Walking the Hillary Trail

west coast black sand beach new zealand

Lying on the damp grass at the Piha Camping Ground, I was pleased to have conquered day two of the Hillary Trail. A duck-gang waddles past me mocking my tired legs, and all I can think about is a beer and a burger at the RSA. 43.5 km down and I think I’ve found my new favourite place in New Zealand. Today was surreal.

An ethereal misty morning greeted us at 7am in Whatipu as we hauled our loads out of the Lodge. Stuffed full of bacon sandwiches and coffee we’d swindled from the kitchen, I donned a pack known only as “the monster” and said good morning to the biggest incline of the trip. As the fear began to settle into the back of my mind (and legs) I couldn’t help but remain positive while surrounded by misty sea views and forest dripping with morning dew. Smiles were promised of the day.

Mud squelched under foot, sweat poured from us and that ever-cool seaside air fanned our exerted bodies as we stomped onwards. The landscape was ever-changing from black sand beaches to sheer cliffs with seaside views, from thick marshlands of flax to roaring rivers and waterfalls.

No Great Walk in New Zealand has scenery this diverse, and we were blessed to enjoy it in the winter with not a soul in sight.We had forests to ourselves and let imaginations run wild. We re-enacted Taylor Swift videos and told tales of Sneetches as we explored this Dr Seuss tree-world that was curving and snaking around us.

And it wasn’t all mud, icy river crossings and hardships with this all-girl glamping crew. We stayed in dry accommodation which we didn’t have to erect ourselves.

After our colossal Piha pancake disaster we brunched at the Piha Café, had a roast at Ara Station, watched chick-flicks on the final night and still all managed to pack our luxury items amid the thermals and woollen socks. Paula had a plastic dinosaur called Doug, Jayne – perfume and I had a half kilo of almonds. We conditioned, we sipped out lattes, and we dried our socks on the camping-ground heaters. Who said multi-day hikes need to be for the hardcore?

The Hillary Trail comes highly recommended and was of the best things I’ve done since I’ve been back in New Zealand. See below a full break-down of our itinerary and accommodation for the trail:

Day by day on the Hillary Trail

Day 1
Huia (Karamatura Valley to Whatipu (10km, 5-6 hours)
Accomodation: Watipu Lodge
Day 2
Whatipu to Karekare (10km, 4-5 hours)
Karekare to Piha (11km, 4 hours)
Accomodation: Piha Domain Campground

Day 3
Piha to Anawhata farm (4.7km, 1.5 hours)
Anawhata farm to Bethells (12.5km, 5-6 hours)
Accomodation: Ara Station Airbnb

Day 4
Bethells to Muriwai (15km, 5-6 hours)
For more on what to pack when hiking, see here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *