Hiking Trails • Geologic Formations
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What travellers are saying
- Very neat to see with lots of views throughout. Just remember to go before high tide (1hr or so before). Just to see the optimal action. Quite a lot of people as well.Written 18 November 2023This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
- A very easy paced half hour walk through the lovely trees right to the end and come out at the ocean. You can walk down onto the beach at low tide but beware those sand flies!!!!Written 24 June 2023This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
- Nice track to stretch your legs and view the flora and fauna. The track wanders along the river so you get some great viewing points.Written 8 February 2023This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
- Easy accessible cave with some smaller stalactites. If you want to see glowworms, you have to come during night, because the glowworms are near an 2nd opening of the cave. Consequently, it is not dark enough during daylight to see them.Written 22 March 2023
- One of the best natural attractions in NZ, you absolutely must add a visit to the Pancake Rocks to your West Coast itinerary!!Written 20 April 2022
- Unfortunately I went to visit this cave and it is closed due to a slid in the entrance. Always check the DOC for updates before going.
" 18 November 2016: Fox River Cave closed
The Fox River Cave, situated 3.7 km up from the Fox River carpark (12 km north of Punakaiki) has been closed due to a large slip at the cave entrance. "Written 23 November 2016
- Nice scenic tourist place in Punakaiki. Temperature in September is cool, around 10+C. Worth a visit on the way to Queenstown from Christchurch.Written 13 September 2022
- An moderate walk, but it’s not too far, so not a long walk. The history is tragic but interesting. The scenery is fascinating and beautiful!Written 16 April 2022
- We walked up the river track, then turned to cross the bridge. We followed the inland pack track to Bullock Creek road and walked down that to return to the highway.
The trail maintenance in the inland pack track was of a lower standard than most of what we saw in New Zealand, but still quite manageable. It was rocky and slippery in places, and I was glad to be wearing my hiking boots. There is a section with a lot of dead trees (we were later told that this was the result of a cyclone years ago) which wasn't too attractive to us, but which did seem to make excellent bird habitat. There was a lot of song. The prettiest part of the walk was really the trip back along Bullock creek road, with large cliffs framing the valley, and a view of the mountains.Written 20 April 2023
- This review is for Punakaiki crafts, not the cafe as they are two different shops. The staff are very friendly and a great selection of shoes, but this shop is getting overcrowded with stock and is starting to look and feel tacky. Used to have some cool different stuff, now becoming a generic souvenir shop. Sorry, but was really disappointed looking in here today.Written 4 January 2022
- Well orgamised business. Kayaks in good condition and all safety gear supplied. Staff friendly and helpful. We are seniors but felt very safe paddling the first pafrt of the river. Beautiful scenery snd very peaceful. Definitely recommend this experienceWritten 1 December 2023
- We walked Paparoa Smoke-ho to Punakaiki, staying at Ces Clark, Moonlight Tops and Pororari Huts en route, 15th-18th Nov 2023. We are two 50yo women, both with average walking fitness but not pack fit. By this we mean one of us walks her dog 45mins each day including some steep uphill, and has never done a multi day hike. The other walks 10-20km once a week with a day pack and has not multi day hiked since her 20’s. Neither of us did heavy pack training. We were each carrying around 12kg including the pack weight itself. We have written this to help others wondering whether they can do it / what to expect, as we found information on Paparoa track limited.
We booked our tickets successfully within seconds of the track season opening mid Jul then it was all sold out immediately for our dates. We met several people who had done the same but couldn’t get Ces Clark. However by the time we got to Ces Clark mid Nov only 10 people were booked. So what you could do if you can’t get Ces Clark straight away is book 2 nights at Moonlight Tops and then cancel 1 of them if Ces Clark becomes available - the others with us in Ces Clark had all booked within a month of being there.
Smoke-ho to Ces Clark
DOC brochure says 4-5 hours for this 10.3km section of the track. In total it took us 5 hours including a 45min stop for lunch at the 2nd historic hotel site and numerous photo stops. We managed this section no problems, with some pack fatigue and ‘ready to get there now’ setting in about 45mins from arrival. However at our fitness level we would have struggled if we had had to continue to Moonlight Tops hut. (A very fit family group who stayed with us at Moonlight Tops and who had walked there direct from Smoke-ho were sore and tired and had found the day quite long - though also glad they had pushed themselves, which I guess is the difference when you are really fit.)
The first 2 hours of the Smoke-ho to Ces Clark track to the 2nd historic hotel site was quite flat, even slightly descending in places. The climb to Ces Clark hut started beyond the hotel site and continued for the final 2 hours to Ces Clark, but it was a gentle ascent, not nearly as steep as we had anticipated from the brochure.
