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Hawkes Bay's Glorious Day Walks

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Created by Roadtrippers Australasia - October 9th 2017

On these ten walks around the Hawkes Bay, you'll find mighty strolls to some powerful waterfalls, some insanely good views from Sugarloaf and Te Mata Peak, ancient redwoods and a historic pa to explore. And all you need is your walking shoes (and water and phone and snacks and raincoat!)

Remember, before embarking on any walk: plan your trip, check the weather, tell someone where you're going and take gear including water, food, warm clothing, jacket, torch, basic first aid kit and a map of where you're walking. To ensure you have an awesome adventure, check out these interactive guides from the NZ Mountain Safety Council.

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Te Mata Peak

Standing high above the Heretaunga Plains, Te Mata Peak, behind Havelock North, gives 360° views of Hawke’s Bay from Mahia Peninsula to the Ruahine, Kaweka and Maungaharuru ranges. You're that high sometimes Mount Ruapehu is visible in the distance. You can climb, drive or bike around the park and the top 5 walking tracks provide a variety of options to explore some spectacular areas of the park on foot.

And as for hang gliders, you can only jump (or fly) if you're trained and know what you're doing see Soar Hawkes Bay

Each track is a loop route: Piwakawaka Loop – 1.3km / Est 40 mins Big Redwoods Track – 2.7km / Est 1 hour Karaka Wander – 4.0km / Est 1 hr 15 mins Rongokako Trail – 5.5km / Est 2 hrs 15 mins Giant Circuit – 5.4km / Est 2 hrs 15 mins

To access these tracks, enter the park via the main gates carpark or Tauroa Road carpark. Te Mata Park has a rich human and geological history and is home to a range of unique plants and native birds. There are signs along the tracks identifying points of interest, and if you have a smartphone you can scan the QR codes to get the info on each site. There's good mobile phone reception in most areas of the park for the selfie at the top.

Fitness and Safety Take care on the tracks – some parts are very steep and may be slippery after wet or wintery weather. There are no toilets or drinking water either. And please help keep the park beautiful. Rubbish bins can be found at the carparks and the summit. The whole park is an off-lead area for dogs but stock is regularly grazed, so dogs must be controlled at all times.

Bikes are permitted on sections of track marked with orange ‘Shared Track’ stickers.

Lake Waikaremoana

Lake Waikaremoana, ‘the sea of rippling waters’ in Te Urewera National Park is just two hours’ drive from Gisborne but it feels like another world.

This ancestral home of Ngai Tuhoe, the ‘Children of the Mist’, is an enchanted land of legends and mystique. There are many sections to explore, of the spectacular 46km, 3-4 day Great Walk that meanders up and down through forests of giant podocarp trees to a string of idyllic, deserted beaches.

It’s a soothing, tranquil place, gentle on the eyes and spirit. There’s an absence of sharp shapes in the forest - everything is draped in soft moss that sparkles with diamantes after rain. Sunshine, filtered through leaves and ferns, is soft and mottled. Apart from the muffled footfall of boots on soft leaf litter, the only sounds are those of nature’s repertoire . . . gurgling streams, thunderous waterfalls and the native bird song.

If you are feeling energetic, tackle Day 1 of the Great Walk, the 1180m Panekiri Bluff with its breath-taking vistas of the ink-blue lake, encircled on all sides by dark green rainforest.

It takes about five hours (one-way) to hike the 8.8km from Onepoto to the Panekiri DoC hut with a steep climb followed by an undulating track along the ridge line to the Puketapu Trig and hut. Retrace your footsteps back to Onepoto, or plan ahead and book a night at the hut. Next day continue 3-4 hours along the ridge and then steeply down to the Waiopaoa Hut. (Hut fees and bookings apply and you will need to arrange transport back to Onepoto by water taxi).

Another favourite is the 30-minute side track to the 22m-high Korokoro Falls where you can creep along a ledge and stand behind a curtain of frothy water. Yes, you do get wet, but it’s pure magic looking through a waterfall, and a massive shot of negative ions.

The track is easy to moderate with a stream crossing where you can hang onto a wire rope and hop from boulder to boulder to keep your feet dry. The rocks can be slippery so a dry crossing can’t be guaranteed.

  • Korokoro Falls is a side track on day 3 of the Great Walk, only accessible by foot or boat.

Remember, before embarking on any big walk, check the weather, tell someone where you're going, plan the route, know your limits and take gear including water, food, jacket, torch, basic first aid kit and map of where you're walking (we're not kidding here, most search and rescues in New Zealand are because somebody get's lost, separated, doesn't have the right gear).

Shine Falls

Shine Falls is roughly a 1.5 hours drive away from Napier, and the last 12km is gravel road - but it's worth the trip!

The Shine Falls track is a 1.5 hour return walk, and leads to the base of the waterfall. The walk goes through the farmland and beneath towering sandstone bluffs. There are some uphill sections on the track as well as stream crossings, but they are all bridged and easy.

Getting there

From Napier, head north-east on SH2 and follow it for the next 43.5km until you see the 'Shine Falls' sign, where you need to turn left into Matahorua Rd. After 11km turn left into Heays Access Rd. Follow this road for 6.5 km until you reach a DOC car park, on your left, with a picnic table (no toilets).

Bell Rock

Distance: 5.3 km Duration: 3hr return.

Bell Rock is an icon lookout accessed reached via a medium intensity walk.

This track features a variety of vegetation and seasonal bird activities. The track climbs through mixed beech and podocarp to a forest dominated by gnarled beech and mountain holly trees and panoramic views. The low canopy provides opportunities to view large numbers of tui, bellbird and kereru. Expansive views from the top of the range include Mahia Peninsula, Te Kooti's Lookout, and the Kaweka mountain range.

