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Pack Horse Hut, Banks Peninsula

Packhorse Hut. Photo: Andrew Lowton
Banks Peninsula
4-5hr return
Kowhai Hut (basic, four bunks)
Head to Gebbies Pass from Christchurch via SH75 and Gebbies Pass Road or Dyers Pass and the Summit Road, or via Governor's Bay and Teddington. There is a small parking area at the beginning of a 4WD track with a locked gate.
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Back in the 1910s, conservationist Harry Ell dreamed of a network of roads and walking tracks open to everyone. Part of that dream was for the establishment of a summit road from Christchurch to Akaroa across Banks Peninsula. Alongside the road, a series of 14 rest houses were to be built to provide shelter for travellers. Only four were completed.

The Canterbury earthquakes have shuttered the first two of those rest houses, the Sign of the Takahe and the Sign of the Kiwi. Further along the Summit Road the remains of the third, the Sign of the Bellbird, is little more than a picnic shelter. The only rest house currently in use is the Sign of the Packhorse.

The track begins by following a rather scruffy path between a fence and a 4WD road. As the road doglegs, a stile leads across the edge of an old logged area and steeply down through a pine forest. The track then rises steadily, following a fence line, before another stile crosses into a field. A well-worn path tracks the edge of the field and then crosses back into the forest.

Follow the red poles to a small bach with a pond and landscaped gardens in the middle of the forest. From here, the track rises in steep zigzags through remnants of the old podocarp forest that once covered Banks Peninsula.

The track pops out of the trees and follows the contours of the hillside between two vertical lines of rock, known as the Remarkable Dykes. Round a few more bends to arrive at Pack Horse Hut on Kaituna Pass.