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Hero image: Punakaiki looking back over Paparoa National Park. Cedit: Neil Silverwood
New Zealand's 10th Great Walk, the Paparoa Track, is set to open December 2019. Ideal for mountain bikers and hikers, this Great Walk traverses the Paparoa Range's limestone landscapes and verdant rainforest with astonishing views in every direction.
The rugged west coast of New Zealand’s South Island attracts travellers in search of the country’s wild heart. Not only is the Paparoa Track New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, the spectacular trail also features a side trip that serves as a memorial to the 29 men who lost their lives in the Pike River Mine tragedy.
Mountain bikers on Paparoa Track. Credit: Jason Blair
Māori for “Long Place”, this spectacular mountain range looks out over the South Island’s dramatic west coast, punctuated by peaks and threaded with rivers. On the new Paparoa Track, hikers will experience the Pororari River Gorge, towering limestone cliffs, remnants from the region’s mining history and ever-changing forest that transforms from beech to rainforest, studded with nīkau palms. A standalone walk or add-on is the Pike29 Memorial Track, an 11km (one-way) tribute to the men who lost their lives in the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster.
Whether you’re enveloped in native bush or admiring the panoramas in that special New Zealand light, this trail offers breathtaking views that change with the seasons. There are steep sections (particularly challenging in rain), but the rewards make the slog an afterthought.
Your walk will begin on the well-loved Croesus Track, which, after about 20km, reaches the newly constructed Moonlight Tops Hut. With views across the Punakaiki River to the Pike Stream escarpment and off to the Tasman Sea, the 20-bunk hut will make you feel on top of the world – especially at sunset.
Moonlight Tops Hut. Credit: Neil Silverwood
Paparoa National Park covers about 38,000ha. The Paparoa Wildlife Trust works with the Department of Conservation to make it a haven for some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable species. With networks of traps to control predators and a 12.5ha kiwi creche, there’s a strong chance visitors will hear – or even see – roroa (great spotted kiwi). Other birds unique to New Zealand that live around these parts include the ruru (native owl), korimako (bellbird), kereru (pigeon), whio (blue duck) and tūī. It’s a good idea to carry a pocket guide to birds, or even download an app that recognises bird calls.
The ideal time to walk is between September and May. At 55km from end to end (not including the Pike29 Memorial Track), the trail takes three days to complete on foot.
Ces Clark Hut. Credit: Neil Silverwood
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