In March 2020, I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to do the inaugural Trek for Life, a wonderful week long event that brings together a fabulous community of walkers, bikers, and horse trekkers to explore Aotearoa New Zealand while raising funds for first responders in the regions.
The Pouakai Circuit is one of the best multi-day hikes I've ever done. The views are phenomenal. The huts are great. Sunrise from the Pouakai Tarn was stunning. The track is technical enough to be interesting. It's not super full of people. The terrain varies greatly. The only downside were the many, many, many stairs that had to be climbed on day one (but more on that later).
This is a popular walk, and for good reasons. It's free, has stunning views, great picnic spots, has historical significance, and takes less than two hours to do! Cook's Cove Walk is in Tolaga Bay, home of a famous wharf, and enormous ice creams from the dairy (seriously, their single scoop icecreams were double scoops!)
White Pine Bush is home to Kahikatea, and not just any Kahikatea, but an 800 year old one! Thinking about the things has endured to still be here in our lifetime is pretty impressive.
A hut where you are guaranteed to have the whole place to yourself? Where you have to cross a river numerous times to get there? Where you don't have to carry crockery or cooking equipment, leaving room for a bottle of wine in your bag? Sign me up!
This is by far the most popular walk in the New Zealand. Every international visitor seems to know about it and want to do it. I'd first done it 10 years ago and was keen to see it during good weather as the last time I'd done it the weather was shocking and we saw pretty much nothing. I also wanted to see if it lived up to it's moniker as the best day walk in New Zealand, as this is the walk that many international visitors to New Zealand do in their limited time that they have here, due to the relative ease of access, the interesting terrain, and that it only takes a day!
Patuna Chasm has to be one of the best kept secret day walks in all of New Zealand. The fact it's on private land and there is a entry fee involved probably accounts for that - but let me tell you that this walk is absolutely worth every dollar!
A walk on a predator free island (well, apart from humans), less than a hour's drive from New Zealand's capital city? A walk that starts and ends with a boat trip? The opportunity to see birdlife up close and personal? If all of the above appeals to you, then you need to get yourself to Kāpiti Island, ASAP.
We lucked out big time with this walk - a few days before we were due to start walking the middle section of the track was closed due to snow. And two days after we came off that section it closed again due to bad weather. Which is completely understandable as there is no way I'd want to be on top of those ridgelines in windy and/or snowy conditions!
This wasn't a typical walk. It was a 50km mountain race around a volcano, that started and finished in darkness. I'd gone into it knowing that I'd already completed a 50km before (and that included running and walking, whereas this one was only walking), so mentally I knew I could do it. It was whether I could physically do it again.
The number one reason I like this walk is because it starts in the heart of the city, but within 30 minutes you can look around and not see any sign of people. That's my kind of walk! The second reason is that it ends at the beach. And not just that, but a beach with seals! If those aren't two fantastic reasons to do this walk, then I'm not sure what would be.
On the first sunny Saturday in December, I expected the Shine Falls track to be full of families trekking their way down to the falls for a swim - this walk is along a relatively flat track, safe, and with barely any uphill. Hence, you could imagine my surprise when we made it all 2km to the falls without passing another person!
If you're afraid of heights, cliffs, rocks, or being out of cellphone coverage - stay away from this walk. If those four things excite you greatly, then this walk is for you. Well, at least until the fun police turn up and fence everything off.
If ever there was a day where I wish a drone would deliver me red bull into the middle of nowhere, and a host of other things to give me energy, today would have been it. A night in a hut with 25 others, rustling sleeping bags, and a body covered in sandfly bites meant my energy levels today were non existent - less than ideal for a full on day of hiking.
If you'd told me before starting this walk that I'd eventually reach the point that upon coming across another beautiful secluded beach I'd take a quick glance and keep walking I would have said you're crazy. But there's just so many stunning beaches on this walk that after a while you become quite picky about what ones you actually want to spend time at.
Field Hut is one of the oldest huts in New Zealand. It's had some work done to it over its nearly 100 year life span, but it still holds up remarkably well. There's lots of old photos on the wall of the guys that cleared the area and built the Hut, along with their stories. It makes for interesting reading and provides a neat point of difference for the Hut. It also has a helicopter pad attached to it if you want to save your thighs from burning and just fly on in!
It's an odd feeling when as a New Zealander, it takes someone visiting the country to not only take you somewhere you'd never been before, but take you somewhere you'd never heard of before, and so it was with Castle Hill.