With longer days, warmer weather and the school holidays just around the corner, now is the perfect time to stop hibernating with your family and start enjoying the wonders of the outdoors. What better way than to head away for a few days walking on the Tora Coastal Walk in the Wairarapa.
The Tora Coastal Walk was the first private walk established in the North Island. Over 23 years later, it has delighted a steady stream of domestic and international adventurers with its stunning scenery and delicious food.
Located 34kms east of the wine village of Martinborough, and easily accessed from Wellington airport, the Tora Coastal Walk is an ideal short break destination for any family that loves the outdoors.
You can experience a 3 day walk without the difficulty and length of most of New Zealand’s Great Walks run by the Department of Conservation but still come away with a profound sense of satisfaction and achievement.
The brainchild of two farming families who wanted to diversify their business and offer a unique proposition for walkers, the Tora Coastal Walk encompasses river valleys, hill country coastal farms, native bush, expansive ridge-tops, meandering creeks and a spectacular coastline complete with seal colonies.
It’s this diversity, combined with the unique hospitality provided by the farmers to Tora Coastal Walkers, which makes this such a special experience.
Each night is spent in a different cottage, including the recent addition of the architecturally designed Stony Bay Lodge, with all meals catered for by the hosts. Locally sourced fresh produce is used throughout, giving the guest a great overview of what the region has to offer.
A sumptuous breakfast is provided to start off your day, with snacks and a picnic lunch supplied for you to take on the walk with you.
The highlight for us, however, was definitely the evening meals comprising of home caught fish, venison or lamb (depending on the season), complete with mouth-watering desserts, all home cooked and in abundance.
Another stand out feature of the walk is that all your luggage is transported ahead to the next cottage. This came in extremely handy for us as our son was still using a portacot to sleep in at night and, like most babies, also had a huge bag full of nappies, lotions and potions all to himself!
As we were already carrying a child on our back, it was nice to know that we only need to carry enough to get us through the day and that everything else would be waiting for us on arrival.
We were lucky enough to experience this exceptional 3 night/3 day walk back in 2002 when our son was just 6 months old and was still small enough to travel happily in a carry-pack. My parents, then in their late 50s, also joined us for the adventure. They thought they would perhaps be the oldest people on the walk but fell well short – that honour went to a spritely 85 year old lady who put us all to shame as she strode ahead and conquered the walk easily.
Although one doesn’t have to be quite as fit as that old lady, a reasonable level of fitness and stamina is required to complete the walk. If you have a child that isn’t young enough to be carried on your back but is still too young to walk independently for 6 – 7 hours, I suggest you wait a few years until they can manage more easily.
Day 1 on the Tora Coastal Walk
Day one, in particular, is quite challenging, both in its length (15.5 kms) and the steep terrain you encounter.
The pay off, however, is definitely worth it – stunning 360 degree views across the Wairarapa and out to the Pacific Ocean. You can cool off in the middle of the day as you descend to the creek, weaving your way through a magnificent stand of Old Man Kowhai, and regenerating native bush.
Following another climb, to more breathtaking views of the ocean, your final descent is past the Witches Hat, a cone-shaped seafront peak, reminiscent of Lord of the Rings scenery.
Day 2 on the Tora Coastal Walk
Day two sees you meander along the coastline past windswept boulders, impressive driftwood and seal colonies. If you are there at the right time, you may even be lucky enough to spot some seal pups – November to January are the best month to do this.
Take in the historic Opua Shipwreck, and have the option of finishing your day with a short and steep climb up to the Trig where you will be rewarded with more stunning views out across the ocean.
The total distance for this day is between 8 – 11 kms.
Day 3 on the Tora Coastal Walk
Day three sees you walk 13 kms through thick native bush, with over 50 labelled species of trees and plants in this section, including towering punga and majestic beech.
You will also pass an abundance of Manuka, before heading into open pastures back to the starting point of your trek.
A recommended add-on to the Walk is a short stay in Martinborough. Exploring the vineyards and sampling some of the region’s famous wines seemed to us to be a suitable ‘reward’ for our trekking achievements and it was an excellent way to conclude our trip and see yet another side to this beautiful corner of the country.
The Tora Coastal Walk season is from October 1st – April 30th. Closed December 18th – January 5th. Book early to avoid disappointment.
For more fantastic family adventures and expert travel advice, check out our Family Travel section.