New Zealand has nine tracks classified by the Department of Conservation as official Great Walks. The Cape Brett Walkway isn’t one of them, but in terms of sheer beauty, it really should be. At just over 16km (10 miles) each way, and with numerous steep climbs and descents, it is however challenging but so very rewarding. For most, this is a two day hike, from Rawhiti to the Cape Brett lighthouse, spending a night in the converted lighthouse keeper's cottage on day one before returning the next day via the same route. Expect to take 6 - 7 hours each way or even longer as you’ll stop many times along the way to enjoy the stunning coastal vistas and clifftop views. The last 2kms is particularly spectacular but you better have a head for heights as the track follows the cliff edge with sheer drops to the ocean, 100m below.
The overnight hut is basic but comfortable with 23 bunk beds spread over two rooms and a central area. There’s also a communal kitchen/dining area with gas hobs and various pots and utensils. There is however no electricity so take a torch or candles. Some toilet paper would also be a good idea. While there is running water, we were advised to carry in all the drinking water we needed as there seems to be an ongoing problem with salt getting into the water supply. We tasted the water and while it wasn’t unbearably, it definitely didn’t taste great.
If the thought of a two day hike doesn’t excite you, there is a shorter option which is to catch a water taxi which comes ashore in Deep Water Cove and from here it’s about 2 - 3 hours walk to the hut. If you do decide to do the entire walk from Rawhiti bear in mind that you will need to pay for a walkway permit as the track passes through private land. You can pay for this and for your overnight stay in the hut online on the DOC website.
Finally, parking is something else you’ll want to consider if walking the full route from Rawhiti. There is no parking area at the start of the track itself and it’s not advisable to leave your car on the side of the road overnight. A number of the locals do however allow visitors to park on their grounds for a small fee, with 253 Rawhiti Road mentioned as the ‘official’ parking area on the DOC website. Just look out for the sign at the postboxes on your right as you come down the hill into Kaingahoa Bay. Drive into the gate and park immediately to your left. Don’t forget to bring some cash to put in the small cash box nailed to the post, $5 per car per day (as at August 2016).
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