Even in fine weather we had several points in the final 2 hours where we got slightly wet feet from streams running over the track - I guess in rain the streams would be deeper and harder to pass without having to stand in the water.
Ces Clark hut
Ces Clark has 3 gas cookers with 2 elements each, a water billy, a couple of old pots and a battered fry pan. There is a wood fire with a drying rack above it on a pulley rope. Beds are wooden platforms on two walls of the hut, four on bottom and four on top on each. A couple of people found the hut on the cold side, but we had only 2 per platform (4 of the 10 booked were no shows) so perhaps with more people it would be warmer. Ces Clark has good cell reception but nowhere to charge phones.
Ces Clark to Moonlight Tops section
The DOC brochure stated 3 hours for this 9.7km section of the track. This was the only section that was a little longer and harder than we expected, and was a solid 3.5 hour walk for us in fine weather, with no stops.
We spent an extra half hour (so 4 hours total on this section) on the Croesus Knob side track, which was very steep and shingly - we stopped short of the final bit as didn’t feel safe as the wind started to pick up.
Moonlight Tops Hut
Moonlight Tops has four gas cookers with two elements each, two water billies, a few pots and a fry pan. There is a wood fire with a drying rack above it on a pulley rope and a couple of plastic clothes racks.
There are two separate bedrooms off the main room of the hut. One has 8 beds (2 beds along a platform bunk at the bottom and 2 along the top, on each side of the long narrow room); the other has 12 beds (6 beds on each of the top and bottom platforms which are against the back wall of a wide room).
There is also a separate cloak/entrance room, with drip grills for shoes and jackets, which can then be brought inside once drip dry. Food that needs to be kept cold can be left in the cloak room (this worked in Nov anyway).
Moonlight Tops was full when we were there and was plenty warm enough. This hut has limited cell reception in the window corner of the main room, and 4 phone-only USB charger points.
Moonlight Tops to Pororari section
The DOC brochure stated 5-7 hours for this 19.1km section of the track, which took us 5.5 hours including a half hour stop at the emergency shelter half way along. There is a toilet at the emergency shelter. We had light to moderate rain the whole way so perhaps there were less photo stops as we couldn’t see the views but the rain in the bush was stunning and we stopped several times for photos of waterfalls and tree/rock formations.
About 1.5hr from Moonlight Tops we saw the entrance to the Pike River track under construction, due to be completed Feb 2024.
Towards the end of this section there was a pretty big mud puddle from a very recent slip towards - prepare to get a bit muddy if walking after big rains.
Pororari hut is exactly the same layout and set up as Moonlight Tops. However there were less pots and pans - only 1 good pot, a small battered frypan and an old billy pot, plus the two water billies.
There are 4 phone-only USB charger points but absolutely no cell reception at Pororari hut.
Pororari to Pororari River Car Park section
The DOC brochure stated 4-5 hours for this 16km section of the track, which took us 4.5 hours, with the no meal stops but 4 loo stops (not sure what was happening that morning as hadn’t needed multiple loo stops on the other days!) and a lot more photo stops than on the previous sections.
Several shallow water passages to pass through on this section, almost unavoidable to get wet feet.
Other notes and tips
Our last day was a Saturday and whilst over the previous 3 days we had encountered only 1 mountain biker - who was having a break at Moonlight Tops - on this last day we had about 8 pass us coming from the other direction i.e. towards us, plus a lot of day hikers doing the same. Got startled by a biker on one occasion but never felt unsafe. However if you would like this section of the track to yourself and/or would like to avoid the bikers in general, suggest do the walk on weekdays, and in the same direction we did it - one of the DOC rangers told us that 95% of people do it in this direction, so you are unlikely to encounter any/many hikers coming towards you if you go with the 95% flow.
Both of us had good quality walking shoes, not boots, and neither of us experienced sore feet as some other reviewers have mentioned.
Final note is about is hiking poles, if you usually use them. We took them but because almost the entire track is rock/stone we felt the noise of poles on rock was spoiling the experience, so we stopped using them soon after we started and it was therefore a waste of weight to have carried them.Written 24 November 2023
- Apart from being unlucky with the weather on day 3 I couldn't fault it. Our guide/leader/cook was terrific: knowledgeable, friendly, supportive. The meals he magicked out of a bottomless pack were great!
The track is in great shape, which was more than could be said for me! But I (mostly) enjoyed it very much.Written 12 February 2023
- It was a privilege to observe these fascinating birds close-up and to learn about their ways from such a knowledgeable guide and guardian. The tour was very good value. I recommend it highly.Written 9 September 2022
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