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December 2015 Issue
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Lonely remains of lowland coastal forest

The Wairoa Coast from Kinikini Road, Mahia Peninsula. Photo: Petra Dawson
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Kinikini Road, 7km south of Mahia Beach
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Mahia Peninsula Track.Mahia Peninsula Scenic Reserve (gpx, yo 11 KB)
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Mahia Peninsula Track, Mahia Peninsula Scenic Reserve, Hawke’s Bay

My half-day trip to Mahia Peninsula was in fact an unplanned escape from stormy weather. Gales had struck the mountains of Te Urewera where I was spending one of my getaway weekends and the decision to explore the peninsula made an exhilarating change.

The jagged seashore surrounded by white cliffs, so typical of Mahia, is well defined behind Wairoa town. Not long after I passed through a small local service centre at Waikokopu, I spent a while wandering on the beach – entirely covered by bone-coloured pieces of wood shaped and washed up by the tide.

I hit winding and stony Kinikini Road and headed up to my target – the Mahia Peninsula Scenic Reserve. Situated near the heart of the peninsula, this reserve represents one of the last pieces of lowland coastal forest remaining on the east coast. Its origin is connected to the Gisborne Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society which laid down its cornerstone in 1981.

Nowadays hikers are taken through the reserve via the 3.5km loop track, generally completing it in a couple of hours. The starting point can easily be found alongside Kinikini Road.

If you decide to walk the easier, anticlockwise route, the initial steep section leads straight up to the lookout that affords an impressive overview of the land stretching to Hawke’s Bay. The brown tones of the undulating countryside contrasts with the opal coloured sea; the depths of which hide more than 20 shipwrecks.

From the lookout the trail winds into the valley and is hidden by the lush dense bush composed of a large variety of plants including an abundance of rewarewa, kohekohe, tawa,  rimu and matai. My favourite bush trees, karaka, cabbage tree and lancewood, are also plentiful and full-grown.

Gradually descending, I reached the bottom of the valley where I had to make multiple crossings of the meandering stream. This is the only tricky part of an otherwise well arranged track.

Approximately two thirds of the way along the track there’s a clearing with a picnic table surrounded by a rich nikau stand. It’s a peaceful spot to relax before commencing the final ascent back to the gate.

After leaving the reserve, consider staying on Kinikini Road and continuing towards Long Point, formerly known for its nearby whaling station. The road offers numerous outlooks over the dramatic slopes descending to the sea.

– Petra Dawson