The oldest private hiking track in New Zealand, the Banks Track is a scenic, varied and enjoyable 31km 2-3 day hike on Banks Peninsula, an hour and a half from Christchurch. As a private track it offers more comforts than DOC tracks, including 15kg luggage transfers between the lovely track accommodation, showers, and private room options, but it is still a decent hike, with 700m climbs on the first and third days. I walked it over three days a fortnight before Christmas 2022, with only one other group on the track, and mostly great weather.
A shuttle collects walkers from Akaroa for the short drive to Ōnuku Farm Hostel, where the first night is spent before starting walking the next morning. This set the bar for what to expect, with an exquisite and well equipped hut offering lovely views of the peninsula.
In the morning the sun lit up the hills.
The track starts through the well equipped farm.
It was then pretty much straight uphill. I was glad I left before 8am to tackle the steepest part before the 27C heat forecast arrived. There were big views behind me, which improved all morning.
I took the short detour to Lookout Rock for views of the mouth of Akaroa Harbour, looking out toward Timutimu Head.
The track the continued uphill through farmland, with a few sheep around.
The track was opened in 1989, established by a group of local landowners. There are now five families that provide access to their land, and maintain the track and accommodation. Signs note when you pass between their sections.
Trig GG at 699m is the highest point on the track (though only by 9m), and was the perfect spot for lunch. Afterwards was a little stressful though when a bug flew into my ear just before I put my headphones in. I couldn’t get it out and it is a distinctly unpleasant experience having something crawl inside your inner ear. Thankfully after a few minutes it crawled back out again to my great relief!
Just down from the trig is a handy shelter, marking the half way point for the day.
The 1km road walk after here was a little dull but there wasn’t any traffic around.
The track then heads through the stunning Tutakakahikura Reserve, a quite beautiful section of bush that I loved walking through. The beech trees made for colourful leaf litter on the track, full of colour.
Many trees had this black plastic on them, which I later learnt are forest gecko mats.
The track is mostly straightforward but there are a few warning signs.
The track runs alongside a delightful stream, which had a marked swimming hole. It was pretty cold! But a great opportunity to wash off the sweat from the morning climb up to the trig.
This was possibly the most attractive waterfall.
The following one would have been the best spot for a swim though.
The last waterfall was the largest, big enough to carefully climb around behind the falling curtain of water.
It was back out into the hot sun for the final short stretch down to Flea Bay. At one time this was home to three families, a school and large dairy.
Flea Bay had anattractive beach and wildlife, including seals enjoying the sunshine.
There is quite a variety of accommodation here, both for Banks Track walkers, and places able to be booked separately including a caravan and tree house. Not sure what was going on with the toilet…
The accommodation here wasn’t quite up to the standard of Ōnuku but did have Little Blue Penguins living underneath the buildings. The area is home to the largest mainland colony of them in New Zealand. Free tours for Banks Track walkers, and paid for others driving to Ōnuku (which appears to be popular), are run every night to learn more about them and see them in their nests. I got a bonus sighting though when I went to the toilet in the middle of the night and found a penguin on the path right outside the toilet!