This is a sweet little ride to do with the family, especially if you are getting the younger ones used to riding a bit further, like I am here with my 5 year old! Its a flat, wide, easy trail with sea views of the estuary looking towards Athenree the whole way. We started at Waiiti Ave and rode to Bowentown and back ~30 minutes each way. There is a simple playground in Bowentown at the end of the trail, however there is a larger and in my opinion cooler playground in Tui Reserve which is off Bowentown Boulevard which adds on ~ 5 more minutes each way of riding.
*If you are looking for a longer ride you can start the trail opposite the Surf Shack cafe, off Emerton Rd. The trail is ~3km each way.
This is not the first time I have done this walk yet the stunning landscape still takes my breath away. It is however the first time I have brought my daughter on this walk and the first time walking in a large group, 6 amazing mamas and 7 cool kids.
Originally we had 10 kids coming but sickness, a sleepover and the last soccer game of the season meant we were down to 7. In hindsight this was good because it meant majority of the group had a 1:1 ratio, this made for less stress and a more enjoyable walk. A one adult to one child ratio is especially good when walking with younger children and first timers, as many games and distractions are needed, also parents tend to become pack horses for the bags and the children themselves, so be prepared.
This trip had been organised months in advanced, as getting a weekend where a large group is all free, is hard and rare. We chose the first weekend of spring hoping for good weather but being the rainy season, rain was forecast for the Sunday. We nearly called it off, but decided rain on the way out was doable. We estimated it would take us around 4 hours to do the walk, but decided to leave early as that meant no time pressure, giving us the whole day to get to the hut. After a last pack check and photo session, we set off at 10:45 am, not too bad.
The track follows a historic tram line and is pretty wide most of the way, there are a couple of narrow sections, where you end up walking quite close to the river and the rocks can be slippery, so please be aware and take care in these areas.
*Scroll to the bottom of the page for our time break down, from Franklin Rd car park to the hut.
After walking for about 1 and 3/4 hours we reached the second swing bridge, where we stopped for lunch and to rest our legs (and backs). The kids were more interested in throwing rocks into the water than they were with eating! Swing bridges are a great place to stop and take a look around, remnants of the tram line bridges litter the river bed, stunning andesitic rock escarpments frame parts of the valley and massive boulders in the middle of the river made the kids question …. what, how, why and who.
I feel that the 5th and final swing bridge is worth mentioning as once crossed there is a short path that leads down to a perfect little beach. We reached this bridge after about 3 hours and had a decent stop here, for more snacks, a rest while the kids had a play which consisted of skimming stones and dropping rocks off the bridge. We left here with only one of the seven children getting wet, which I feel was pretty good odds, this is a good reminder to pack those extra clothes, especially if not walking in the warmer months when things are easily dried.
It took a further 1 hour and 45 minutes for us to reach the hut from that last swing bridge, just under 5 hours in total from the car park. The last hour of walking the kids, as you can imagine, were getting pretty tired, but with a bit of distraction and turns at being the leader they did amazing! We took the river bypass as the flow was too full which added on a bit of extra time; but that was fine. Of course once we got to the hut, the kids got their second (or maybe third) wind and quickly set about: getting their beds ready (we dominated one of the two large bunk rooms), devouring crackers and cheese like a pack of ravenous piranhas and sculling hot chocolates so they could run outside to explore, play tag and practice gymnastics! The mamas were left to sort, prepare, cook and supervise before getting to put their feet up with a well deserved cuppa.
Dinner consisted of mainly pasta, rice and noodles, some supplejack foraged along the way made for a nice veggie garnish to the pasta. A nice relaxing wine out on the deck was a great treat once all the kiddies were sorted. Bedtime rolled around and even though they had walked for nearly 5 hours, some of the kids could not get to sleep, even with the season bonus of early darkness! Going to bed with the kids was really the only thing that worked and actually, in the morning we were better off for it! If you haven’t stayed in a hut before – don’t expect too much sleep, huts are noisy places even without kids (who is rustling that plastic bag/snoring/talking!) plus with no curtains you can bet your bottom dollar the kids will wake get up early!
Breakfasts consisted of porridge, left over pasta, noodles, coffee, tea and hot chocolates. After breakfast, the pack up and tidy up (all done by 8am), we set off. We were lucky that the rain did not start until about an hour into the trip out, rain coats, pack covers and wet weather gear were then all put into use; and when one raincoat couldn’t be found in the pack that can sometimes feel like Mary Poppins bottomless bag, a black rubbish bin bag was turned into a makeshift poncho. Also one boot started to lose its sole so kiwi ingenuity saw a sock being sacrificed to hold it together, note for next trip – bring gaffe tape (not really an essential but can be in those MacGyver moments).
We took just a one short snack stop on the way back due to the relentless rain, though constantly handing the kids snacks whilst walking the last 1.5 hours, helped get them to the end (4 hours in total straight back to the cars). We were all soaked, the track is pretty open and exposed and with 3 hours of constant rain even the best of gears were no match and could not keep us 100% dry.
