Track Review:
Paekakariki Escarpment Track

Macpac Ambassador Nick Allen recently walked he Paekakariki Escarpment Track – a trail that takes you from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay, just north of Wellington. He reviews his adventure for the Log Book. 

I don’t do enough coastal walks — or so I now realise. I love the mountains but there is something particularly magic about walking the coast on a sunny day.

It was my first time on the Paekakariki Escarpment Track. I’d heard a lot about it — the stairs, the views, and the great cafes at the end — and had been meaning to walk the 10km trail for a while.

I’m training for an upcoming climb and was looking for something to do. The thought of wading through waist-deep snow a day after a massive southerly dump was unappealing, so I decided it was time to walk the track – but I wanted to walk it with someone

After my climb in Nepal in 2015, my Multiple Sclerosis flared up and I lost a lot of my fitness — an outcome I’ve been working hard to rectify. When I exercise on my own, I find it easy to lose a sense of how I am progressing. Perhaps I’m too quick to adopt an overly negative view of my fitness and health, but I often find myself feeling anxious about tramping or climbing with others, for fear that I will hold them back or be too slow. This leaves me feeling isolated. Training with others offers a reference point that can reassure and motivate me. I gave Nina, my friend and climbing buddy, and a quick message and invited her along.

Nina and I on a swing bridge on the Paekakariki Escarpment Track

Saturday rolled around and there could not have been a more perfect day for the walk. It was sunny and still. I can’t forget the first views of the coast, seen as we began to climb above the escarpment from Paekakariki. We could see the South Island, including the

Tapuae-o-Uenuku and the Inland Kaikoura Range — all covered in a heavy blanket of white. Kapiti Island sat on the horizon. The sea sparkled and rolled beneath us. It was blissful.

Often, it felt like we were on a path suspended above the ocean.

Often, it felt like we were on a path suspended above the ocean.

Nina and I chatted our way up and down the endless flights of stairs, which were not quite as brutal as I’d been told. The view, however, exceeded my expectations: it was stunning. And thrilling. I often felt like we were walking on the edge of a precipice falling into the ocean. The shaded groves of bush provided delightful, albeit intermittent moments of shade. I understood why people loved the track so much.

We arrived at Pukerua Bay. Rather than catch the train back to Paekakariki and our parked cars, we decided to walk back and do the track all over again. We kept reminding ourselves of the training benefits – a thought that didn’t really do anything to mitigate the burning in my quads.

Walking back to the car, enjoying the view along the coast, toward the Inland Kaikoura Range.

Walking back to the car, enjoying the view along the coast, toward the Inland Kaikoura Range.

We approached the end of our walk as the afternoon light fell gently on the coast, making it all the more beautiful. Nina and I both donned our awesome Macpac Prothermal tops, staving off the chilly air. We got back to our cars at Paekakariki and I felt encouraged, grateful to have trained with a friend. We then proceeded to walk down to a local cafe, for a quick celebratory cup of tea.

The Paekakariki is a great track for people of all fitness levels. The track time ranges from 2-4hrs. With a couple of swing bridges, kids would love the trip too. If you want to do the track one way, I’d recommend you park at Paekakariki train station and catch the train to Pukerua Bay. Starting the track at Pukerua Bay means that you can finish the walk at one of Paekakariki’s great cafes.