12 km (3 hr) Walking Track from Waitati to Potato Point Purakanui/Parakaunui
This page describes a 12 km (3 hr) hike from Waitati to Potato Point in Purakanui.
All times given here are for a 55-60 year old with above-average walking ability.
I carried food, water, and multiple extra layers of clothing, waterproof layers, woolen hat, etc.
I would not walk this route alone without these supplies, and a fully charged cell phone on my body, and without
telling someone where I was going and when to expect me back at the other end. That's because in six hours of walking (3 hours each way), although I
saw the occasional car on the western-most end of the walk (on Doctors Point Road, where there are many houses and cribs), once I was off the
road, I saw only one person on the eastward journey. On the westward return journey, I saw nobody at all on any of the off-road tracks.
So, if you slip on the break-neck slippery parts, or trip over one of the insanely many tree roots, or trip over one of the multitude of rocks on the path,
or fall off a slippery stile, or slip off the track onto the rocks or into the water, and get hurt, you might not be discovered for a day.
Note that the off-road tracks are unlit and pitch-black after dark. I plan to bring a torch/flashlight next time, in case I get stuck.
On a repeat journey in December 2022, I saw no persons whatsoever on the walk in. I saw some people on the
return journey, but that's because I returned on foot via the 4WD track to the Pa and via the caves at Doctors Point, and
saw several dog walkers there at low tide. On a repeat repeat journey in June 2023, I got dropped off and walked out, seeing no persons
whatsoever on the three-hour walk from Potato Point to Waitati. It was not until I hit the main street in Waitati that I saw a couple of
people walking a dog.
I decided that next time I am wearing puttees or gaiters, or similar, to keep debris out of my shoes. So, you can add those to the list of items to bring.
Click on any image on this page to open that image, and then click again to enlarge it if you wish, in a different window.
Walk south from the Waitati bus stop, marked "A" on the map, into the township of Waitati. Walk past the public toilet and the Fire Station.
If you reach the Blueskin Bay Library, then you have gone too far. (The Library is a good place to wait if you are catching the bus back to Dunedin,
at the stop 10 minutes walk away, on a bad-weather day. It is warm and dry, with a toilet, and they have books to read.
Check their hours in advance; they differ from day to day.) Take the first left onto Harvey Street, then Pitt Street, then Brown St onto
Doctors Point Road. Walk past the Orokonui Lagoon Walk.
The road is twisty/turny and up/down hill, so wear bright colours and listen/watch for occasional speeding cars.
About 40 minutes after leaving the bus stop, you get to Michies Crossing where there is a bus shelter that you can
sit in and eat one of your snacks (it also has an AED defibrillator device).
Five minutes' walking after this is the White Road sign.*
Walk up White Road and you quickly cross the railway tracks again.
Another five minutes up White Road and you come to a picnic table and nice views, marked "B" on the map.
This looks like private property.
Looking east, click on this image and you can see the stile and information board at the beginning of the Mopanui Ridgeline Track in the distance.
The next picture is looking back, to the west, along the road you just walked up. That's Blueskin Bay in the distance.
Just after the picnic table you find the beginning of the Mopanui Ridgeline Track. The sign says that it exits to
Mopanui Road, but that's 45 minutes of walking (2.7km horizontal and 200 vertical metres up) from now,
and we won't be taking that road, unless you want to walk to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary
or climb to the top of Mt Mopanui.
The start of the Mopanui Ridgeline Track starts off kind of grassy, with occasional sea views to the east in the first 100m.
Fantails kept me company most of the way on this track.
Click on the following picture and then click again to enlarge the map. You can see how to get to the
summit of Mt Mopanui, by following Mopanui Road. The map also mentions the walking route at low tide and Canoe Beach, but it does
not show the caves.
I did this walk again in December 2022, and the nice short grass from six months earlier
(as shown in the pictures above and below) was between ankle height and mid-thigh height. It had rained for
several days prior, and the grass was soaking wet. This added another dimension to the walk.
I walked this route again in June 2023, and the grass was no more than ankle height.
Now we start walking into a manuka forest. The sign is unreadable at this end (I think it says "David's Track"), but in 15 minutes you can read the
same sign at the other end. There are lots of rocks and tree roots on the track; it is not obviously suitable
for cycling. Maybe 7-8 times I was not sure that I was on the track. I had to get down and look for foot prints or
scuff marks to be sure I was on track. There are bright bits of ribbon or rope on some trees, but
there are not enough.
Where is the track? (Right in front of you! I think.) Can I bike on this? (Not this bit!)
It's kind of dark and spooky in here, even on a clear blue-sky day.
After you leave the forest, you get to walk beside a deer fence, with cows on the other side.
The track was gently sloping upward, but break-neck slippery in many parts, even though it
had not rained recently. So, I walked mostly in scrub gorse or beaten down long grass to the side of the
obvious track. There were ATV tracks along this and other parts of the track.
Is that cow on the right pregnant?
Looking north-west back over the Doctors Point area we walked through earlier, and looking into Blueskin Bay.
Looking north-west back down the track we just walked up.
Looking north-west back down the track we just walked up. I can see Warrington.
