Banks Track – Flea Bay to Akaroa

The second and third days walking the private Banks Track offered a huge variety of scenery, and weather! The heat and sunshine of the first day was replaced with cold, wet, misty weather in the morning. It made for atmospheric start, walking around from Flea Bay past the home of the Helps family. They have been instrumental in maintaining the largest mainland colony of Little Blue Penguins in New Zealand, with people sponsoring nesting boxes for them.

The track headed around the headland though there wasn’t much to see.

Redcliffe Point marked the half way point of the days walk, only 3-4 hours today, half the length of days one and three. It was very windy here, but a handy bench made it a suitable spot for lunch with an amazing views of the cliffs.

A better option given the weather would probably have been this very cool nearby old shelter, built against the rocks. It was round the corner from seal cave, which lived up to its name.

The weather cleared, offering great cliff views, and this ancient looking loo with a view.

This predator proof fence was built to protect one of the few remaining mainland nesting sites for sooty shearwaters.

Stony Bay in the distance looked idyllic.

The sun and heat had returned so the bay looked inviting for a swim. The beach was covered in New Zealand Fur Seals though… I got too close to one by accident, hidden in the rocks, and got roared at, but it lost interest in me as soon as I sprinted away.

The next best water spot, in the stream, was also occupied by a seal…

Stony Bay has been owned by the Armstrong family since 1891. They’ve built the most incredible accommodation for the final night on the track. Around a large lawn area are many distinct and gorgeous buildings, which thankfully I could explore properly as the first to arrive.

It is home to a small museum, a large tree repurposed to as a shower, and two outdoor fire wood heated baths. They come with a wooden plant to avoid burning your backside, but still get extremely hot. It was the first bath I’ve had to bail water out of in order to add cold water.

All the accommodation have mini kitchens, and their own character. A possible added bonus was that Little Blue Penguins nest underneath most of them. I was woken in the middle of the night by the sound of penguins feeding their young underneath the floorboards!

The next day follows the old horse track, for decades the only access to the bay.

The track then enters Hinewai Reserve. This is 1250 hectares of original and regenerating bush over several valleys, home to many native species, including this black Fantail, only found on the South Island.

In December there was plenty of colour around in the regenerating bush.

The signage is pretty clear…

The track became much more interesting once it headed into beautiful mature beech forest.

It was a steady but decent 690m climb up to Stony Bay Saddle, thankfully mostly in the shade as it reached 29C on day three. The shelter made a good spot for lunch.

It was then downhill all the way back to Akaroa, with big views ahead, if no shade from the heat. The track car park is 20 mins walk from the waterfront, where I headed for a refreshing dip in the sea to cool down.

Author: jontycrane

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