Hikers: Finn, Jen, Amy & Sam (February 10th, 2020)
Day 1: To Heaphy Hut
On Sunday we travelled from Christchurch to Carter’s Beach where we stayed at a cute, clean and affordable AirBnB a mere 5 minutes walk from the beach! We drank some rather tasty wine and Jen and I got our feet wet in the very very cold, West Coast ocean.
The next morning we set off, stopping briefly in Westport for Amy and Sam to buy extra food & to fill up the car. Ready to go, we hit the trail from Kōhaihai Shelter and Campsite. The trail starts by going through a very low lying valley floor that often floods in king tides & wet weather, so take care and take the flood route if needed - we could have avoided wet feet if we took that track!
It then gently climbs up over Kōhaihai Bluffs (100m ⬆️) and down the other side to Scotts Beach. From here the track gently undulates along the beach front all the way to Heaphy Hut which is situated at the mouth of the Heaphy River. You can swim here as long as you swim in the inlet and take care to not get pulled into the main flow and out the river mouth. This was to be the first of our four swims!
Note: the track along the beach front has been modified over the pat couple of years to better survive flooding and king tides, so there is a safe path for most weather conditions to Heaphy Hut. But bear in mind that this is not so from Heaphy to Lewis Hut! If there is flooding you may not be able to make it through.
Day 2: To James Mackay Hut
The second day starts off just as relaxed as the end of the first: travelling on almost dead-flat ground for 10km to Lewis Hut. On the way are some glow worm caves if you know where to look! They’re on the right just over a little bridge nestled in the forest, about an hour from Heaphy Hut. Keep an eye out for spiders and their egg sacks hanging from the roof, but they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them!
From Lewis Hut the track climbs gently but steadily for around 13km (~670m ⬆️) all the way to James Mackay Hut. The climb is unrelenting but not challenging - just keep plodding! Take a look behind you down the valley as there is a really nice view down Heaphy River.
Day 3: To Perry Saddle Hut
The sun was out in full force for us today which was unfortunate because less than half the track was in the cover of forest, but the travelling was beautiful! This section of track undulates up and down as it weaves through the plateau, dodging small hills and climbing around others.
Keep an eye out for <strong>takahē</strong>, a very cute and rare bird as there are a couple that live near Gouland Downs Hut and another between Perry Saddle Hut and Saxon Hut! They’re a bit like big, round, blue chickens. Very cute.
There is a great river for swimming just East to Gouland Downs Hut - we didn’t swim there but would have loved to! Once you reach Perry Saddle Hut and relaxed a little, there is a small pathway that takes you down to a mountain spa. It is very much not a spa, and I’m not sure we had been in colder water before in our lives. I couldn’t feel my legs once I got out but I, surprisingly, would highly recommend it!
Day 4: To Brown Hut (Road-End)
Knowing the last day was super relaxed and all downhill we had a slow morning, drinking a couple of cups of coffee and taking our time to get out the door. The track meanders (and I mean meanders) down hill for essentially all 18.2km to Brown Hut. The decline is extremely gentle, the track well-formed and you are under the cover of forest the entire way.
Aorere Shelter is a nice place to stop for lunch, there is a toilet and water there so recharge or fill up on snacks before wandering out to Brown Hut. Just before you reach Brown Hut you will cross Brown River - head out to Brown Hut to complete the hike before popping back (less than 5min) to the river for a swim! There is a great swimming hole and even a big rock to jump off into the river.
We headed to Takaka that evening for a well-earned shower and some delicious food from Roots Bar on the main street - I think we would all highly recommend it! And with that, The Heaphy gets a big thumbs up from all of us 👍