swing bridge paekakariki escarpment track
Hikes & Walks,  New Zealand,  North Island,  Wellington

Escarpment Track: A Beautiful Walk From Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay

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Last Updated On 18th April 2022 By Lauren | Wild Lovely World

Are you seeking a thrilling walk with beautiful coastline views? The Escarpment Track is what you’ve been looking for. This exciting walk combines daring steep drops and high swing bridges with the stunning Kapiti Coastline to give you an awe-inspiring rush.

The Escarpment Track is located just a short 1-hour train ride from New Zealand’s capital city Wellington. The best thing is that this walk is totally accessible by public transport. You can take the train from the start and end at Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay!

This walk makes for an awesome day trip, so pack a picnic and strap on those boots! You may also work up quite a sweat with the many, many stairs on the trail. But I assure you that the views will be worth it!

In this post, discover everything you need to know about the wonderful Escarpment Track walk in my complete guide. Find out how to get there, what to expect and when to go. All your FAQs will be answered! Plus, check out my free guide map of the trail with all the locations of interest (and all those stairs) pinned on the map!

Complete Guide To The Escarpment Track: A Thrilling Adventure On The Kapiti Coast 👣

I created this free guide map to the Escarpment Track with key locations marked along the way. Explore My Map in Google and save it so you can view it later!

More Wellington inspiration 💖 ! Check out these posts:

escarpment track towards pukerua bay
Looking towards Pukerua Bay on the Escarpment Track

What & Where Is The Escarpment Track?

The Escarpment Track is a walking trail that goes between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay on the southern west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is also known as the Paekakariki Escarpment Track or the ‘Stairway To Heaven’. It takes around 45 minutes to get there from Wellington by car or train along the Kapiti Coast.

The Escarpment Track is part of the Te Araroa Trail, “New Zealand’s Trail”, which goes all the way from the north to the south of the country. It goes from Cape Reinga to Wellington in the North Island and from Ship Cove to Bluff in the South Island.

Previously walkers doing the Te Araroa Trail had to walk along the Centennial Highway to complete this section of the walk. Now, with the access of the Escarpment Track which was completed in 2016, walkers can enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery from above.

The walk is a great half day hike to do in the Kapiti Coast or as a day trip from Wellington.

swing bridge new zealand trail te araroa
Swing bridge on the trail

How Long Is The Escarpment Track?

The Escarpment Track is 9.1km long. It is 10km from Paekakariki Railway Station to Pukerua Bay Railway Station, so if you walk from station to station it is a 10km walk.

How Long Does It Take To Walk The Escarpment Track?

It takes around 3.5-4 hours to walk the full Escarpment Track one way, from Paekakariki Railway Station to Pukerua Bay Railway Station or vice versa.

We started the walk from Paekakariki Station at 15:15 and arrived at Pukerua Bay Station at 18:50, so it took us around 3 hours and 40 minutes. We were walking at an average pace, stopping for a few breaks and taking photos.

escarpment track kapiti coast island ocean view
Beautiful views of the Kapiti Coast from the Escarpment Track

What Are Highlights Of The Walk?

By walking the Escarpment Track, you can enjoy beautiful views across the seemingly endless Tasman Sea. The coastline is stunning and Kapiti Island is a dominant feature. The track runs parallel to the Centennial Highway and the railway tracks so you can enjoy watching this busy activity as you go.

There are signs along the walk with interesting information about the geology of the landscape, native wildlife and history of the area. It’s worth stopping to take a break and have a read.

The escarpment is very steep and drops suddenly into the sea. The cliffs have been formed due to erosion rather than any tectonic activity. The landscape is covered in beautiful, bright pink flowers in the spring!

The stories of the old railway and tunnels and how people used to traverse the route are quite fascinating. I enjoyed learning about it.

swing bridge paekakariki escarpment track
One of the two 40m high swing bridges on the trail

There are remnants of an old Kohekohe forest which is an interesting and different part of the walk. It also provides some shade and relief from the exposed sections!

