The Banks Peninsula Track
follows a stunningly diverse track of 35 km through pasture and forest as you explore the remote outer bays of Banks Peninsula. Its route includes a spectacular volcanic coastline, native bush, waterfalls and sandy beaches with two crossings of the crater rim high above Akaroa Harbour as you leave and return to Akaroa.
Self-guided walking or hiking
Our two self-guided options offer you many of the comforts of guided walks such as hot showers and small numbers, combined with the independence of the freedom walker. Both walks cover the same distance following the same track route and visit the same accommodations but at a different pace - you choose the way you want to walk!
Easy to organise & great value
Our availability guide and online booking make planning your trip as easy as possible. Your booking price includes car parking, bus to first hut, all your accommodation stays, all land access rights, and an informative guide booklet. (Also the seasonal penguin tour for four day walkers).
Further options available include full or standard pack cartage and storage, a great kayaking trip, sleeping bag hire, or the guaranteed privacy of a double room with linen and towels provided. These options can be explored thru 'Walk Details'
The kayaking trip (operated by Shireen Helps) can only be booked at the time but all other options should be booked through our booking office - see Bookings or Contact Us for contact details. (No advance booking is required for 'standard pack cartage', first and last sections).
Self - Catering
The Track is self-catering with fully equipped kitchens. You don't need to bring any kitchen items.
Still unique after all these years.
New Track landowner, Jack Gibbs of Onuku Heights, reflects on the Banks Peninsula Track as it celebrates 25 years this December
The Banks Peninsula Track Walk celebrates 25 years this December.
Throughout its operating history this classic Kiwi walking track has been described as unique in countless different ways – unique landscapes, unique accommodation, unique seascapes, unique diversity of plants and animals, uniquely private, unique beaches, unique picnic locations, unique geology, unique owner/operator structure , unique character, unique in its appeal to all ages and levels of walker, unique diversity of all of the above! So perhaps there is no surprise that it is still flourishing and many of the first generation of visitors continue to return with their now grown up children and grandchildren!
Over the years there have been numerous improvements and additions to the walkways, to the accommodation (‘honey moon’ rooms, star gazers, shower blocks, toilets, shops), extra services and extra activities such as pack cartage and kayaking in the marine reserve, and with extra side walks to keep even the most restless explorer satisfied. You still have the option of walking it in two or four days. Indeed this year they are adding two new but shorter ‘special’ walks that serve to show off more views, landscapes and biodiversity of their corner of the wonderful Banks Peninsula. (see specials below).
But perhaps over the years one thing has been overlooked. With an eye to the future the land owners were very early to see that their heritage lay in farming beauty. Conservation is now very fashionable, but back in 1989 you would have struggled to find a career path outside of academia and even then it would have been very plant or animal specific. The farmers over whose land the track runs had already started to explore ways to manage their land differently. Hinewai was still very young and seen as a one off or even an experiment – a rather eccentric one off plaything for an academic and his tree hugging backers. The other land owners were quietly protecting the few areas of remaining native bush, new areas that had promise were being left to regenerate, and threatened species were being monitored . A mind set had evolved that was more about managing the area for the long term. Sustainability is an even more recent ‘fashion’ than conservation – and here again in this corner of the Banks Peninsula pioneering work was under way.
Today this investment is continuing with an active predator control programme ‘ wildside’, which compliments new and old areas of regenerating native bush. However, the rewards of work done from the 1980s onwards are there for every walker to enjoy from the moment they get off the bus at Onuku until they return, smiling to Akoroa a few days later. The ‘headliners’ are well known . Flea Bay is a fully fledged marine reserve with a colony of over 1400 breading pairs of penguin – including the rare and larger yellow eyed penguin; Hinewai now seen as a role model , extends to 2000a and covers almost the whole of the Otanerito valley; Christchurch CC has bought and manages a 1200 ha block around Brasenose (The new walks take advantage of this spectacular skyline route). But almost every view and every landscape have more pleasure to offer.
Congratulations to the families of the BPT Walk on 25 years of ‘uniqueness’! And here’s to hoping that your Kiwi hospitality and farming of beauty remain open for us to enjoy for another 25.
