Punakaiki and Paparoa Track Great Walk
Day 1. Smoke-ho car park to Ces Clark Hut (10.3km, elevation 1000m)
We did the short 3 hour drive from Christchurch, starting the Paparoa Track from the south at Blackball.
We chose to base ourselves in Punakaiki before and after the walk, and stayed at the Punakaiki Beachfront Motels which was super convenient. We stayed in one of the Tui cabins with full kitchen facilities. This meant we could cook our own dinner and have a hearty kiwi breakfast prior to starting the track in the morning.
We pre-arranged a shuttle with a provider in the area, and drove down to the pick up area in the morning, leaving our car with them before heading off to the start of the track. Our shuttle driver was full of local knowledge, providing some interesting history along the way. We stopped in Blackball for a coffee boost and to pick up some of the famous Blackball salami and then were back on the road to the start of the track.
It was a chilly morning as we were completing the track in June, but it was clear stunning skies, and came prepared with warm clothes, so we weren’t too worried!
We opted for a more leisurely walk and chose to complete the track over 3 nights, so our first leg was up to Ces Clark Hut. We spent most of the day exploring along the track, making a stop at Garden Gully Hut and then crossing the river to view a bit of history at the stamping battery. One funny moment I remember was sneaking around because we thought we saw a little kiwi, but turned out to be a very inquisitive weka! Same same but very different!
As we neared the hut it started to drizzle, so we were very pleased to come across the hut warden on her way out who told us that the fire inside the hut was already lit and ready to warm our chilly hands and feet. Ces Clark is a small 16 bunk hut which over the summer months can be very full, but we were lucky enough to have the whole hut to ourselves for the night seeing as it was the depths of winter.
Day 2. Ces Clarke to Moonlight Tops Hut (9.7km)
We woke to another clear frosty morning, with stunning views from the hut we had missed when we walked in the night before.
Day two saw our expedition head to the Moonlight Tops Hut. We had time to do the side trip up to Croesus Knob which to be honest was tough, however the effort was well rewarded with 360 views out to the mountains and sea.
We arrived at the Moonlight Tops early so dropped our bags and headed out to explore further down the Moonlight Track. As darkness approached, we headed back to the hut just in time to see the sunset over the west coast.
Day 3. Moonlight Tops Hut to Pororari Hut (19.1km)
By this stage in our journey we were tired, but excited to be on our way to the Pororari Hut. The forecast was for rain, so we left early to see if we could out run/walk the wet, but Mother Nature had other plans.
The clouds and rain actually were quite beautiful, giving us a more moody feeling to the scenery, but then as the weather decided to clear at the hut we were treated to another beautiful sunset to end our last night.
Day 4. Pororari Hut to Punakaiki (16km)
Our final leg back to Punakaiki was a stunningly warm winter’s day. It even gave me thoughts of taking a quick dip in the river, but decided to leave that till next time in the summer! The scenery is ever changing on the Paparoa Track, and our final day had more distinctly more tropical feel to it with nikau palms on full display.
As we came out at the finishing point in Punakaiki, we knew we were only a few minutes’ walk to our car and then only another minute to our accommodation. We definitely were thankful at this stage that we chose to stay so close to the end of the track with a hot shower and clean clothes just around the corner.
Once we had showered, relaxed and just sat for a moment, we were treated to another stunning Punakaiki sunset right on our doorstep… my camera certainly got a full workout with all the amazing landscapes and sunsets. We then headed off to the Punakaiki Rocks Hotel and Garden Bar just down the road for hearty dinner and a well earned drink… or two!