The Banks Track: A Local Secret
We were on the hunt for multi-day walks that had a certain level of comfort, that is, walks with showers and proper toilets and where you wouldn’t have to carry your own food. These types of hikes are few and far between in New Zealand, on most walks the available accommodation is limited to the very basic huts managed the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the more comfortable guided options in fully catered lodges come with a hefty price tag.
So in March 2013 I set off to Banks Peninsula to try out Banks Track. It is well-known amongst locals but it unfortunately escapes the attention of most overseas tourists. We departed the charming little French village of Akaroa at 5:45pm to reach the first night’s accommodation where you need to provide your own dinner.
I was straight away taken by this delightful old villa with beautiful sea views and, in a typically British way, a perfectly keep lawn. While exploring I discovered the stargazing units and decided to set up my sleeping bag in one so I could fall asleep under the stars.
The following two days would not let me down either. Banks Track is incredibly varied; from the elevated farmland at the start of the track that overlooks Akaroa and the Caldera, to the bays we passed through to end up in the bush. There is also a lot of wildlife to be seen; Flea Bay has a blue penguin colony to rival that of Oamaru, and what’s more here they’re left to live in a perfectly natural state. You can visit Flea Bay on an evening excursion. Likewise you’ll also see fur seals along the way and just before Stony Bay there’s a reserve that’s been set up for the Albatross colony.
Stony Bay is no doubt the highlight of the walk; not only will you be able to see yellow eyed penguins but the accommodation is a hidden treasure, a sort of naturally styled hobbiton. I also loved the shower ingeniously attached to a tree and the outdoor bath heated by a fire pit below it and you can prepare a well-deserved dinner on the BBQs that are provided. With the honesty box system you’ll be able to source most of your food fresh along the track from local farmers instead of carting it all with you.
All these little touches means that even though you need to carry your sleeping bag, Banks Track is still a very comfortable option as far as hikes go, with showers, flush toilets, and small private rooms in the cottages rather than dormitories. If you’re pretty fit you can opt for the 2 night/3 day version but the 4 night/5 day version is great if you want to do it at a more leisurely pace, it really gives you a chance to enjoy all the track has to offer.
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