Omaui Track Hero
Photo by Asher Wilson-Goldman

Competition - what's your favourite track for the year? Here's my top five

Competition prizes

Win one of two Kahuna 18 daypacks. The first prize bag also includes a lunch box and drink bottle, sunscreen, a survival bag and a towel.

Competition: what's your favourite track of the year?

Send a short story (photos are more than welcome too) about your favourite walk, bike or horse ride of the last twelve months to by 28 February 2019.

All entries go in to win a great collection of outdoor goodies. We may post entries we receive on our website and social media.

To get us started, Asher Wilson-Goldman, the Communications Manager for the Walking Access Commission, offers his five favourite short walks of the year here.

Omaui Track, Southland

One of the perks of working for the Walking Access Commission is getting to see some of the most beautiful parts of Aotearoa. This year my job took me to Southland for the first time in my life. While there, I met with members of the Omaui Tracks Trust. Omaui is a small community halfway between Invercargill and Bluff. The Trust won an Outdoor Access Champion Award this year for its efforts to create a brilliant new short walk through council, private and Department of Conservation land on Omaui Hill.

I gladly walked the track with some of the trust members, which took us uphill on a nicely formed track through trees, before crossing a sliver of private land and entering a lush area of native bush including some lovely mamaku (tree ferns). At the top of the track, a clearing looks out towards Bluff Hill, Rakiura / Stewart Island and along the southern coast of Te Waipounamu / the South Island.

The track is approximately 90 minutes return, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot native kakariki amongst other birdlife. It’s a true gem and I’m excited to see how the trust will bring to life some of its plans for further tracks in the area.

More info:

Fensham Reserve, Carterton

Fensham Reserve

I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the Wairarapa in recent years, but Carterton has always been a place I’ve driven through rather than stopped. Over Labour Weekend, my wife and I decided to change that, and I’m definitely glad we did.

On top of the fabulous food in Carterton, we found a lovely, little loop track in Fensham Reserve, only ten minutes’ drive away. Forest and Bird own the reserve, and is undertaking significant restoration and pest control work, making it one of the best remaining examples of Wairarapa plains forest around.

The track itself is a simple one-hour loop, including a mix of established forest (with kahikatea estimated at 700-years old), regenerating bush and wetland. My favourite part was the numerous brave tūī who accompanied our stroll, getting much closer to us than they normally would and allowing for some lovely photos. Pīwakawaka (fantails) were also plentiful and their chatter filled the forest.

More info:

Wilkinson Track, Kāpiti Island

Kapiti Island

For anyone travelling north from Wellington on State Highway 1, Kāpiti Island is hard to miss. Close to the shore, stunningly green and rising more than 500 metres above sea level, the Island calls for us to explore its beauty.

All journeys to the island start from Paraparaumu Beach, with a crucial biosecurity check to safeguard the island’s predator-free status. A short boat ride to Rangatira on the eastern shore is followed by an introduction to the Māori and Pākehā history of the area, and a description of the flora and fauna that awaits.

The Wilkinson Track is the easier of two paths from Rangatira to Tūteremoana, the highest point on the island. Birdlife is abundant and includes kākā, tīeke (saddleback), kokako and more. Several bird feeders along the track help to keep the population healthy and easy to see.

At Tūteremoana, there’s plenty of space for a lunchtime picnic (just keep your food away from the inquisitive weka) and gorgeous 360-degree views over the stark and steep western cliffs and across to the towns and villages of the Kāpiti coast.

More info:

Paekakariki Escarpment Track

Paekakariki Escarpment Track

Comfortably the most challenging of the tracks on this list, the Escarpment Track is not for anyone afraid of steps or of height. While the track can be walked in either direction (with great train connections at both ends), parts of it are too narrow to pass any oncoming traffic in the opposite direction.

The track is one of the true gems of Te Araroa, the trail that runs the full length of New Zealand from Cape Reinga to Bluff. But it’s also one of the best short walks around in its own right. The stunning views available include the coast below, Kāpiti and Mana islands and, on fine days, the Marlborough Sounds and Kaikōura ranges.

Most of the track is exposed so avoid rainy or windy days, but on the right day it is an absolute delight. There are plenty of places to stop along the way for a picnic lunch or a short break from the constant steps. Two swing bridges offer excellent opportunities to grab that perfect photo.

Local volunteer group Ngā Uruora do a fantastic job of planting native plants and weed/pest control in the area. Their vision of a native bird corridor stretching from Kāpiti Island to the Tararua Ranges is an inspiring one. You can see one of their projects, a fenced home for native lizards, partway along the track.

More info:

Wetland tracks - Wharemauku Stream, Mackays to Peka Peka Shared Path, Queen Elizabeth Park - Kāpiti Coast

M2PP Shared Pathway

Mackays to Peka Peka Shared Path (photo by NZTA)

You’ll notice a distinct emphasis on the Kāpiti Coast in my list, which is unsurprising given that it’s where I live. On weekends we’re constantly looking for lovely places to walk that are close to home, and it doesn’t get any closer than this last entry.

Strictly speaking, this is a network of tracks, the longest of which was created alongside the Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway, the new four lane road stretching halfway through the Kāpiti Coast district. At the same time as this road was constructed, the NZ Transport Agency built 16km of shared path for walking, cycling and horse-riding. This links with other tracks, including along the Wharemauku Stream from Paraparaumu town centre to Raumati Beach, through Queen Elizabeth Park to Paekakariki and the Waikanae River and Estuary tracks.

The things I love the most about this network of tracks are the opportunities it gives to all who live in this part of the world. We can walk to each other’s houses, to the beach, to school or to the shops, without having to share a road with cars.

Every day, I see kids learning to ride their bikes on these tracks, people walking their dogs, kāhu (harrier hawks) flying and pūkeko squawking. These tracks are used for recreation and for commuting. They enable our whole community’s relaxed, outdoors-focused way of life.

To me, the tracks around and through the wetland, and how they shape our neighbourhood, are the perfect example of what public access to the outdoors can mean when it’s done well. Because of that, there was no way I could leave it off my list.

More info: