Banks Peninsula Walk (Self-Guided)
Days 4 | Grade: Easy-Moderate
Spectacular coastline, native bush, waterfalls and sandy beaches
You quickly gain height after passing the Onuku farm buildings, following the grass farm road to the abandoned site of Paradise Farm. Continue up through open pasture with stunning views of Akaroa Inner Harbour, until finally reaching Trig GG, the highest point on the walk. From here, on clear days, there are spectacular views over to the Southern Alps. Soon after, you come to a walkers’ shelter, before crossing over the crater rim. A brief road section starts your descent into Flea Bay.
You then turn off at Mortlock’s Mistake, following the stream through conservation reserves with red beech and regrowth hardwood forest, and a series of four waterfalls (with access behind the veil of the last one), before emerging into the grazed land of the valley floor. During the last 20 minutes of the day’s walk, you pass Nikau palms at their southernmost limit. Your second night’s accommodation, the Flea Bay Cottage, is just 200m from the beach and Pohatu marine reserve.
The Track leaves Flea Bay by climbing to 150 metres altitude and then traversing along the eastern side of the bay above Pohatu marine reserve – giving good views, with seats provided for dolphin and penguin watching. The narrow track then continues on through the DOC penguin sanctuary area, and rounds the tip of the headland before reaching the gully above Island Nook.
From here it follows the dramatic clifftop route to the iron oxide stained cliffs of Redcliffe Point, before dropping down to the ‘Gull and Shag’ shelter built against the rock wall. You cross a stream here near the Seal Cave, a reliable haunt of fur seals – often seen swimming and playing with their young amongst the rocks, or curled up asleep in the cave. The track climbs steeply after this point up to the ridge (with great views to Pompeys Pillar to the north), and then follows the coast before a steep descent brings you down onto the beach.
Finally, you cross the small creek and walk a hundred yards up the valley to your third night’s accommodation, the Stony Bay Cottages.
You then swing inland again, past rock-walled Blind Bay, up a bushy gully, and out to the southern headland of Sleepy Bay with its spectacular view of the Sea Arch. Sheltered Sleepy Bay is in delightful contrast, a good place to lunch or linger – its high bush-girt waterfall is just a couple of minutes off the main track. You cross one more spur, passing the site where Ngai Tahu warriors fought a decisive battle with Ngati Mamoe some 300 years ago, before joining the broad farm track down to Otanerito beach.
Your fourth night’s accommodation is at the Otanerito Farm House. Walks to ‘Fantail falls’ or the ‘Stones’ viewpoint are options for the energetic, after arrival at the Farm House.
Arrive Akaroa – early afternoon. The first kilometre from Otanerito beach is through farmland alongside the creek, but for most of the way upvalley the route traverses Hinewai Reserve through extensive regenerating native forest and some mature old-growth beech forest. The gradient is gentle at first, following the lower reaches of Narbey Stream, with short sidetracks leading to waterfalls.
The second half of the ascent is steeper, but under shady forest canopies. Eventually you emerge into a parkland of native trees and pasture at Brocheries Flat, before making the last short climb to Purple Peak saddle, 590m above sea level. Akaroa Harbour spreads out below you like a satellite image. For the energetic, a 40 minute steep side track leads to the even loftier viewpoint of Taraterehu, or Stony Bay Peak, 806m.
From the saddle, the track descends quite steeply through grassy farmland gullied with native bush and surrounded by spacious views in all directions, finally entering town by Mt Vernon Lodge and Rue Balguerie.