Penguin Park Walk

 

At the south end of Paekākāriki, this walk wanders through Ames Street Reserve, then takes you back along the beach. You’ll be treated to a wonderful combination of sea views – from atop the steep-edged grass reserve, and from the sea shore itself – with picnic and restaurant options enroute.

The escarpment towers above the reserve; you might spot walkers negotiating its iconic walk, with narrow paths and ladders of steps, high above you.

Who it suits

This is a fairly cruisy walk for many people, but a medium level of fitness will make it more enjoyable as there are a few bumps now and then. The grade is easy until the first lookout, so it’s an option to only walk that part. Otherwise, the full walk is ‘easy plus’ if you do it all in one go. The walk back along the beach can seem longer than you think.

The shorter route just to the first lookout point is suitable for buggies. Much of the walk isn’t accessible for wheelchairs, but there is access in the open part of the reserve along a sealed path (giving only more distant sea views).

The walk is officially suitable for dogs, on a lead. However, rabbit poison is dropped regularly and the resulting carcasses are dangerous to dogs, so please watch your dogs closely to ensure they don’t chew anything. Dogs absolutely must be kept on a lead, as this is a precious nesting area for blue penguins.

The track to Fisherman’s Table is bike-friendly for people with mountain bikes or medium-sized tyres: you’ll need to carry your bike over a short sand-dune section that contains loose sand, usually too deep to ride.

Highlights

Ames St Reserve is the breeding ground for the little blue penguin or kororā (there is an information sign at the start of the reserve). Read more about these special creatures – and if you’re able to go near dawn or dusk, you may even be lucky enough to see one. Or you might see some telling, tiny footprints in the sand.

Two picnic tables, with fantastic sea views, are provided in the open part of the reserve. The Fisherman’s Table bar and restaurant is located halfway along the route, if you fancy a quick drink.

How long it takes

Around 50 minutes.

Transport

By public transport, take the train to Paekākāriki and take the southern exit off the platform. You are now on Beach Road, where the shops, cafes etc are located. Walk up Beach Road to the public toilets (start point).

By road, travel on State Highway One to Paekākāriki and take the township’s main exit. You are now on Beach Road where public parking is available.

Before you start, check the tide times to ensure you walk at low tide.

Facilities

Public toilets are located at the start of the walk, on the corner of Beach Road and Ames Street. There are no rubbish bins along this walk so please be a tidy Kiwi and take your rubbish home with you.

Directions

From the public toilets on Beach Road, in the centre of Paekākāriki village, walk south down Ames Street (10 mins). At the end, enter Ames Street Reserve. You can either walk along the reserve’s sealed path, or via the grassed area to get a great sea view. At the end of the open area is a walking path heading into the bush. Take this winding path until you reach a bench, the first lookout (7 mins). If you have a buggy, this is the point to turn around and return.

Continue along the bush track. You’ll reach the top of a sand dune that you will need to clamber over. Once you have tackled the dune, continue along the path to the second lookout/bench (5 mins). Behind this bench, take 25 steep steps down and follow the path until you reach the pointed rock – a signpost for the start of the “Kāpiti Coast Walkway and Cycleway” (5 mins). You’re now in the car park of the Fishermans Table restaurant and bar. They have a lovely deck with big views, if you fancy a rest and a drink. There’s also a large fish tank inside, great for entertaining the kids.

From here take the beach access path (look for blue marker), then the 20 rock steps down to the beach. Walk north along the beach, passing beneath the edge of the reserve, where many of the penguins build their nests (15 mins). Exit at the Ames Street beach access lane, by a small creek. Walk the remainder of Ames Street back to your start point (10 mins).

Link with other trails

You can incorporate  this walk into the much longer Escarpment Track, or (shorter) Kohekohe Loop Track, by continuing to the south end of Ames St, walking over the bridge on State Highway One, then ducking under the bridge (down some stairs). The Penguin Park walk could be done before or after walking these tracks.

To complement your walk, read Prawn tide by Mercedes Webb-Pullman

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