Image: Mark Coote
The Inland Track winds along a flowing ridge, smack in the middle of Queen Elizabeth Park. It’s a quieter, wilder alternative to the Coastal Track or Te Ara o Whareroa.
You’ll be treated to big views of the Tasman Sea and forested foothills; on a good day the islands of the Marlborough Sounds will be visible.
Loved by locals, this track has quiet charms and breathtaking views. It’s a pleasant walk in most weather conditions, and a great option for runners. You can enjoy either a gentle, short jog or a longer run to get the heart rate up.
Who it suits
This is a walk for all ages, but some fitness will help you enjoy the hills. The track is mostly easy, but with some moderate sections. It is ideal for a family afternoon out, or a quick lunchtime or evening walk – or run. A wide, well-maintained dirt surface, the track is easy to get to and well signposted.
There are some steeper parts that may leave the less-fit or older walker short of breath. The hills are a bit more frequent and challenging than those on the Coastal Track. Children will enjoy the flowing curves and variety.
Dogs are fine, on a lead. Its okay for buggies with off-road tyres, but not suited to wheelchairs. You might see oncoming bikers or joggers (people on bikes must give way to walkers and other track users).
Find the start of the Inland Track off the loop road within Queen Elizabeth Park (off Wellington Road, Paekākāriki). The track’s beginning is just below the top of the hill near the Memorial Lookout – off the circular sealed road through the Park. Follow the track from here, it’s well marked and easy to follow.
You can take this track all the way to Raumati South (the full option) – or loop back earlier to join the Coastal Track, returning to Paekākāriki (the half option).
Or, take an alternative start to the walk via the Urupā, accessed off the Wainui Stream track (near where the eels congregate at the Tilley Road end of the track). This gives you a lovely grassy – but steep – start to the walk, passing a special urupa for local hapū Ngāti Haumia, and following a narrow winding ridge to join the main Inland Track after about half a kilometre.
How long it takes
- Walk: It takes about 40 to 60 mins to walk the length of the Inland Track (one way) from Paekākāriki to Raumati South (full option).
- Run: You can jog or run the first half of the Inland-Coastal Track loop from Paekākāriki (half option) in one hour or less – at a slow-to-moderate jogging pace.
- Stunning views extend from North to South, from sea to hills. You can gaze on Mount Wainui, the local summit, or see Whareroa Farm and Transmission Gully in the distance. On a good day, try island spotting across the water to the Marlborough Sounds. Coastal native planting, and both native and introduced birds are other features – listen out for the sudden sound of a squawking pheasant.
- In late summer, blackberries will be ripe for picking (just look out for Council notices of occasional spraying).
If you’re driving to the start, there is plenty of car parking near the Wellington Road entrance of Queen Elizabeth Park. It’s a 20-30 min walk from Paekākāriki Railway Station.
Toilets are available in Queen Elizabeth Park, by the car park at the Paekākāriki end, in the middle of the park near Whareroa Beach, and at the Raumati South entrance to the park.
Food and drink
There are options for purchasing food and drink in Paekākakāriki, Queen Elizabeth Park (limited) and Raumati South. On Beach Road, Paekākāriki, there are two cafés, a pub, a fruit shop and dairy. These are all about 1.5km south from the Wellington Road entrance to Queen Elizabeth Park.
In Queen Elizabeth Park, at Mackays Crossing, a kiosk at the Tram Museum sells pre-packaged ice creams, ice blocks, chippies etc. only while trams are running (at weekends and public holidays, excluding Christmas Day, from 11am till 4:30pm). This is around 1.5km from the end of the southern track and can be reached by foot or by tram from Whareroa Beach. In Raumati South there are cafes, a dairy and Southend Takeaways. There are more cafes further north in the bigger shopping centre of Raumati Beach.
Link with other trails
Link with either the Coastal Track or Te Ara o Whareroa, which flank the Inland Track on either side. You could also do a side trip along the Whareroa Stream Track – from Te Ara o Whareroa just north of Whareroa Road (past the aero club and pine tree).
Off the beaten track
Countless secondary pathways are dotted along the southern section of this track. These link to the Coastal Track, if you feel like mixing it up or coming back a different way. They take only a few minutes to complete and some loop back to the Inland Track. Most are well-marked with blue posts. Others are hinted at by a grassy gap in the shrubbery, making them feel more of an adventure.
- In winter, on the highest points on the mid-to-north sections of the Inland Track, look to the south to see stunning distant views of Tapuae-O-Uenuku, the highest peak in the Kaikoura Range (and the highest peak in New Zealand, outside of the Southern Alps).
- Good places to stop include the bench seat at the top of the big curvy hill near the Whareroa road carpark (halfway through if you do the whole walk).
- You can expect mobile coverage throughout this walk.
A restless person’s guide to a walking meditation by Meryl Richards