Gibbons - Whatipu Beach Loop + Zion Loop (figure 8)
We head past the information kiosk on our left and follow the fenceline (on the right)of the Whatipu campground .
We followed the fenceline of the campsite towards the hill on the opposite side of
Omanawanui and head northwest. Then up a slightly steep hill, with dense bush overhead. Upon reaching close to the top, there are plenty of exposed parts of this track through flax and some beauty views overlooking Whatipu beach and entrance to the Manukau Heads.
Once up the top, it was along a ridge with plenty of great beach/sea views. There are plenty of Manuka trees that kind of form tunnels which the track goes through too. Since we were last up here (Summer
2012) we soon discover that DoC have butchered this track a bit, cut down heaps
of Manuka trees to double this width of it. Most of the cuttings have been left to lie on where the original track was to cover up any muddy puddies and the gutter-like groove in the ground where the water runs down. Looks like with this track they’re also aiming for the masses and for those precious “trampers” that don’t like a bit of mud.
At the end of the Gibbons (about 1 ¼ hrs) we reach the a T junction. The Muir Track to the left and the Walker Ridge Track to the right. We head left. This is all down, apart from a beauty lush deep green Nikau stream bit which is pretty level. There’s a stream that runs alongside this Nikau grove too. On the other side are some pretty cool rocks. About half an hour from starting out on this track we reach a kind of cliff. This place has a spectacular commanding view out to the Pararaha Valley below and outwards and directly across is the imposing peak of Baldy. We decide this is the perfect spot to stop for a cuppa and some golden crunch cookies.
From here it’s a tad steep and we clambered down a rock face with the assistance of a rope bolted into the rock for a few metres. This track then zig-zags to the bottom where (after about ¾ hrs from starting) we came across a grassy clearance by the Pararaha stream, there’s a shelter (concrete floor and roof) and another grassy clearing by the stream if you fancy a spot of camping. There is a junction here where the Pararaha track goes both directions (right heads up the stream and valley – connecting to Odlins Timber Track) We headed left on the Pararaha Valley track and we then came across a stream crossing. This is just over boot level, so you’ll get wet feet (this stream can get a lot deeper after a bit of rain (we’ve crossed it previously when waist deep). About 10-15 minutes later and after a wee stroll over the board walk over the marsh we arrive at a
junction. The beach (Parahara Bay) is to the left and the Buck Taylor Track is to the right.
We head right. This starts off as it means to go on, upwards. After about 10 minutes or so we come across the junction on the Zion Hill Track on our left. We continue straight ahead on the Buck Taylor. As you make a bit of height, in between the trees are some spectacular views of the sea, marsh and dunes behind us. The track then goes through denser bush with some great Puriri trees where the light is a tad dimmer & also the track gets a tad steeper.
After about half an hour we come across the junction of the Zion Ridge Track on
the left and the Buck Taylor Track continues to the right. We head left. This track is pretty flat and fairly wide with plenty of Puriri trees. There are lots of leaves giving the track a pleasant vibe. Every now and then, there are gaps in the trees on the right and you get the odd view of the Waitaks beyond. After about close to half an hour we reach the T junction of the Zion Hill Track going left (back towards Parahara Bay) and right (towards Karekare).
We head left. Along the way, the trees part and there is a marvellous view of Pararaha Bay and Whatipu beach beyond . After while the track starts to descend. Close to the bottom, the track crosses the tranquil Waihuna Stream. There is a bit of space to the side of the track right next to the stream making for a perfect place for lunch and a cuppa. Well rested we continue on upwards on a nice easy gradient. The canopy of the bush is really dense here and the light is a lot dimmer with a green hue. After about 15 minutes you arrive back at the junction where the Zion Hill track ends and the Buck Taylor Track goes both left (upwards) and right (downwards).
We head right. We then back track to the junction of the Parahara Valley Track straight ahead and the Beach (Parahara Bay) to the right. This starts off as a boardwalk but
soon abruptly ends at the long grass/reeds of the marsh. The track does split here and we veered to the right to where the Cabbage Trees were growing, as the ground was firm there. Getting to the beach takes a tad longer than expected (about half an hour to forty minutes). Once at the beach head left towards Whatipu, but we head out close to the water’s edge where the sand is firmer.
This does seem to be the longer way around, but if you make a bee-line towards your destination it will take longer as there are sand dunes where the sand is soft and there is also a maze of marsh. This is best to avoid as soft sand, as it becomes hard work as does navigating marsh (we have learnt this from previous experience), plus is best to keep out of this stuff as it’s home to lots of cool birds. This beach is actually quite beautiful with its back drop of the Waitaks and the marshland. It also has quite a desolate feel about it too as it’s deceptively long. The walk back to Whatipu on the beach is about
1 ¾ hours.
We reach the car in just under 6 ½ hours from starting out.
Level of Difficulty
Easy to Medium
6.5 Hours (Winter 2012)