Tangoio Falls

Tangoio Falls is absolutely gorgeous, and is particularly spectacular after rain.

Starting from the swing bridge at the carpark, the falls is a 50 minute retuirn walk which follows the stream. Tangoio Falls and Te Ana Falls are both accessed from the same starting point. They share the first 10 minutes then head in different directions. From the tracks junction uphill walking leads you to the waterfall's viewing platform. The track can be muddy and slippery - so take care! The base of the waterfall is officially inaccessible.

Return via the same track. Don't forget to walk a side track to Te Ana Falls (definitely worth it!) - it will take just 5 minutes from the tracks junction to reach the falls.

Getting there

From Napier, travel north on the SH2 for 25 km. A large car park is on your right and well signposted. There are picnic tables available (no toilets).

Sugar Loaf Hill

On the summit of the hill was once Pukekura Pa, an outpost pa of Otatara Pa and Hikurangi Pa, built and occupied at about the same time. Mr G Halliwell bought the hill and surrounding land from Henry Tiffen in the 1980s. It has always been a focus for recreation and a symbol in the area, probably due to the magnificent 360-degree views of Hawke's Bay from the summit. In the 1920s it was site of moonlight particularly popular with the younger set, and in the 1930s motor bike races were held in Taradale each Easter and the hill climb section took the riders up the steep slopes of Sugar Loaf. The hill did not escape unscathed in the earthquake of 1931. Church Road Winery winemaker Tom McDonald recalled 'seeing the top of the hill rise up in the air and fall down again an estimated seven feet'. The Halliwell family gave the summit and surrounding area in the 1980s to be retained as a reserve.

Eastern views from the summit cover the Napier-Taradale area and much of the Heretaunga Plains, while western views include the Ruahine and Kaweka Ranges. The track to the summit is steep especially from the Cumberland Rise entrance. The walk is graded moderate to difficult. Care should be taken in wet conditions.

Otatara Pa Historic Reserve

Otatara Pa spans an upper pa (Hikurangi) and a lower pa (Otatara). Today, visitors to the pa can see the remains of terraces, dwelling sites and food storage pits and imagine the lively community that Otatara once was.

The pa complex covers over 40 hectares and is one of the largest and oldest in Hawke's Bay. It was favoured for its strategic location, providing expansive views and access to a range of natural resources. This meant it was regarded by many Iwi as the greatest pa in the district and ownership was strongly contested at times.

Turauwha was a paramount chief in Hawke's Bay, based at Otatara. Around 400 years ago, Taraia led Ngati Kahungunu to Heretaunga where they attacked Otatara. Through occupation, conquest marriage and mana (power, influence), the Iwi expanded to dominate Hawke's Bay and the Wairarapa. Otatara commorates the mana of Turauwha and Taraia and is linked through whakapapa to people and places throughout New Zealand.

In 1973 part of the pa was designated a historic reserve to protect its remaining features. In 1987 management of the reserve was passed to DOC which has continued to add parts of the pa to the historic reserve. Otatara Pa has been registered as a Category 1 Historic Place. This status is given to places of 'special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value' by Historic Places Trust.

Ahuriri Estuary

Estuary Walk: 3.8km, 45 - 60 mins.

This important wetland is a sanctuary for a wide variety of wading birds including grey herons, royal spoonbills and pied stilts. Shags, kingfishers and even gannets may also be spotted diving for fish in this area.

Along the trail, information boards provide information about the history of the area, its flora and fauna and the dynamics of the habitat.

Starting from the car park at the end of Humber Street, follow the track from the information signboard down the slope and across the creek. At low tide, small crabs cautiously emerge from their holes in the exposed mud banks.

The formed track crosses an open area of grassland and winds through stands of eucalypt trees planted to screen industrial buildings on the boundary of the Estuary Reserve. Bridging a tidal drain, the route takes you up an embankment that marks the furthest extent of several land reclamations undertaken by the Hawke's Bay Harbour Board between 1931 and 1989.

Maraetotara Falls

One of the Hastings District’s best kept secrets, Maraetotara Falls is a hidden natural treasure situated between Havelock North and Waimarama Beach. Approximately 15 minutes’ drive from Havelock North Village, the Falls stretch about 1km long with a pretty waterfall at the top end and a heritage power station at the other. Enjoy a dip in the crystal clear water or take the plunge by swinging from the tree rope if you’re feeling brave! If you’d rather keep out of the water then take a walk along the track following the trickling stream. Both the waterfall and the walking track can be accessed from three different points on Maraetotara Road, each with its own small carpark area.

The Redwoods Te Mata Peak

Nestled underneath Te Mata Peak on the outskirts of Havelock North, a large grove of 223 California redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) stand over 40 meters high. The tallest living tree species on Earth, these redwoods were planted in 1927 by The Chambers Family who recognised Hawke’s Bay’s climate shared similarities with coastal California. Over time the trees have clustered together, with their tapering crowns and horizontal branches creating an enormous parasol and remarkable forest that is easy to explore on foot.

Drop the car off at the ‘Main Gates Car Park’ at the base of Te Mata Peak and take your pick of paths to follow. Hop on the ‘Big Redwoods Track’ for the shortest and most direct option to the Redwoods. Taking approximately 1 hour, this rugged yet relatively flat 2.7km loop offers unparalleled views of the Heretaunga Plains, native bush and, of course, the slumbering giants. The forest floor littered with russet coloured leaves and stoic roots combine to create a stunning backdrop perfect for an afternoon picnic, wedding or just a refreshing spot on a scorching summer day.

Fortunately, the trees have a lifespan of 2500 – 3500 years so there’s plenty of time to put on your walking shoes and plan a trip to see them!

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