Where: Putangirua Pinnacles, Cape Palliser, Wairarapa
Distance & Time: 1.5 hour return (streambed walk), 2 hours return (lookout loop)
Take: Water, camera, snacks, windproof clothing, sturdy shoes
Amenities on route: Carpark, bathrooms and campsite at the start of the walks. DOC accommodation also available for booking.
Cost of the walk: Free
The Putangirua Pinnacles are incredible – in fact, they are so awe-inspiring that they were used as part of the scenery in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (please don’t ask me in what film or what location they were, I have no idea!)
A group of us headed over for a Saturday night, and booked the Te Kopi lodge for our accommodation. Te Kopi is DOC accommodation and is just around the corner from the Pinnacles. It wasn’t your typical DOC accommodation though, this house came with a fridge, proper beds, a heat pump, shower, and couches in the lounge.
On Saturday afternoon we headed off to do the lower walk to the pinnacles, heading up to the lookout before taking a quick zigzag track down to the base of the pinnacles where we walked up the riverbed to explore before following the riverbed back down to the campsite and start of the walk.
Don’t worry that the walk follows a riverbed, you should not get your feet wet unless you want to, you misjudge a leap across the water, or there has been a lot of rain recently and there is a bit more water than usual.
About 10 minutes into the walk there is a turnoff where you can either choose to walk up the hill to the lookout, or walk along the riverbed. I recommend going up to the lookout first, then coming down the short sharp track back to the riverbed – that way you get both views and get the hard uphill out of the way first!
The uphill is very up though – but it’s over with fairly quickly and the views more than make up for it. Quite a few stairs but the path is well formed so it isn’t too much of a mission. At the top the path continues on (which would be the path we continued on for tomorrow’s walk) but we took the short turnoff to the right which led us to the lookout. The view is pretty rad and the pinnacles do look otherworldly, just growing out of the bush like that!
After taking in the view from the lookout we took the short zig zag track down to the riverbed to walk up to the pinnacles to admire them from below, which is quite a different experience. The walk up the riverbed is fairly easy, but watch your step as sometimes the ground can be a bit soft and you’ll need to watch your footing on the rocks, especially if they are slippery after rain.
The pinnacles are super impressive up close, as you can see from the photo below! Make sure you head as far up the riverbed as you can to really get up close to the pinnacles as they just become even more awe inspiring the closer you get.
What’s neat about this walk is that you don’t have everyone all congregating in one place. People spread out and find a wee spot to just sit and admire the pinnacles, others explore every side path they can. When we were ready to leave we just followed the riverbed back down to the start of the walk – easy as! There were a few water crossings to do on the way back but they were fairly easy to step over or use some well placed rocks to help get across!
Back at Te Kopi homestead we settled in for the evening with a roaring fire going in the lounge and lots of delicious food to eat – perfect ingredients for a cosy night in. The next day the plan was to walk the longer Te Kopi loop walk which involved retracing some of our steps from today for the first 30 minutes or so.
Amy’s Advice – either book the DOC hut or take a tent and camp at the campsite at the entrance to the Pinnacles and make the most of this fabulous spot! You could walk the Pinnacles loop one day, then the Te Kopi loop track the next, or drive down to the Cape Palliser lighthouse and hang out with all the seals!
The next morning after cleaning the homestead we set off for our walk. We were able to leave our cars at the homestead as that was where the walk finished – perfect! The weather was stunning so we were sure to get fabulous views on our walk.
We followed the same track up the hill that we took the previous day but instead of veering off to the lockout we continued on up. Fortunately there wasn’t too much up and we came to the turnoff reasonably quickly. To the right takes you to a hut and if you keep going you’ll eventually come out around Martinborough!
We took the track to the left which would eventually loop back down to where we started at Te Kopi homestead. The track is a well formed four wheel drive track so we were able to walk beside each other and have great hiking chats (does anyone else have the BEST chats and solve the problems of the universe while hiking?!)
Because we were looping back round to the beach we had the most incredible views of the Wairarapa coastline on this section of the walk. Of course, the stunning weather that we had helped too.
The walk down is fairly easy – the stairs and constant uphill are at the beginning so this part felt like a breeze. While the first part of the walk is in the bush we soon came out into farmland, and although we didn’t pass through any paddocks with animals in them, the evidence was there that they normally were there!
At one point I accidentally led us all down into a wee gully which was just a teeny bit swampy…we didn’t get too wet though before I led us back out of it and back onto the path. Just a small detour! It is easy to get offtrack here though as if the grass is overgrown it can be tricky to see where the path goes. There will always be an orange triangle though just where you need it to point you in the right direction.
Skirting around a river gorge we followed the trail getting closer to the coastline. I’m not sure if it was because it was only a month after lockdown that we did the walk but it felt like the grass was a bit more overgrown than it normally would have been, but it just made it more interesting and had us focusing on where we were stepping rather than just mindlessly walking.
And then just like that we came to a spot where we looked straight down and could see our accommodation! Following the cliff along to the gravel farm track we headed back down. Even though you could walk the loop in either direction I definitely think the way we did it is the better option, but you may have a different opinion!
Once you’ve finished the walk make sure you take the drive further north up to Cape Palliser lighthouse, perhaps stopping in for a coffee or icecream at Ngawi on the way (you’ll want to stop there anyway as it’s adorable and the tractors and boats on the beach make for a great photo!) Drive slowly though as there is a massive seal colony past here and the seals are EVERYWHERE! Just hanging out on the side of the road, casual as. They are nonplussed about the cars and humans around them, but obviously respect that this is their home and NEVER get between a seal and the sea. Or a mama seal and her baby! There are a few places you can park and have a wander around but be aware as you do so as the seals are masters at camouflage so you really need to make sure you’re not getting too close. We were lucky enough to visit when there were a few baby seals around and they were adorable, poking their heads up from snuggling in with their mamas to see what was going on.
The photos were taken by the Worthwild wāhine + I!
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