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April 2012 Issue
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History and views on Coro walk

Photo: David Hall
2.5-3hr one way
At the top of the Coromandel Peninsula, from either Fletcher or Stony Bay (both have camping grounds)
Coromandel Walkway, Coromandel Peninsula

We’d previously walked part of the Coromandel Walkway from either end – Fletcher or Stony Bay – for perhaps a leisurely hour’s distance each time, but this was the first time we’d done the whole trip and it took about three times as long.

The big hassle with this walkway, at the northern end of the Coromandel Peninsula, is returning to base after the walk’s completion. Although the walk itself is around 10km, the road trip to either end is closer to 56km, pretty much all along metal roads. We sorted this by having two cars from which two groups started from either end, met roughly in the middle, swapped car keys and then drove out, eventually for a cup of coffee at the Colville Café and Bar. You could, of course, simply turn around and retrace your steps.

We started from Fletcher Bay, which has the longer, yet arguably more scenic coastal drive, but also the longer and more tiring climb from sea level. It’s a gentle slog though and anyone with a passing level of fitness will not be overly bothered. The view ahead is farmland, the view behind is Fletcher Bay, peaceful on this summer’s day with its newly defined sites in the DOC camp and people launching small boats for fishing, the Colville Channel and Great Barrier Island. Much of the walk in this direction has scant further sea or coastal views, so it could be argued that the direction from Stony Bay is the better scenic walking option as you’d be going down to Fletcher Bay with the views directly in front.

However, this needs to be tempered with the drop and immediate rise to and from Poley Bay, a place where you could have a refreshing dip in the sea, although it promises little else. This is the most strenuous section of the track, about an hour in, and the drop travelling from Fletcher Bay feels more strenuous than the rise on the way to Stony Bay.

Once back at the 100-150m mark though, the track continues with gentle undulations to Stony Bay – about 1.5-2hr away – mostly through regrowth tea tree which hosts scant bird life.

It’s worth taking a short side trip to a rounded knob lookout, 30 to 40 minutes from Poley Bay, where the most extensive and exquisite views from the track stretch north to Sugar Loaf (220m) and the offshore Pinnacles area and south towards Port Charles.

The track is an old bridle path linking Fletcher and Stony Bays. It’s well worn and mostly smooth and easy going although the section nearest to Stony Bay is rocky and uneven and would be uncomfortable in thin-soled walking shoes. But you don’t need boots on this track.

There’s a mountain bike track which climbs above the walking track, and which could be used to complete a round trip but, especially at the Stony Bay end, it’s steep.

There are attractive DOC campgrounds at either end with that at Fletcher Bay being grassy, neat and tidy and the camp at Stony Bay having sites right at the water’s edge.

This is an easy walk on a well graded and wide track, although the down and up at Poley Bay will push legs and heart to the max.

David Hall