Hiking in New Zealand isn’t just limited to ‘The Great Walks’, there are many lesser-known trails that are equally spectacular. I’m going to be completely honest – the hikes in Akaroa are some of the most challenging hikes I did in New Zealand. That’s also what made them so gratifying and special. They were difficult because of the quick elevation gain and very few trees – I did both trails on 80 degree days at 1 in the afternoon. **Would definitely not recommend.** But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
If you plan to visit Christchurch, definitely make the trip out east to Akaroa. This beautiful coastal peninsula has a distinct French influence and a timeless small-town charm. When I arrived, however, it was the countryside that I really fell in love with, and the best way to see it is on foot.
Misty Peaks Track // 4 hrs 30 min return
**the most challenging hike + greatest views of Akaroa you will never see**
The Misty Peaks Reserve Walk begins close to Akaroa’s town center. Before setting out for the day, be sure to bring lots of water and a sandwich or a muffin (both are delicious) from the french bakery around the corner from the iSite. You’re gonna need it – this walk is quite steep and steamy on a hot day.
To begin, walkg up Rue Balguerie across from the iSite. After about 15 minutes you will see a sign for the Purple Peak Track – instead of following this route to the left, continue straight onto Stony Bay Road. The road becomes rather steep as you ascend into the hills, eventually becoming a gravel road.
Don’t forget to look behind you at the view!
After 1.5-2 hours of walking in the sun (again, I don’t recommend doing this track midday like I did) you reach a gate at top of the hill. Don’t go straight – backtrack 100m and take the grassy flat path labelled ‘Misty Peak Reserve.’
Follow this meandering, grassy path in and out of the woods for about an hour before you reach Lighthouse Road. Continue straight as the road ascends slightly to a 3-way intersection. Turn right as the road continues downhill – watch for cars as it is narrow and they aren’t expecting to see you! Be sure to take lots of pictures as you continue downhill 4 kilometers or so.
As you approach Akaroa, you will pass Meniscus Wine Lounge on the right. 5 minutes later, turn right onto Onuku Road to return to the town of Akaroa.
Purple Peak Track // 5 hrs return
**you’ll never be bored + 2 peaks in one trip! **
Getting to Stony Bay Peak
This hike crosses Stony Bay Peak and Purple Peak offering panoramic views of the peninsula and Akaroa Harbor. There are a few of options for climbing to this prominent point – you can drive to the top of Stony Bay Road and take a 1-hour return walk, or you can take the 5-hour Skyline Circuit from Rue Balguerie across from the Akaroa iSite (I chose this option). Follow Rue Balguerie, then turn left onto Purple Peak Road. You will pass Mt Vernon Lodge on the left as the road becomes steeper. From there, follow the gravel road up where you turn left for the Paripai Track. Don’t forget to look behind you at the awesome views of Akaroa Harbor as you ascend this grassy path.
After about 45 minutes you will reach an intersection – straight for Purple Peak or right for Stony Bay Road / Summit: Turn left for Stony Bay. After 30 minutes, cross the fence and take the trail all the way on the left 10 minutes until Stony Bay Peak. The top has some incredibly clear panoramic views of Akaroa Harbour, the Southern Alps, the Pacific and the Hinewai Reserve.
Continuing on to Purple Peak
From here, follow the signs to continue down the trail to Purple Peak. A steep descent will take you to Purple Saddle. From here, descend to the left to connect with the trail you took before, or for a track in the woods, turn right towards the ‘toilets’ sign direction. After you reach the main road, follow the signs on the left for the Curry Track. This track back to Akaroa is in the woods which was a welcome relief after 3 hours hiking uphill in the sun!
Follow the signs for Curry Track about 1.5 hours until you reach a carpark. To the left, take the small opening in the wood fence for Woodills Trail. Cross through a picnic area and a toilet on the right. Continue down the trail, following signs for follow signs for Akaroa Country Walks. Don’t turn onto any farms or private property along the way – stick to the main path. Pass a sign on the right indicating ‘Akaroa 25 min’ and after that amount of time you will reach a gate. Walk over it and then follow the main road down to the left back into the town of Akaroa.
I hope you check out these challenging yet totally satisfying tracks in Akaroa. The views more than make up for the hills and the heat!
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