My first weekend off the bike lead me on the Three-Day Banks Track walk, taking you on a journey through forest and farmland, over the rim of an extinct volcano and into otherwise inaccessible bays on Banks Peninsula.
Walking across private farmland, along the coast of Banks Peninsula’s south-east corner, passing the Pōhatu Marine Reserve, through land reserves including Tutakakahikura and Hinewai Reserves, past penguin, gull and shearwater breeding colonies. The diversity of scenery, flora and fauna, accommodation and views combine to create a stunning experience, one that I’d do again!
Over three days and three nights you’ll complete a 31 km, 1700m vertical metre journey that starts and finishes in picturesque Akaroa.
The start of the tramp involves a quick bus trip from Akaroa’s old Post Office at 5.30 pm, to Onuku Trampers Hut, just 20 minutes away. Onuku Hut is well equipped, has hot water, power and plenty of amenities. There is even a choice of sleeping in a star gazing tripod for the night, which I'd highly recommend if the temperature isn't too cold. The first night is a great opportunity to get to know the rest of your group.
You'll climb from Onuku Trampers Hut, through private farmland to Trig GG at 699m, over the rim of the extinct volcano and down into Flea Bay through the Tutakakahikura Reserve.
Straight out the gates of Onuku Hut the walk starts! Straight up, with little let up until you reach Trig GG. Climbing some 550 vertical meters in a matter of 5km gave me an appreciation for the fitness of regular trampers or my lack of. There is an excursion on the way up to a lookout with some stunning views of Akaroa coast, well worth it for an additional 20 minutes.
In total, the walk took just under 4 hours, with a couple of rests along the way. Well inside the time guidance of 5-7 hours. Make sure you stop and take in the 360-degree views at Trig GG.
Arriving at the second night’s accommodation in Flea Bay Cottage was a reminder of just how beautiful the bays are in Banks Peninsula. The amenities at Flea Bay are great, nothing a miss, apart from the cell phone reception which was nice not to have.
Flea Bay also has the largest Australasian Little Penguin colony on mainland New Zealand. You can take a free tour of this in the evening during the season from September to mid-February and the second week in April. Although the season was nearly finished we still got to see a couple of chicks coming ashore, plus some interesting facts and help on preserving these birds. There is also an addition of a Sea Kayaking tour on the next morning here too. You can check out the link for the tours here https://www.pohatu.co.nz/
With penguins under the hut at night, made for slightly restless sleep. The second days walk is from Flea Bay along the coast of the Pohatu Marine Reserve, through the headlands to Stony Bay.
The legs were certainly tired after yesterday's effort, so the gentler 2 hours walk was much appreciated today. This part of the tramp offers the most spectacular views along the coast and of Redcliffs. Taking the excursion into the seal cave was certainly a highlight, sitting there for about half an hour watching baby seals playing in the cave.
Arriving at Stony Bay Cottage I was immediately taken back, the setting looks a lot like hobit vill. The amenities here are a little more basic without electricity and ovens, but has everything else including a little store to stock up on a few essentials, like a can of coke and beer after dinner. There are also 2 outside baths here which you can soak the legs in for a rest and relax.
The final day takes you back over the hill into Akaroa, 660m up, 550m down over 11km, taking 3 and ½ hours.
The route includes walking through some of Hinewai Reserve, which was just spectacular and takes your mind off all the climbing. The Hinewai Reserve is a 1250 hectare ecological restoration project on Banks Peninsula, privately owned and managed by the Maurice White Native Forest Trust, but freely open the public on foot. A great day trip for the keen walker, more information here https://www.hinewai.org.nz
Walking back over the rim of the extinct volcano and down into Akaroa to finish the weekend. Arriving early afternoon, perfect timing for lunch.
Banks Track also offers private rooms and sleeping bag hire. Paying the extra for a private room in hindsight wasn’t worth it. The cottages have separate rooms in them, so depending on how many are on your tour you're more than likely to be in your own room. The toilets and showers are also located inside the cottages, so if you're in a private room you’ll need to tramp across to use these.
You're packs are carted for you as you walk, in hindsight I went a little minimalistic on the food and would certainly not go without next time. The kitchens are well equipped with everything you’d need to cook and prepare the best of meals.
Make sure you take cash, you’ll need this to buy anything along the way.
There is no cell phone reception from halfway through the 1st days walk to halfway through the last day.
If you're keen to find out more, head to https://www.bankstrack.co.nz/
You can check out the days Strava segments on Richards page here https://www.strava.com/athletes/2115886
If you have any further questions leave a comment and we'll get back to you.