There are two 40 meter high swing bridges on the trail. They are located closer to the Pukerua Bay end of the walk. They are thrilling to cross (and also a little scary, especially in the wind)! Be brave and go for it!

You may also see native New Zealand wildlife. There are New Zealand birds in the area. We saw a pretty Kererū (New Zealand endemic pigeon). There are also many signs about lizards. We didn’t see any but we weren’t looking too closely!

kereru native new zealand pigeon
Kererū – native New Zealand pigeon

How Do You Get To The Escarpment Track?

The Escarpment Track can be walked starting from either Paekakariki or Pukerua Bay.

How To Get To The Escarpment Track By Train

Both Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay can be accessed by train. Trains run regularly between Waikanae and Wellington along the Kapiti Line.

To Paekakariki: The train from Wellington to Paekakariki takes around 50 minutes and costs NZD $10. From Paekakariki Station to the Escarpment Track: Follow the way-markers from the train station to the beginning of the walk. You’ll cross the road/railway via an underpass a little further up the road from the station. It’ll take around 5 minutes.

To Pukerua Bay: The train from Wellington to Pukerua Bay takes around 40 minutes and costs NZD $9.50. From Pukerua Bay Station to the Escarpment Track: The start of the Escarpment Track is around 10 minutes from the station. You can follow the signs from the station but you will need to walk through a residential area and I think it’s a little bit confusing! The entrance to the Escarpment Track starts at the end of Sea Vista Drive (this location on Google Maps). From there, follow the ‘Foot Access to Reserve’ sign and walk across the reserve towards the railway. The path will then appear at the end of the field and continue to the right.

Between Paekakariki & Pukerua Bay: The train between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay takes around 10 minutes and costs NZD $4 one way.

How To Buy Train Tickets: Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office at Paekakariki Station with card or cash. There is no ticket office at Pukerua Bay. Single tickets can be bought on the train from the conductor with cash only.

How To Get To The Escarpment Track By Car & Where To Park

You can drive to either Paekakariki Station or Pukerua Bay Station and park your car. There are FREE Park and Ride car parks at both stations. See the Metlink website for more information on Park & Ride car parks.

How We Did It

We were staying in Raumati Beach when we walked the Escarpment Track. Raumati Beach is closer to Paekakariki than Pukerua Bay, so we started the walk in Paekakariki. I drove to Paekakariki and parked my car in the station car park. At the end of the walk, we took the train back to Paekakariki from Pukerua Bay.

paekakariki beach kapiti coast
Looking towards Paekakariki

Which Way Should You Walk The Escarpment Track?

The Escarpment Track can be walked in either direction, from Paekakariki in the north to Pukerua Bay in the south or vice versa.

We walked from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay. This was more convenient for us before we were travelling from the north. Pukerua Bay is closer to Wellington, so if you are coming from the south you may want to start here.

views ocean swing bridge te araroa trail kapaiti coast
Views of the trail across the landscape

The terrain is very similar much of the way along the trail. However, I think that to walk from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay may be slightly easier. This is because this way the trail climbs gently uphill in the beginning with a few sections of steps towards the half way point. The highest point in the trail is 220 meters, around the 5km mark/half way point. After the half way point, the path begins to go downhill by descending A LOT of steps. There are at least 2 sections closer to the Pukerua Bay end that are many, many steep steps. So if you are walking from Pukerua Bay to Paekakariki, you would need to climb up all those steps! For these reasons, I recommend to start in Paekakariki and walk to Pukerua Bay. If you want more of a challenge, start in Pukerua Bay.

If steps aren’t an issue for you and you care about the views then take this advice. I think that the views are nicer looking up the Kapiti Coast, towards Paekakariki. So if you want to enjoy the beautiful scenery in front of you as you walk, then start in Pukerua Bay. The views are still great going towards Pukerua Bay, but they aren’t as spectacular. However you can just turn around every so often and look back!

steps paekakariki escarpment track
Steep steps on the Paekakariki Escarpment Track

How Many Steps Are On The Escarpment Track?

I’ve seen online that many people are calling this walk the ‘Stairway to Heaven’. I wouldn’t go that far, personally, but it is no lie that there are quite a lot of stairs on this walk! According to Te Araroa, there are 1500 steps on the Escarpment Track.

