Exploring the Moa Park and Wainui tracks
The Moa Park Track is a beautiful, moderately easy walking track. It skirts Canaan Downs and crosses the Wainui Saddle before climbing to an area called Moa Park; a small sub-alpine basin sitting around 1000m elevation. From Moa Park you can head up a couple of Kms to Porter Rock or around 4Kms further to Castle Rock. On todays adventure we took the Moa Park Track to Porter Rock which is around 5Kms. We enjoyed a leisurely day withy a decent break for lunch and on our return short out on a little 5Km return trip along the Wainui Track to check out Wainui hut. I forgot to note all the specific timings, but we started at the Canaan Downs car park around 11.15am and were back at 5pm.
You can walk to the Moa Park Track as part of the Abel Tasman inland track but if you only have a day, the easiest way to get there is to drive to Canaan Downs. From Nelson take the SH60 towards Takaka and at the top of the Takaka Hill take the right-hand turn into Canaan Road (signposted to Harwoods Hole). It’s a narrow, winding unsealed road 11Kms to Canaan Downs campsite, but was in OK shape on this Autumn day. En-route it’s worth having a nosey around the site of the summer Luminate festival which is held here.
Canaan Downs is a beautiful area of karst limestone, beech forest, rolling grasslands and cave systems atop the Takaka Hill. There is plenty to do in the area and it is popular with mountain bikers, trampers and people visiting the Harwoods Hole cave (the deepest vertical cave shaft in New Zealand). The car park sits at 750m, so there isn’t too much of a climb involved to get up Porter Rock. There is a decent toilet and an information board at the car park detailing the trails.
The Moa Park Track
The Moa Park Track skirts Canaan Downs on a farm track on the edge of the beech forest. There was a gentle climb, but nothing too strenuous.
Over the first couple of Kms there were excellent views over the rolling grasslands of Canaan Downs. With the rocky outcrops here and there it reminded me a little of being on the outskirts of Dartmoor or Exmoor in the UK.
Wainui Saddle and a climb
After around 3Kms a junction turned off to the left heading North towards Wainui hut (which we took as a little detour on our way back). Shortly after there was a junction to the right heading around Canaan Downs. We continued straight on.
After the junction the track got much steeper as it climbed around 250m up the flank of Mt Evans for another Km or so. The track flattened out and we noticed the bush around us had changed, with lot of Dracophyllum trees. Their roots were knotted and twisted underfoot which made things slightly more slow going.
In the undergrowth we saw some beautiful tiny mushrooms.
We continued on and crossed a couple of tiny streams. Leaving the trees behind, we entered the lower bushes and scrub of the Moa Park basin. Upon reaching the Moa Park shelter (no beds) we chatted to some ladies walking the Abel Tasman inland track.
After a final small climb we reached the top of an unnamed peak at 1064m and sat on the granite rocks to have our lunch. It was 1pm – so it had taken us a leisurely hour an 45 minutes from the car park. The views were great, but sadly it was a little cloudy so we couldn’t see all the way to the Abel Tasman coast or to the mountains of the Kahurangi. But we did enjoy an epic lunch, which we shared with a friendly robin.
After lunch we headed back to the track, then up a left-hand turn up to Porter Rock about 1Km away. We dropped our packs and scrambled up the large granite rocks to catch some views. The cloud lifted enough for us to see the Abel Tasman coast.
We spent some time on the rocks, then clambered back down and headed back the way we had come. The return journey revealed lots more beautiful mushrooms – such a treat!!
Quick detour up the Wainui Track
On the return journey, we decided we had enough daylight left to get to the Wainui hut and back. As we came off the mountain the track peeled off to our right. I forgot to note the time, but the track was a pretty easy 2.5Kms or so to the hut. We poked our nose into the 4 bed hut and read the information panels at the aviary which was built for native birds prior to their release back to the wild in the Abel Tasman as part of Project Janszoon.
The light was fading as we returned, and low clouds began to roll into Canaan Downs. We reached the car park at 5pm. As we arrived at the car park we noticed a bank card on the ground by the gate. It turned out to be mine!! I must have dropped it as I took my phone out of my pocket at the start of our walk.
This area is definitely worth exploring some more, and I will certainly be back to take a look at Harwoods Hole and to explore some more of the tracks. Find more details about the Moa park track on the Nelson Trails website.
** Special mention. If you’re driving from Nelson stop in at the Ginger Dynamite Cafe in Riwaka. Amazing coffee and hot choc, beautiful Pan au Raisin and awesome pies!