It was nice to walk in such a big group, everyone had turns in different positions, being the leader or chilling at the back having some quieter time. All the mamas took turns encouraging the smaller ones and we even saw the kids pitching in to help get a pack on, singing a song of distraction or finding a walking stick to keep someone going.
Going on long hikes or tramps with children does take some patience and sometimes a lot of creative thinking; like turning a small cut into a game to identify which grasses are cutty grass, or getting the younger of the group to walk up front with an adult, giving them a head start, and telling them we will try to catch up, that way they keep up the pace because they don’t want to “get caught”. Roll with the punches and try to prepare your mind as not to get stressed or annoyed when the challenges arise and as always this is much easier when you have friends to do it with.
Here’s a quick break down of our times not including 30 minutes worth of stops:
Flick us a line in the comments below, we’d love to know your tips and tricks for tramping with kids.
Kiaora everyone, this upcoming week is Conservation week. There are all sorts of rad things happening around the country so click here to find a D.O.C event near you! As they say on the dinosaur train “get outdoors and get into nature!” #kidstv #catchyslogans #volunteersrule!
If you live in the Bay of Plenty region check out Virtually on Track who are running scavenger hunts in conjunction with the Department of Conservation to celebrate Conservation week. There are some great prizes up for grabs like a trip to White Island! I’m going to check out the McLaren Falls scavenger hunt with the kids 🙂
We’d love to know in the comments below what you get up to, to celebrate Conservation week.
Also stay tuned for part two of our epic Waitawheta hut trip coming up later in the week…
Also check out part two where we cover the highlights and challenges of tramping with 7 little people and 6 amazing mamas!
Late night, tired ratty kids, and maybe one too many wines at the BBQ the night before …. but it was winter and the sun was shining, I simply had to get out amongst it, breathe in the bush air and soak in some rays. My mum was visiting and she had told me about this great track with 360 degree views, and not too far of a drive (maybe the kids could rest on the drive). I didn’t manage to wrangle up a friend for the kids (5 & 7) at such late notice so it was just us and Oma (my mum).
We accessed the Otanewainuku car park from the Tauranga side, down Opopi road and then left onto Mountain road, which in parts is a gravel road. There was a shelter with information on the tracks of the area and further along the track a toilet. The track sign states 45 minutes to the trig in either a clockwise or anticlockwise direction, we gave this decision to the kids and clockwise was chosen, this as it turned out is the least steep direction to take, and it took us 50 minutes.
The kids, with their self-packed backpacks, took turns leading us down the track; The bush is stunning, the towering Kahikatea trees (New Zealands tallest forest tree), frame the sunlight and blue sky perfectly making you feel like you are amongst giants and their roots are huge and provide great pockets for the kids to hide and jump out to “scare” you (cause we never see them do this).
The first part of the clockwise track is reasonably gradual, the second half zigzags uphill with some big steps for little legs. A platform amongst the tree tops tells us that we are at the trig, up the narrow stairs and wow! The views are wicked, you can see White Island, Mount Te Aroha and if the weather had of been clearer on the central plataeu we would have been able to see Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. It was beautiful and an amazing lunch spot.
The kids unpack their bags on the platform and out comes: muffins, apples, water, soft toys, a transporter truck full of smaller cars and to top it all off, my son had carried up a large rock that his Aunty had painted for him; Not once did he complain of a heavy bag, I couldn’t contain my laughter, I was very surprised but also very impressed.
After the snack and play we start to head down the steeper track direction (which would be the anticlockwise track coming up). The kids took a keen interest in looking for the silver fern on the way down, their determination and perseverance was outstanding as every fern we passed was checked, and can I just say this track has an abundance of ferns. Many discoveries were made including the koru/spiral of a young fern and a curious robin that came to check us out, good spotting Nina. It took us another 50 minutes to come down, but that was with lots of exploring and many many stops.
I fully recommend this track, it’s stunning in so many ways and considering we all weren’t at our best that day it was one of my favourite walks I’ve done with the kids. There is another couple of walks that are accessed from the car park, which I’ll definitely be going back to check out.
Confession: If you, like me, have been driving past the Karangahake Gorge main car park (for years…) and have never stopped to do this walk, I’m here to tell you (now that I’ve finally done it), that you simply must check it out the next time you happen to pass, because this is a little beauty of walk! It has just the right ingredients to be a brilliant family walk, for example; it’s a short relatively easy walk, has amazing scenery, a stunning river, swing bridges, creepy tunnels, gold mining history and relics, and wicked views from the “windows”. Seriously it will blow your mind!
Park in the main car park, there you will find a detailed map of the walks. Follow the signs and directions to access this track, you will cross two swing bridges on route (a torch is essential so don’t forget to pack one). We visited in mid winter and spent a happy hour at the river here just after the first bridge with the kids aged 5, 7,8 and 11. They enjoyed looking for “precious” rocks like fools gold and quartz and messing about in the river, yes they are in their togs and yes they did get very wet!