This years ‘Specials’ – Two New Walks (limited availability). The Flea Bay WildLife Special is two nights and two days in length, it is only available on a few set dates. First night is in Onuku, day one walk takes you on the BPT route over the Trig GG and down into Flea Bay where you spend the second night. Day two starts with an optional kayak tour of the marine reserve followed by a bus ride to the start of the days walk along the skyline passing the Brasenose, Flag and Berard Peaks before turning below Stony Bay Peak and heading down into Akaroa. Akaroa High Track is only available at short notice when track capacity allows. It is one night, spent at Onuku, followed by a spectacular days walk up and over the Trig GG and then along the skyline passing the Brasenose, Flag and Berard peaks before turning below Stony Bay Peak and heading down the Purple Peak track into Akaroa.
'Landscape and biodiversity'
Written by Hugh Wilson, botanist and manager of Hinewai Reserve.
What is special about Banks Peninsula, and in particular about the southeast corner of the Peninsula traversed by Banks Peninsula Track?
Firstly – the landscape and geological history. Banks Peninsula is an island-like prominence of sea-embayed hill-country, jutting into the Pacific Ocean from the eastern edge of the South Island’s Canterbury Plains, raising to a height of 920m at the summit of Te Ahu Pātiki/ Mount Herbert. Volcanic in origin, the landscape results from long erosion of three major volcanoes, Lyttelton, Herbert and Akaroa. Which were erupting in Miocene times, this is between about 12 and 6 million years ago. The volcanoes pre-date by several million years the uplift of the Southern Alps far to the west. For much of its geological history, the volcanic landmass was an island, until joined to the rest of the South Island in geologically recent times.
Akaroa harbour is the sea-invaded eroded crater of the easternmost and largest of the volcanoes. The Banks Peninsula Track climbs up the inner flank of the crater, crosses the rim, descends the valleyed outer flanks to the dramatic open-ocean coastline, follows this coastline north-eastwards, past headlands, cliffs and bays, heads inland up the largely forested Otanerito Valley, recrosses the crater rim, and descends to the harbour again.
Many features of the regions extraordinary geological history are strikingly evident along the way.
Secondly – Human history. Aotearoa/New Zealand was the last major temperate landmass in the world to be colonised by homo sapiens. The first people in southeast Banks Peninsula were explorers from eastern Polynesia, settling here some 700 years ago. A second human invasion, this time from more-distant Europe, began in the mid-nineteenth century. Both arrivals drastically perturbed the local ecology which hitherto had not been influenced at all by our particularly disruptive species. Relatively brief by geological standards (neighbouring Australia was settled 60,000 years ago), the nearly 1000 years of human stories and artefacts in this place are nonetheless richly varied, vivid and intriguing.
Thirdly – Unique plants and animals. Before human impact the peninsula was forested from side to side and from coast to summit. In Māori times southeast Banks Peninsula remained largely forest-clad, but settlement cleared some headlands, bayheads, ridges and summits. Forest clearance was more widespread further west. European settlement resulted in almost complete deforestation. However, significant fragments of old-growth forest survived, and since 1900 regenerating native forest has reclaimed many of the gullies, despite attempts to maintain open grassland for pastoral farming. Hinewai Reserve and some other significant areas are now being specifically managed for regeneration of native vegetation and fauna.
As well as the podocarp/Hardwood forest that covered most of Banks Peninsula, beech forest (mostly red, some black) also occurs in the southeast corner, but nowhere else on the peninsula. A native tree in the forefront of native regeneration is Kanuka, a member of the myrtle, eucalypt and teatree family (Myrtaceae) Native forest is also regenerating extensively through exotic gorse and broom, both in the legume family.
Southeast Banks Peninsula has a cool-temperate climate, strongly modified along the coast by the ocean, which tends to keep the winters milder and the summers slightly cooler than further inland. Because of this some warm-temperate species grow naturally here, but extend no further south. Outstanding examples are nikau palm, kawakawa or peppertree, titoki, akeake, native passion vine or kohia, broadleaf or puka. The highest summits (Stony Bay Peak or Taraterehu is accessible as a side foray off the main track at Purple Peak Saddle) project upwards into subalpine zone, which supports a distinctive flora and fauna. Some notable plant species from this zone, notably snow tussock and turpentine scrub (Dracophyllum), extend downwards onto the highest parts of the main track, in the upper cool-temperate zones. Pipits (ground larks) may be seen here.
The southeast corner of the Peninsula contains most of the 550 or so extant native vascular plant species (that is, trees, shrubs, mistletoes, climbers, herbaceous dicots and monocots, ferns and fern allies, including five species of tree fern) known from Banks Peninsula as a whole. A few of these species are unique to Banks Peninsula; notable among the Banks Peninsula endemics to be seen along the track are Akaroa daisy, Banks Peninsula Hebe, Banks Peninsula sun hebe, Banks Peninsula blue tussock, Banks Peninsula button daisy, and Banks Peninsula chain fern.
Human settlement pushed some of the native fauna to extinction. Among the birds, for example, nearly half of the original 100 or so species breeding here have vanished. We have lost wonderful species such as kiwi, moa, eagle, owlet nightjar, kaka, kakariki, saddleback, kokako, fernbird, robin, piopio and bush wren. Other wonderful species are thriving. The current avifauna is a mixture of many original native species, some more recent natural arrivals (e.g. silvereye, welcome swallow), and numerous species introduced by European settlers. On land, the only native mammals (small bats) are now probably locally extinct. However, marine mammals (especially seals but also dolphins and whales) are conspicuous along coastal sections of the Track. Lizards are represented by three species of skink and two geckoes. The largest native freshwater fish are eels; smaller species include the adult of whitebait (galaxiids), bullies and torrentfish. Local frogs are introductions from Australia; the whistling tree frog is common.
There is a large diverse invertebrate fauna of considerable scientific interest. Regional endemics among the arthropods total at least 2-3 percent of the known fauna (more than 30 of the named species, with some only recently described and named.) The forest invertebrate fauna is rich and diverse, not so the grassland fauna, which overall is relatively poor in species if not in numbers of individuals, and is supplemented by a considerable proportion of introduced species, just what might be expected from a long forest history and recent deforestation. Though few in numbers of species butterflies are often individually numerous. The New Zealand red admiral is particularly beautiful and common. Smaller copper and blue butterflies are often abundant. Moths on the other hand are numerous both in number of species and of individuals. Among many notable native insects are dragonflies, damselflies, stick insects, wētā (especially the locally endemic Akaroa tree weta), cicadas, chironomid midges, net-winged midges, ground beetles, tiger beetles, huhu beetles, native bees and ichneumon wasps. Biting sandflies (blackflies) and mosquitoes are much less common than in many other parts of New Zealand. There are numerous native spiders (and some introduced ones). Of special note are the nursery spiders, orb web spiders, tunnelweb spiders, trapdoor spiders, the very rare and unusual six-eyed spiders Periegops suteri, wolf spiders, jumping spiders and on beaches the poisonous katipo – although there have never been any recorded bites on humans from this spider along the Banks Peninsula Track.
Penguins and seals are undoubtedly the star fauna, but many other birds, mammals, lizards, amphibians, fish and invertebrates are of exceptional interest along the Track. A quick selection of really noticeable and notable native species across all classes might include: New Zealand fur seal, white flippered blue penguin, yellow-eyed penguin, New Zealand (Hectors) dolphin, black swan, bellbird, brown creeper, tomtit, rifleman, kereru, fantail, morepork, shining cuckoo, kingfisher, paradise shelduck, harrier hawk, New Zealand falcon, spotted shag, pied shag, black oystercatcher, sooty shearwater, gannet, longfin and shortfin eels, jewelled gecko, Canterbury gecko, red admiral butterflies, ground beetles and giant dragonflies.
Introduced naturalised fauna include (among many others) hares, rabbits, Australian brushtail possums, hedgehogs, rats, mice, cats, ferrets, stoats, weasels, finches, Californian quail, rock pigeons, white-backed magpies, blackbirds, thrushes, skylarks, mallards, Canada geese, whistling frogs and humans.
Some 400 exotic plant species are more or less fully naturalised in southeast Banks Peninsula, still less than the native tally of around 500 but increasing all the time. Some widespread vegetation (e.g. pasture, gorse scrub) is dominated by exotic species. Nevertheless, the native flora is remarkably competitive and resilient.
'Wildside' predator control funding
The Banks Peninsula Track celebrated our 25th year with additional conservation and wildlife initiatives. Amongst these is support for predator control on the 'Wildside'. This wonderful programme now covers all the properties of the Banks Peninsula Track, and we were delighted to contribute $5000 last year to its administrative costs, as well as the many hours by Track landowners in implementing the programme.
The Wildside Project is a collaborative project between the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust, The Josef Langer Charitable Trust, Christchurch City Council, Department of Conservation, and Environment Canterbury for the protection of special biodiversity on the South-eastern bays of Banks Peninsula.
For more details on the 'Wildside' project, visit the BPCT site.