When Should You Walk The Escarpment Track?

I do not recommend walking the Escarpment Track in rainy or very windy weather.

The Escarpment Track is steep, narrow and exposed. There is no shelter along the track apart from a small section of forest.

Much of the Escarpment Track is alongside a cliff/hillside with a steep drop on one side and no fences or hand rails. There are many visible slips and evidence of rockfall along the route.

There are many steps along the track too which could get slippery in wet weather. In addition, there are two 40 metre high swing bridges which are securely tied down to the cliffs but move a lot in the wind.

Choose a day that is dry with light-moderate winds and preferably sunny to walk the Escarpment Track! Check the weather before you go!

steps paekakariki escarpment track trail te araroa
Escarpment Track
paekakariki escarpment track sign
Escarpment Track sign you will see at either end of the walk

Who Is The Escarpment Track Walk Suitable For?

This walk is suitable for most people. You’ll have no trouble doing the Escarpment Track if you:

  • Have a reasonable level of fitness
  • Don’t mind walking up and down hill / up and down a lot of steps
  • Can walk for 3-4 hours in one go
  • Have high energy, endurance and stamina to keep going
  • Are not afraid of heights or suffer from vertigo

The walk is great exercise – we did 16,000-18,000 steps each!

The track is not suitable for:

  • Horses
  • Dogs
  • Wheeled vehicles
  • Small children
  • People who are afraid of heights or have vertigo
  • Large groups
high swing bridge coastal trail new zealand
High swing bridge on the trail

What Should You Wear & Pack For The Escarpment Track Walk?

Bring a light, day-pack with you and wear comfortable clothes for walking. Make sure you have:

  • First aid kit
  • Good walking shoes
  • Leggings/hiking pants or shorts
  • T-Shirt/Long-sleeved top
  • Spare warm layers
  • Windbreaker
  • Sunscreen & sunglasses
  • Packed lunch & snacks
  • At least 750ml water per person
  • Cash for the train tickets
  • Phone & camera
lauren escarpment track kapiti coast
Windy day for the walk!

Are There Any Facilities On The Escarpment Track?

There are no facilities along the entire trail, so make sure you bring everything you need with you.

Public toilets available either end of the walk, in Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay, so make sure to go before you start!

There are no rubbish bins anywhere along the trail, so take all your rubbish home with you.

Small cafes are located in Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay if you want to have a coffee or grab a bite to eat at the start or end.

A few rest stops are along the track, with benches to sit and take a break while enjoying the view.

Any Other Things To Note?

This track runs very close to the railway line. Make sure you only cross the railway line at designated crossings. Do not trespass onto the line because not only is it dangerous but you could be hit with a big fine!

There may also be sheep and lambs on the trail but they’re no bother 🙂

sheep on trail new zealand
Sheep and lambs on the trail

Free Guide Map To The Escarpment Track: From Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay 🗺️

I created this free guide map to the Escarpment Track with key locations marked along the way. Explore My Map in Google and save it so you can view it later!

Find More Awesome Activities To Do On The Kapiti Coast

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Travelling around New Zealand long term? Get FREE accommodation while you travel with Kiwi Housesitters! When I walked the Escarpment Track, I stayed in Raumati Beach (around a 10 minute drive from Paekakariki) for FREE by house and pet sitting with Kiwi Housesitters. It was so much fun taking care of a cute kitty and I did this great walk one afternoon.

escarpment track kapiti coast swing bridge
Paekakariki Escarpment Track

Are you planning to walk the Escarpment Track? Have you already done it? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments!

More North Island Inspiration 💖 🇳🇿 ! Check out these posts for awesome things to see & do:

Escarpment Track: Paekakariki To Pukerua Bay – Complete Guide With FAQ & Map – Thanks For Reading!

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Lauren is a coffee and cat obsessed travel writer from the U.K., specialising in solo female, couple travel and budget backpacking. She has previously lived in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England and Scotland. Follow her adventures around the world on her blog WildLovelyWorld.com

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