There is one of the faintails that followed me on this part of the walk.
You get to the end of the deer track, marked "C" on the map, and you can look around and see the preditor-proof fence of the Orokonui Ecosanctuary,
a nice drystone wall dating from 1875, and Mopanui Road headed downhill towards the Orokonui Ecosantuary entrance. I saw a
South Island TomTit here (it's sitting on the fence in the next picture; it was very curious but stayed six feet ahead of me). I saw it again in the same spot several days later.
Here you find the top of the McKessar track. You need to climb over a stile (there are maybe 5-6 stiles on this
Now we look back to the north along the deer-fenced track we just walked on.
Oh, look. There is a mountain biker coming up Mopanui Road. I did not see him when I took the photo, and did not realize he was in it until I got home.
He hefted his bike over the stile (out of sight on the left) and went off down the McKessar Track
(about 2km horizontal and 200 vertical metres down). I saw him an hour later down at sea level
and we joked about how darn slippery the McKessar track was and how amazed I was that he could stay on two wheels going down it
(he said it was difficult to stay on his bike).
The Orokonui Ecosanctuary is beyond this predator-proof fence.
Here is the sign and the stile at the top of the McKessar Track.
Now we are over the stile and headed downhill on the McKessar Track.
Wow. This is break-neck slippery, and seriously downhill sloped at the same time. The photo is
misleading because there is quite a slope here. Slow careful going. One foot only just ahead of the
other. I had several slips, but no falls. I saw lots
of horse hoof prints, often with big sliding divot leading up to them, because the horse slipped.
In June 2023, I walked through here and there were significant earth works and tree felling in progress.
The hand-placed rock walls of a former building were clearly visible just downhill from here. It looked
like a small house and a small area for livestock or a tractor or similar.
Another sign naming the track.
I caught sight of some water, to the east, for the first time in 20 minutes.
The next picture looks back where we just walked. There is another path going uphill to the
left of the path shown here. If you are doing the track in reverse, there is nothing to indicate that
you want the right hand side path, not the left hand side one.
Now we have gotten to the bottom of the McKessar Track. About 50 yards south of here (to the right
in these photos) is the old Purakanui Train Station, marked "E" on the map. No, it's not the original station, it is maybe the
third railway station building on this site. The station is derelict and unmarked, and has rubbish in it, and it is a bit dirty,
but I found it useful to step inside to remove some layers of clothing and to re-pack some bags, while it was raining outside.
When I was in the station, getting changed and re-packing my bags, a double-diesel engine shot past, smelling like diesel. So, stop, look,
and listen, before crossing the line.
Now it is a 10-15 minute walk down Purakanui Station Road (I hope you brought a couple of carrots for the horses on the right
and the ugly pigs on the left). At the bottom of Purakanui Station Road is the water of the Purakanui Inlet and you can go across the causeway to
a little parking lot, marked "F" on the map, and the start of the Osborne-Purakanui walking track. The Osborne-Purakanui walking track
is narrow and right beside the water. Fall off this and you may hit your head on rocks and drown, so watch out. There are a couple of muddy spots, but
if you skip across some rocks in the mud, you can keep your shoes relatively clean. This is where I saw that cyclist again, coming back
20 minutes later you walk past the parking lot in Mouats Bay, marked "G" on the map. Walk into the
parking lot and down to the water's edge. You can sit on a picnic table and enjoy the peace and the view.
There are some swings and a reserve you can play ball on. Clam diggers park here, at low tide, and
enter the inlet to get clams, usually at the waters' edge. There are rabbits on the reserve.
15 minutes later you are at Big Bend, marked "H" on the map. You can walk for 5-8 minutes down the stairs and
along the track to some benches with a nice view of Purakanui Beach, a long white-sand beach, often deserted.
It took me 3 hours and 5 minutes to get here from Waitati.
*If the tide is low enough, instead of the overland route, you can keep walking on Doctors Point Road past White Road, then walk along
Doctors Point Beach, through the caves (you may have to duck), then along canoe beach, then cross the isthmus between the mainland and
the Pa on Goat Island (it's not actually an island). Then you can either walk on the 4WD track marked on the map (and head south
until you get to the causeway), or you can walk along Purakanui Beach (don't be surprised to see marine mammals, including skinny dippers), then walk
on the forest path or along the waterside (you will get feet wet),
then walk through the inlet, getting your feet wet maybe only up to your knees (if you are lucky). Then you get back on the Osborne-Purakanui
walking track that way. This low-tide-route is only about 8km (via Purakanui Beach) or 10km (via the 4WD track),
instead of the 12 km route described here. At super low tides, it is more like 6km, because you can cross the narrow neck of the inlet, but
it would have to be the lowest tide of the month, or maybe of the quarter, to do so without getting wet above the waist.
The low-tide route requires only half the effort of the overland trek,
because you are not climbing up or down that break-neck slippery mini-mountain, where you have to pay careful and detailed
attention to the ground 80% of the time, so as to not slip in the mud or trip on tree roots or rocks or slide on gravel.
Walking the overland route is actually quite exhausting, because you have to watch almost every step on the off-road tracks, to
avoid coming to grief.