Track Review: Cape Brett

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This week on the Macpac Blog, Petra and Shaun – The Global Couple – review their experience doing an overnight hike on the Cape Brett Track in Northland, New Zealand. Despite adverse weather spoiling the stunning views the track is known for, they had a great time, ticking their first ever overnight hike off their bucket list.

Who is the Global Couple?

We’re Petra and Shaun, two twenty-something New Zealanders who love travel at home and across the globe. We love road trips, street food, and wandering with no destination in mind!

Our New Years Eve Adventure

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for New Year’s Eve?

Partied in Vegas? Seen the ball drop in Times Square? Danced on the beach in Koh Phangan?

We’ve had our fair share of partying on New Year’s Eve, so this year we decided to do something a bit different. We decided to go on an overnight hike.

Cape Brett Track

The Cape Brett Track is a 16km return track that is located on the east coast of Northland in New Zealand, in the Bay of Islands. Considering we would be at our family holiday home for the week surrounding New Year’s Eve anyway, which is only a 10 minute drive from the Cape Brett Track trailhead, it totally made sense!

Although we love hiking, we’d yet to do an overnight hike (I’d done some way back in my teenage years, but had had a rather long hiatus!). With our new packs from Macpac, we were now well equipped to tackle an overnighter.

The Cape Brett Track is considered an advanced tramping track, and follows the Cape Brett Peninsula from Oke Bay out to Cape Brett. There’s a 23-bed hut at Cape Brett, and it costs $15 per night plus a $30 permit to cross private land while on the track. See the Department of Conservation website for more details.

Tramping time

Fortunately, there’s another track that hooks into the main track coming up from Deep Water Cove, which is only accessible by boat. You can get dropped there by water taxi from Rawhiti or Russell (at an exorbitant cost), but Petra’s brother kindly dropped us there. From Deep Water Cove it’s a 2.5 hour walk to the hut, and then a 7.5 hour walk back to the trailhead at Oke Bay the next day.

The weather forecast got worse and worse in the days before we were supposed to start the hike. It was going to be windy and rainy, and as the Cape Brett Peninsula is pretty exposed, we were worried it was going to be a bit of a washout – a shame to have our first overnight hiking experience ruined by the weather!

New Year’s Eve, the day we set off, was overcast, moody, and the wind was starting to pick up. We got a bit bumped around heading out to Deep Water Cove in our small trailer boat, but got dropped off successfully. At least it hadn’t started raining!

The track from Deep Water Cove up to the ridge, connecting to the Cape Brett Track, was nearly vertical in places. What a way to start! I forgot to mention that we had to carry drinking and cooking water for the two days, as the water supply at the hut couldn’t be guaranteed. So we were carrying pretty damn heavy packs (considering we’d never done this before).

It was awfully humid so by the time we connected with the main track, about half an hour later, we were sweating profusely.

The next two hours were the most challenging of the whole track. Because the track follows the ridge of the peninsula the majority of the way, it’s up and down and up and down and pretty much no flat parts. The track gets quite exposed in places, with steep dropoffs on either side down to the ocean. It was exhausting, to say the least.

But the views are worth it – the rugged coast is stunning and the native bush is serene. It’s a scenic reserve so the forest is protected, and pest control is hoping to bring back more native birds.

Made it to the Cape!

Finally we made it to the Cape Brett Lighthouse, built in 1906. The lighthouse also operated as a signal station during WWII, and a small military post was also established there. What is now the Department of Conservation trampers hut used to be the lighthouse keeper’s house.

We zig-zagged down the hill from the lighthouse to get to the hut, which had a fantastic view over the ocean. It was so good to take off our heavy packs and claim a bunk!

There were a few people at the hut already, and more people arrived over the next few hours. Like us, everybody seemed pretty exhausted. Glad we weren’t the only ones! Throughout the afternoon we saw tour boats come past that were heading to the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’ (yes, it’s an actual hole in a rock that the boats go through). We cooked our delightful freeze dried meal for dinner and downed our celebratory bottle of red wine, and trotted off to bed – we were a bit too tired to make it to midnight!

Rain, rain, go away

The weather deteriorated during the night and the wind howled around the hut, shaking the walls and the beds. So we didn’t get a lot of sleep! Up early the next morning, we decided to head off to try and beat the worst of the weather. Ha. The photo below is about 10 minutes from the hut, it was blowing a gale and pissing with rain already!

It was absolutely blowing and the exposed parts of the track were quite interesting! Having a big pack on our backs increases your size somewhat and we were getting blown around a bit. It was hilarious at one point when we were dreading a long uphill stretch, but the force of the wind propelled us so fast up the hill that we were almost running! Unfortunately that didn’t happen on all of the uphills. If only.

It was pouring with rain for most of the hike back, so we didn’t see the gorgeous views over the Bay of Islands that the track is known for. What a shame! The rain caused rivers to run down the track, and raised streams that would have been an easy step over the day before to 2 metre-wide raging torrents. And of course we were absolutely soaked, despite our wet weather gear. It definitely made for an interesting day!

Finally, we arrived at the Oke Bay trailhead where Petra’s mum was waiting to pick us up. Peeling off our wet clothes and the subsequent hot shower was just amazing!

The Cape Brett Track was a challenging hike, for sure. Especially in the weather conditions we experienced! But we had a great time, and we can say that we’ve ticked off something we’ve wanting to do for ages – an overnight hike. Now, which one should we do next?

For more on Petra and Shaun’s adventures, check out their website and original post on The Global Couple blog – or you can check out their updates on Facebook and Instagram.