Hike the South Island of New Zealand

Opening in December 2019, New Zealand’s newest and 10th Great Walk the Paparoa Track will traverse the Paparoa Range, replete with limestone landscapes, verdant rainforest and astonishing views.

The rugged west coast of New Zealand’s South Island draws travellers in search of the country’s wild heart. Not only is the Paparoa Track New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, the spectacular trail also features a side trip that serves as a memorial to the 29 men who lost their lives in the Pike River Mine tragedy.

Mountain bikers on Paparoa Track, Image: Jason Blair

The Paparoa Track is the perfect destination for avid hikers and adventure travellers. The track takes three days to complete and the landscape can be tough, requiring preparation for all weather conditions from snow to heat in summer.

How to get to the South Island of New Zealand

Ces Clark Hut 2, Image: Neil Silverwood

Greymouth is the nearest town to both the start and finish of the track. Take a flight to Christchurch, from there, on the east coast, take the spectacular TranzAlpine scenic rail journey through the Southern Alps, and pick up a rental car from Greymouth Railway Station. Blackball is 24km (25 minutes drive time) from Greymouth and Punakaiki is 45km (40 minutes driving). There is also a range of shuttle services and tours for travellers who want to sit back and relax.

What to expect hiking the South Island of New Zealand

Punakaiki looking back over Paparoa National Park, Image: Neil Silverwood

Māori for “Long Place”, this spectacular mountain range looks out over the South Island’s dramatic west coast, punctuated by peaks and threaded with rivers. On the new Paparoa Track, hikers will experience the Pororari River Gorge, towering limestone cliffs, remnants from the region’s mining history and ever-changing forest that transforms from beech to rainforest, studded with nīkau palms. A standalone walk or add-on is the Pike29 Memorial Track, an 11km (one-way) tribute to the men who lost their lives in the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster.

Highlights include the Lone Hand rock outcropping on the north side of the Pororari River, the Pororari River Gorge (dotted with swimming holes) and the ridgetop vistas that extend from the Southern Alps to the Tasman Sea.

Moonlight Tops Hut, Image: Neil Silverwood

The walk begins on the well-loved Croesus Track, which, after about 20km, reaches the newly constructed Moonlight Tops Hut. With views across the Punakaiki River to the Pike Stream escarpment and off to the Tasman Sea, the 20-bunk hut will make you feel on top of the world – especially at sunset.

For more visit Department of Conservation or Tourism New Zealand website.

There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new sun. This is Where Wild Things Roam.