I have to start this post with an apology. It feels like for the past few months I’ve been winging nonstop about the winter gloom. You see, the endless rainy days and bitter cold were really starting to get to me. Thankfully, mother nature took pity on us Canterburians and for the last two weekends, we’ve been gifted with the most glorious sunny days! For the first time in ages, I was able to head out for some top quality New Zealand fresh air.
One of the benefits of living on the South side of Christchurch is our proximity to the Port Hills. This natural wonderland is full of mountain bike tracks, dog-friendly trails, and some pretty decent crags if climbing is your thing.
Recently I’ve decided to make more of an effort to explore these local tracks in search of beautiful views and hidden gems, so it was perfect timing when my friend asked me if I was keen to join her on a walk up Rapaki Track the other day. Excited for a new adventure, the pup and I hopped into the car and we were there in under ten minutes.
One of my criteria for a good hike is minimal crowds and ease of parking. Since this was the first nice day in a while, I’ll give Rapaki the benefit of the doubt, but it was PACKED. The trailhead starts at the end of a residential road so parking is already minimal, but on this busy day, most people were forced to turn around and look for parking down the hill around Centaurus Road.
The walk starts through a nice shady patch of trees but quickly opens up to a wide trail that could comfortably fit about four people across. Be sure to look back every now and then on your way up because if the weather’s clear, you can start catching nice views of Christchurch’s metropolitan sprawl.
Be forewarned, you’ll be sharing the road with cyclists going up and down the track. Most are good about sharing the road but keep an eye out if you’ve got small kids or a pup off leash.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to never trust a Kiwi when they tell you how long a walk should take. Most guidebooks will quote this as an hour and a half return; just climbing to the top of the track took us about an hour and fifteen minutes, most of which was pretty steep. I’d leave a good two hours to do the trip if you’re moderately fit and add time if you’re walking with little kids or stop often for photo ops.
Also, wear comfy shoes and prepare to be sore the next day. Don’t be like me and forget to stretch; it took days (and a lot of yoga) for my calves to loosen up so I could walk easily again after tackling this hill.
The end of the track offers a stunning panorama of Lyttleton Harbour with rolling hills surrounded by water and a vast blue sky. The satisfaction of making it to the top was slightly diminished when I realized I’d be crossing a car park to get to the best views, it was a bit disheartening to be honest.
You could easily turn this hike into a loop but it with the shorter winter days, it was starting to get dark and we decided to head back down the way we came.
I’m thinking maybe next time I’ll skip the walk and just drive up with a picnic basket to watch the sunset over the harbour with Pete.
In my opinion, there are probably better tracks nearby. I’m keen to check out Gibraltar Rock, Taylor’s Mistake and Barnett Park, all of which have been recommended to me by several locals. This walk was nice but not worth the cyclists with boomboxes and hordes of people walking in activewear that likely costs more than my weekly rent.
Oh well, it was still glorious to be back outside absorbing all that vitamin D. Fingers crossed this weekend’s forecast stays clear for some more adventures!
Do you have any favorite Port Hills hikes? Let me know the best spots in the comments below!
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