However they soon dried off in the sun and after a picnic we crossed the second bridge. From there follow the signs as the track splits as it heads up hill, the track to the right is longer and more gradual, the track to the left is shorter and sharper. We took the latter. You will see old mining relics and closed shafts as you head towards the tunnels; a short one at first followed by a much longer tunnel, in which you really do need a torch, trust me I tried once and wimped out half way! The “windows” cut out of the rock look down onto the river, it’s quite gorgeous! All the windows are safely barred.
Once you pop out of the tunnel you will head down some steps, turn right and head across the swing bridge with the Waitawheta river below you. The return track is cut into the rock and follows the river back to the main swing bridge and car park. This is a good walk to have up your sleeve when overseas visitors stay and you want to show off our beautiful country just a little bit!
Extra: Need more? There are also other great walks and bike rides to do along the river here. They are well sign posted and highly recommended. There is also a cafe across the road from the main car park if tiny tummies start rumbling or you need a coffee!
*Toilets are located in the main car park.Sorry NO dogs allowed on this walk.
To prepare for my youngest’s first hut stay in September, I thought it would be a good idea to test out how long he can endure on a bush walk…
So first things first, I need to find him a friend to walk with. From previous experiences when my kids have a friend with them, there is a far lesser chance of complaints and a far greater chance of successful distraction!
Hooray my friends are coming with us, both kids will have a buddy!
The start of this track can be confusing as there is no DOC signage on this particular track. My advice would be to either go in at the signpost for the “Pa Kereru Loop” track (this may add-on about 10 minutes to the walk), or take one of the two wider tramway looking tracks, to the left of the Pa Kereru sign (they both come out on the Leyland O’Brien tramway at different points not far from each other).
We took the track to the immediate left of the Pa Kereru Loop signpost, and the nice wide (but overgrown) track descended for about 100m until coming out to the flat track. The first part of the walk goes through swampy terrain, with long board walks and small bridges keeping the feet dry …. but it doesn’t last.
Because then the mud starts! Initially the two 7-year-old girls worked very hard to keep their shoes clean and their feet dry, which led to many interesting conversations, negotiations and techniques on crossing the many little streams and countless mud pits. However there came a turning point where my daughter paused and contemplated how to get around yet another mud pit…that was it, she gave up the fight and ran “straight up the guts”! The younger boys had given up the fight a lot earlier. The rest of the walk consisted of the kids happily yelling “mud run” and sprinting through the mud pits.
After 1.5 hours of easy (muddy) walking we reached the Ngamuwahine River, where once crossed the track continues for another 30 minutes. We turned around at this point as the river had reasonable flow and we didn’t want to attempt crossing it with the kids, as no doubt one of the 4 kids would have ended up in the water and being the middle of winter, that water was cold and the walk out would not have been fun!
We found a picturesque spot by the riverside for lunch and then we set off homeward bound. The walk back to the car was reasonably painless, with not many complaints or bribes needed.
The kids did awesome and now I am confident that my 5-year-old can go the distance. I would recommend this track to help build or test kids endurance as it is flat and you can just turn around at any point, but maybe only to families with a little bit of bush experience (due to signage and river crossing).
Note: “The Blade” area as it is locally known is right at the end of Whakamarama road. The driveway down there (from the road end ) is ~900m of gravel road to the main car park (this is single lane so go slow, there are a couple of places to stop if you come across another car). Other tracks can be accessed from this car park.
Puketoki Reserve is pretty much my local and I feel like I know it like the back of my hand. My kids have been walking the long loop since they were around 2 1/2 years old. I also do regular monitoring work there (off tracks) for the local pest control group the Friends of Puketoki . I often take groups of school children there to study the streams health (very healthy by the way) and to learn about native birds and plants.
It’s a great place to head with kids of any age, the short loop is buggy friendly (although you may encounter some mud) and you can bring the dog, on a lead. The short loop is made up of the old tram lines so they are straight and relatively flat, perfect for little legs to wander along. Its nice if you just take your time and let the kids explore a bit at their own pace.There are picnic tables near the car park and a very pretty stream to check out.
The long loop is more undulating, with sections of stairs, uneven ground and the odd muddy part. You may see pink tags and tape off the sides of the main walking track, these are trap lines (for possum and rodent bait stations). The main walking track is marked with orange triangles. There are a couple of short marked detours off the main track to see giant rimu and puriri trees and they are well worth the couple of minutes detour it takes (if things are going well! )
We often see kereru (native wood-pigeon) and robins and hear tui and grey warbler. Occasionally you might see or hear kaka (native parrot).Puketoki Reserve is a good place to start if you and your family haven’t done much bush walking before as the loop walks are very short and easy, so there’s no stress about distance, you can just meander and enjoy.
Side notes: Dogs are allowed on leads. The short walk is buggy friendly. Picnic tables and toilets available near the car park.
Anita and I are so freaking excited to welcome you to the launching of Forest Family! We will be delivering a fresh family perspective on a range of walking tracks in NZ and from abroad, including short day walks to over night hiking trips. We will be offering “Confidence Booster” walks to women who want a little guidance in getting started (look out for those in summer) and, we will be reviewing the mountain bike trails that we ride with our families.
We’d love for you to subscribe to our blog and come along on this adventure with us. We hope it will inspire you to create some adventures of your own!
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton