The first Great Walk specifically designed for walkers and mountain bikers, the Paparoa Track takes you on an exciting journey across mountain tops, through limestone landscapes before emerging into lush coastal rainforest.
Starting near the sleepy settlement of Blackball and ending at the well-known Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, the trail traverses the breath-taking Paparoa Range.
Day one starts with the historic Croesus Track, a remnant from the region’s gold rush. It’s steep, slightly rough, and winds through podocarp and beech forest, with glimpses of Blackball Creek through the trees, where you might even spot rare blue ducks (whio) bobbing in the water.
Once you reach the open alpine tops, you’ll be treated to views usually reserved only for mountaineers. On a clear day, you’ll see all the way to Aoraki Mount Cook. Listen out for cheeky kea and the shrill calls of roroa – a giant among kiwi birds, rarely spotted outside of their mountainous South Island habitat.
Day two, the final day for mountain bikers, winds along a steep escarpment and then alpine forest, before descending through ancient podocarp forest under towering cliffs. When it reaches the Pororari River, it sidles along a spectacular gorge before descending through beech and northern rātā.
For the last section, mountain bikers and hikers diverge. Those on two wheels ride over a low saddle into the Punakaiki River valley, and walkers take the Pororari River Track through the Pororari River Gorge. Both are rewarded by deep-green pools and towering limestone bluffs graced by nīkau palms and tree ferns.
Mountain bikers usually spend at least one night on the track, and walkers at least two. The three Department of Conservation (DOC) huts on the track are equipped with bunks, mattresses, heating, gas cooktops, toilets and water supply. A DOC ranger may be present.
There are no campsites on the track. Hut reservations are required and can be made at DOC visitor centres nationwide, or through their online booking service. Book well in advance, as it’s a popular track.
Several operators run shuttles to the start of the Paparoa Track. Most are based in Punakaiki, where there are plenty of accommodation options — from boutique B&Bs to a 4-star beachfront hotel.
Find out more
Check the Department of Conservation trail website for more trail information, updates and gear recommendations.