New Zealand opens Paparoa Track: a new international drawcard

The first purpose built dual walking and mountain bike track on the Great Walk network, the Paparoa Track is now open, stirring a great deal of excitement on New Zealand’s West Coast.

The small towns that make up the region are now ready to welcome visitors from all over the world, as the track is set to become one of the region’s biggest drawcard for New Zealanders and overseas visitors.

Locals, or “Coasters” as they are colloquially known, are famous for their hospitality and extremely passionate about their home and the new track is of significant meaning to everyone from the area.

The three-day, 55km walk (or two-day bike ride) explores some of the most rugged, diverse and untouched environments in the country. The tenth Great Walk and first to be constructed in 25 years will take in stone cliffs, beech forest and glades of subtropical nikau palms at one end, while climbing to a unique alpine setting with incredible views out to the Tasman Sea.

The winding coastal road from Greymouth to Punakaiki is the perfect example of the untamed West Coast wilderness.

Signage can be found along the way emblazoned with local hapu (sub-tribe) Ngati Waewae’s designs. Rauhine Coakley, iwi representative on track interpretation, says eventually there will be carved gateways at both ends and a Pou (pole) whenua erected at one of the highest points of the track: “Given that the track is in a national park, there was a lot of planning and prescription around the environmental impact. I don’t think any other track in the country has had such a high focus on minimising impact and then remediating around the track. This environmental focus is now rubbing off on other trail projects around the country.”

The Paparoa Track is bound to make hikers around world bucket lists. With an eager community waiting to welcome visitors and an environment that is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful but also untouched, the reward will be great for those that take up the challenge.

Key Statistics

The Ces Clark Hut on the Parapoa track – seen from above

New Zealand’s walking and hiking offering includes three large world heritage sites – Tongariro National Park, Te Wahipounamu and the Subantarctic Islands – and ten Great Walks across the North and South Islands, as well as many one-day options.

  • As at September 2019 80% of all visitors to New Zealand said they Walked, Hiked, Trekked or Tramped while they were here.
  • 22% of all visitors cite walking and hiking as a factor influencing consideration of New Zealand
  • 3% completed a Great Walk, 23% did a walk over three hours and 58% completed a walk between 30 minutes and 3 hours.
  • Between 2012 and 2019 there has been a 38% increase in people using the Great Walk network.
  • Between 2012 and 2019 there has been a 20% increase in international visitors using the Great Walk network.
  • The Department of Conservation (DoC) is New Zealand’s largest tourism provider.

Photo: The natural environment on the West Coast’s new Great Walk is an incredible setting – © Jason Blair / Katabatic