Thinking About Doing the Paparoa Track?

10 Steps to Make it Happen

Like everything, walking or riding the Paparoa Track involves making a single major decision to commit to ‘doing it.’  Sounds easy but sometimes we get lost in decision making detail and before long it just all gets too hard.  Here’s our ‘paint by numbers’ guide to getting yourself over the line.

1.  Make the commitment

Verbalise your plan to someone – your mum, your partner, your best mate.  “ Hey, I want to do the Paparoa Track – wanna join me?”  Once those words fall from your mouth, shared with someone you hold as important to you, the deed is as good as done.  Verbalise, verbalise, verbalise – to anyone!


2. Book your Paparoa Track hut/huts

Completing the Paparoa Track isn’t quite as easy as just saying stuff.  Because of the popularity of the track, you’ll quickly find that some of the options have been taken away from you because other more organised people than you have already booked that date you thought was ideal, so now you need to have a plan B.  So go into this process with a degree of flexibility around the actual date you thought you would start the track.

The actual booking of the huts is pretty easy.  The DOC online booking engine will show you the available dates, and those dates that are already booked out. The booking engine is accessed here; Hut Bookings. You will need to decide how long you are going to take – usually 3 days/2 nights for trampers and 2 days/one night for riders. You may want to check out some of the user reviews online or talk to some who has already completed the track.

3. Decide how long you will need

It’s potentially a long way to come for a 2-3 day activity, so what else is there to do on the Coast?  If you are a walker, there are a number of additional trails you could consider both North or South of the Paparoas.  Maybe there is a road trip to consider – heading down the coast via the glaciers and then out to Wanaka.
As a rider, what about completing a second trail such as the West Coast Wilderness Trail or the Old Ghost Road.  Working with two weekends and the 5 weekdays, you now have a 9 day break to fill up, so do some research and have a decent break, because you deserve it!
West Coast Wilderness Trail

4. Work out your logistics

Deciding on a bigger plan makes a heap of minor details easier to consider.  Fly into Christchurch, rent a car, do the Paparoa Track, head down the coast with a few of the great walks, into Wanaka, back over the Lindis Pass into the Mackenzie Basin & Mt Cook and back out to Christchurch.  Sort out the BIG picture and then fill in the gaps.

5. Decide how you are going to get to the West Coast

There are only three passes onto the West Coast, a train into Greymouth or a flight into Hokitika.  Driving via Nelson, Christchurch or Wanaka provides the entry and exit points.  A flight into Hokitika perhaps and then a rail trip back on the Trans Alpine Train?

6. Decide and book your accommodation

The major location is your pre-track start.  The track is best done south to north, so Blackball is the obvious choice.  An overnight stay at the start and heart of the track provides a completely complimentary historic aspect that brings the track alive.  The activity isn’t just about walking or riding the track, its about all the ‘stuff’ that goes around it.
Staying in a motel or a crowded camping ground just doesn’t compare to the overnight in Emma’s cottage or the Blackball Hilton and sharing a beer with a local.  This track grew out of the tragedy of the Pike mine disaster.  Respect the history, learn about the mining history of the coast and just immerse yourself!
Contact us to book your accommodation for you.

7. Decide how you will move around – to the start of the track and from the end of the track

The wild west has been tamed, and there are a network of shuttles and timetables to pretty much get you from anywhere to anywhere.  Flying into Hokitika and want to get up to Blackball – easy peasey!  Thinking of hiring a rental vehicle and then heading up to explore Karamea at the very tip of the West Coast Road – no problems.  We will relocate your vehicle to our private car park at Punakaiki and you can reunite there before heading off.  We love solving logistics so call us to discuss your needs.

8. Prepare your essential gear

The gear required for the Paparoa Track is pretty well documented on a number of websites, so we won’t go deep into that now. The sage advice is to not carry too much!  Rule of thumb is one set of clothes to walk/ride in, and a set to change into for the end of the day.  After that, anything else is a luxury. Throw in a headlamp, first aid kit, cooking utensils and pots, a camera/phone, a small towel, and some food.  All of this is contained in a pack that needs to be made waterproof with some robust plastic bags.

9. Cross your fingers for nice weather

Chances are that it will involve some rain at some point – so be prepared.  By ‘be prepared’ I don’t mean that lightweight shower resistant -sometimes – jacket with no hood.  We mean be prepared – for heavy rain, for fog as well as for that bonus sunshine and awesome views.  It doesn’t rain everyday on the coast, but it is called a rainforest for a reason!  Waterproof bags for your gear, and especially your sleeping bag would be a priority.

10. Prepare to have fun!

You’ll enjoy the spectacular scenery as you head over to the coast.  The interactions with locals and immersion in the historic Blackball will add another dimension to your Paparoa Track experience and the camaraderie of fellow travellers will provide new friends for the next trip.  The spectacular views from the tops north to Westport and the coast, as well as back south to the Southern Alps.  Regardless of the weather, the track and views, the personal achievement and sense of challenge will ensure this remains a treasured memory and bragging rights with your friends for years to come.