Don’t you love that feeling when you complete something you’ve been wanting to do for a while? That’s how we felt recently when we hiked the Pinnacles Track on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand’s North Island.
The Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel, for those who don’t know, is Auckland’s playground – the amazing beaches of the region are a major drawcard for the many out-of-towners who have holiday homes in this part of the country. We’ve featured more photos of Whangapoua, one of the best Coromandel beaches in our opinion, here.
But the Coromandel is not all about beaches – much of the mountainous peninsula is a forest park, and there are many hiking trails to be found. The most popular of these is the Pinnacles Track.
Inland from the town of Thames (pronounced Tems), just over an hour from Auckland, the Kauaeranga Valley is the access point for the Pinnacles Track. The gravel road is dusty and potholed, but the drive up the valley is quite picturesque.
The trailhead is right at the end of the gravel road – a nice easy way to find it!
There is a hut almost at the top of the Pinnacles Track, which you can stay in overnight if you want to. Or, like us, you can do it as a day hike – it’s up to you.
The Pinnacles Track
The day we did the Pinnacles Track was a stiflingly hot January day – not the most ideal day for a long walk, but nevertheless the weather was stunning – and the views are what we came for.
The track started off with a wobbly swing bridge and started climbing immediately. That’s what characterises the Pinnacles Track: the stairs. The Kauaeranga Valley was a major source of kauri logs back in the 1800s, and loggers made steps for bullocks and donkeys to haul their wooden loads up and down the valley. These are the same steps that the track takes today – it’s quite surreal that these massive pieces of stone were carted and chiselled into place more than a hundred years ago.
Up, up, up and up. The track is definitely a steep one, and on a hot day like we had it was downright challenging. You need to take lots of water with you! But the forest views are gorgeous and it was so nice being out in nature.
After about 2.5 hours, we reached the Pinnacles Hut, where we stopped for lunch. This hut is massive (compared to our experience at the Cape Brett hut, anyway). It’s very well equipped with a gas BBQ and cookers, so you don’t have to bring your own. The hut sleeps 80 people (yes, 80!) so you won’t be alone if you come during the weekend – it gets booked out quite far in advance in summer, too.
Climbing the Pinnacles
The highlight of the Pinnacles Track is climbing (guess what) the Pinnacles! From the hut, it’s about another half an hour to the top of the Pinnacles. These are spikes of rock that tower over the landscape below. To get to the top, there are ladders and iron rungs built into the rocks that you have to climb up – it’s tough but incredibly rewarding when you see the views.
Looking west, you can see the pancake-flat Hauraki Plains, and to the east there are the beach settlements of Tairua, Pauanui and Whangamata. The views are simply stunning. If you’re staying at the hut, you could climb up there for sunrise or sunset – I bet that would be gorgeous.
The Billygoat Track
However, we had to head back down the valley, and so we reluctantly left the amazing views for the next group. On the way back we took the Billygoat Track, which heads across another ridge and down the other side of the valley. This track is a bit longer and harder in my opinion. The track surface is quite often made of small rocks which kill your ankles – tramping boots with ankle support are definitely needed here! But it was nice to get different views on the way back down, for sure.
Finally we reached the trailhead, about six hours after we left. What a day!
It was so satisfying completing the Pinnacles Track, something that we have wanted to do for a long time. It’s so close to Auckland yet we still hadn’t made it there! We fully recommend it for visitors to New Zealand – just do it as a day trip from Auckland (if you have a rental car), you won’t regret it!
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