I can’t remember how many times I’ve driven past the little brown sign on State Highway One – pointing down a lonely narrow country backroad, enticing me with three simple words “Kaikoura Coastal Track”.
Every time I’ve either been heading off on another adventure, or racing home to throw some washing in the general direction of the laundry before going back to work and save up some more $$ for the next adventure.
But in my experience you can only drive past a sign like that so many times, or sail up and down the coastline out the front, before you think to yourself: “I MUST go and do that walk one day”. So I mustered some friends together, booked us in and finally we were about to go down that little road and find out exactly what was down there.
Heather welcomed us as we pulled up at the Beach House. The cosy farm cottage is located in a prime position overlooking the ocean, we could hear the waves breaking on the beach below. Fresh flowers adorned the table and a friendly note encouraged us to make ourselves at home. There was plenty of space for all 10 of us to spread out in the different bedrooms, and we set the alarm to get up and watch the sunrise the following morning, before pouring a few glasses of wine and settling in for the night.
Unfortunately in the morning the low cloud put a damper on any stunning sunrise views, but surprisingly the cooler weather was quite appealing to us after the sweltering dry heat of the summer.
We made a fabulous cooked breakfast and a buffet of delicacies with which to fill our lunch wraps, before packing up our gear and leaving it in a pile to be very conveniently transferred to the next hut.
It is amazing how much more gear you actually pack when you don’t need to carry it yourself. Fresh clothes, fluffy towels, bottles of wine, loads of fresh food… in fact having your gear transported from one place to the next is just one of the many luxuries you get when walking a private track. Fantastic!
So with just our day-packs on our back, and dressed in our jackets to keep the drizzle out, we were finally ready to head off on the first leg.
I’d brought my own hiking poles, but there were some available to borrow at the house if you’d forgotten to bring your own, and they make a huge difference if you’ve got dodgy knees like mine.
We set off about 9.30am, firstly walking along the road and then dropping down on to the black sandy beach. We passed a lazy seal resting on the sand who eyed us suspiciously as we sneaked by.
The Southerly swell waves smashed up the beach sending fingers of foam snapping at our heels as we walked along the soft sand. Hectors dolphins jumped in the distance and sea birds swooped and soared over the ocean in hunt of their next meal. The clay cliffs framing the beach eroded away to show layers of sediment, stumps from ancient forests, and interesting patterns in the rocks. Pretty pink seaweed, and delicate sponges sparkled like Christmas decorations and interesting shaped drift wood had us all fossicking around for treasures as we hiked down the coast.
After three hours on the beach our legs were burning from walking on the soft sand. A large flag and sign indicated we’d reached our turning point and we headed up a valley and in to a little lunch oasis. Medina, the site of an ancient Maori campsite was a welcome place to stop and rest. Complete with a flushing ‘loo with a view’, a fire pit, and kettle with which to make a hot drink from the complimentary tea, coffee and mugs provided. Luxury!
After lunch, Naomi slipped over and impaled her knee on a protruding stick, but after patching herself up, we were off again, up a hill and over the farmland to a stunning vista and another welcome bench on which to rest. Complete with a pair of binoculars tucked in a box for hikers to use.
We traversed across a few paddocks before heading in to the native forest, criss crossing over a small creek. The land in this area has been fenced off from the rest of the farm, allowing the bush to regenerate and providing a home for our stunning New Zealand native birds and their famous bird-song. The area is now protected under the QEII Covenant so will be preserved forever more.
Spot the fantail, hug some trees and have a rest.
Eventually we popped out of the forest and back up on to the farmland, passing paddocks of friendly sheep and a beautiful pond, before eventually reaching the Whare, our next night’s accommodation, around 3pm.
Hot showers are another great reason to do a private walk, as is a cold fridge, a huge oven, and soft beds. Our bags were waiting for us on the porch, along with our chilli-bins full of our food. We did some surgery on Naomi’s knee with the pretty impressive array of medical supplies in our back-packs, and after patching her up and administering some medicinal beer, we tucked in to a huge meal of lasagne made by my lovely Mum.
The following morning Sandy collected us from the Whare and drove us 20 mins to the start of the day 2 track, while Naomi headed off to Kaikoura for a tetanus injection and some proper medical attention.
The track slowly climbed up through pine trees and then up in to another protected area of ancient beech forest. Up, up, up we climbed, our heads occasionally popping out of the forest to catch glimpses of the Kaikoura mountain range further inland, and the valley below. Some strategically placed benches along the way provided a welcome stop to rest to catch your breath, grab a drink and a snack before pushing onwards. I seemed to be slogging very slowly along while the kids trotted merrily along setting a cracking pace up ahead.
We eventually reached the saddle and the spectacular view back down towards the ocean. A scramble up to the top of Skull Peak provided an incredible 360º panorama of the territory we’d covered over the last two days.
We gradually climbed again to Skull Peak shelter, a small hut with an incredible view, facilities for making another hot drink, fresh water, a flushing toilet and some soft seats to sit, scoff our sandwiches and rest our sore legs out of the breeze.
Far below us we could see the Beach House – our end destination. It seemed like miles away, but we made quick progress down the hill, crossing farmland, and then down in to a thickly forested gully. We all set our own pace and I was often walking along alone, with just the sound of the birds singing, the wind in the trees above, and the occasional farm animal in the distance.
Eventually we made it back to the road, and a short walk along the waterfront to the Beach House where we started and had left our cars. Sandy had delivered our bags back, along with a jug of freshly made lemonade and some biscuits which we greedily scoffed down while we peeled our sweaty clothes off and prepared to drive back to Christchurch – two hours down the road.
We loved the Kaikoura Coast Track, there was such a broad diversity in the landscape, from the wild beach, to the native bush, wide open farmland, to high peaks and stunning views. The accommodation was brilliant with all the comforts of home, and having your packs carried from one place to the next takes a load off your legs and means you can bring proper food – and wine! Being a private track, you’re never bumping in to other hikers. In fact other than Sandy and Heather, we didn’t see any other people other than our group for the whole weekend. You really feel like you are in your own private wilderness. The lunch huts, complete with hot water, tea & coffee and flushing toilets were an added and much appreciated luxury you just don’t get on public tracks.
The price is NZD$210 per adult and there are discounts for children and groups of 10.
More info and book online here: Kaikoura Coast Track
- The Kaikoura Track is located 2 hours drive north of Christchurch in NZ’s South Island
- Two days – 26km
- Price includes accomodation, showers, pillows, fully equipped kitchens, hot showers, pack cartage, and 26km of pristine private walking track
- Maximum 10 people at a time
- Basic food items are available for sale in the huts, or pre-arrange your meals, or bring your own.
Check out Seth’s fantastic short video of the adventure, and subscribe to his Explore NZ channel on YouTube for more awesome adventures.
Other walks we have done:
Many thanks to Seth, Craig, Logan, James, Elisa, Naomi, Dean, Bailee & Hadleigh who came with me on this adventure.