while it was gusty, it’s just too easy to lose your footing in a gust of wind and slip off the side. There is no fence or bushes or trees to break your fall here – if you go over, you’re pretty much not stopping until you hit either the railway line or the road at the bottom of the hill.

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A not so perilous section of the track. This gives you an idea of how narrow the track is though – and it gets narrower!

For that reason, having to stand to the side to let through people coming from the opposition direction can be a bit perilous at times.

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A bit of help needed to get past this bit of the trail. Just to the left is a massive drop.

The walk never actually goes over the hill, it just sticks to the side of it. You’ll always be able to see Kāpiti Island in the distance.

The best thing about this walk? The swingbridges. There is just something about bridges that move that make them SUCH FUN.

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Pretending to admire the view, but really I’m grinning like a buffoon. You can see Kāpiti Island in the distance

The worst thing about this walk? The stairs. Especially as you can’t just trudge up or down them in a trance like you’d normally do – because if you trip going down, there is nothing stopping you from falling, and keeping on falling.

There is very little shade on this walk – there’s a wee bit of bush towards the Paekakariki end of the walk, but we slathered ourselves in sunscreen in preparation. And it worked, because neither of us got sunburnt, even though we kept walking after this walk for another two hours, because apparently we’re suckers for punishment!

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A little bit of welcome shade!

There’s a couple of places on the walk where you can stop to have a snack break, but honestly, you’re probably best to just keep walking to whatever end you’re heading to and then pop down to the beach for a post-walk swim and beach picnic!

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I’m sitting a lot straighter than I normally do. Look how blue that ocean is though!

Once you get to Paekakariki it’s a bit of a blurgh finish. Coming down the track that runs alongside the railway line, you cross under State Highway 1 before coming up on the footpath right alongside it. And then you walk along that back into Paekakariki. Not the most glamorous of finishes, but hey! We didn’t care because we’d made it!

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Just to the right is where you head down into the pedestrian underpass to get across to the walk which is along those hills on the left side of the photo

So after having done this walk twice now, once in each direction, would I do it again? While we doing this we both swore it was the last time, but I’ve got a rubber arm so could always be persuaded to do it again. But only walking – no way in heck would I ever run this!

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