Escarpment Track: a slice of stunning, windswept coastline
From natural vegetation to native lizard populations and finally the track itself, this Porirua and Kāpiti Coast trail has been invigorated by the hands of hardworking volunteers
Welcoming a constant stream of visitors, the Paekākāriki Escarpment Track meanders up and around the coastline, offering a rewarding climb and sweeping views over the sea.
The trail itself is part of the official Te Araroa – New Zealand’s Trail that runs from Cape Reinga to Bluff, and was established and continues to be maintained by a dedicated team of volunteers and the community at large.
Te Araroa Wellington Trust volunteers helped to fund and maintain the track with support from Porirua City Council and Kāpiti Coast District Council, while a group known as Ngā Uruora have become champions for environmental projects.
A combined effort, the Paekākāriki Escarpment Track was completed in 2016. Its construction has created not only increased access along the Escarpment for Ngā Uruora, but also for locals and travellers alike, who can now experience the stunning nature of the region.
The power of community
Back in 1997, the group known as Ngā Uruora was established by Fergus Wheeler and the Paekākāriki community. Over the years, the group has blossomed to include a core committee that gathers weekly and monthly for working bees, as well as many volunteers and trappers.
Collectively, the group is focused on re-establishing native habitats, encouraging biodiversity, developing a healthy relationship between people and the land, and bringing Kāpiti Island’s dawn chorus back to the coast.
While Ngā Uruora focuses on the environment, Te Araroa Wellington Trust brings the recreational perspective. The Te Araroa Wellington committee has collectively fundraised for many additional items along the Escarpment track, including the underpass under the railbridge at the North end, 15 seats spread along the track, and a number of signs that describe interesting features of the landscape and history of the area.
Embracing unique vegetation and wildlife
When you venture out onto the Escarpment Track you’ll be welcomed by native trees, including ngaio, karaka, kawakawa shrubland, pohuehue shrub and grassland, and the resilient and lush kohekohe. Otherwise known as New Zealand mahogany, the dominant kohekohe is abundant in frilly leaves, and as one of the few winter flowering trees, is an important food source for honey eaters such as tūī and bellbirds.
Since the land that Ngā Uruora oversees stopped being farmed in the mid-1900s, the group has planted more than 70,000 trees and has established innovative irrigation and planting techniques to help combat the challenges of the windswept coast and accelerate regeneration of grassland.
The volunteers also identified that the area was home to a number of lizard species, and set about establishing a project to boost the populations - a task that proved to be both challenging and exciting.
As you journey along the lovingly constructed trail, keep your eyes peeled for the quick lizards, including the raukawa gecko, northern grass skink, copper and brown skink, as well as curious native birds such as the New Zealand kingfisher, pied shag, grey warbler, North Island fantail, silvereye, harrier, kereru, tūī, korimako, and New Zealand pipit.
View the Escarpment Track trail page for information on the elevation of the trail (it can get steep in some parts and is an intermediate level trail), how to get there and other ‘know before you go’ information.