One of the earliest of New Zealand's private farm walks — the Tora Coastal Walk — is still as popular as ever. Only about two hours drive from Wellington, it's a grand combination of sheep-dotted hills, ridge-tops with splendid views, gullies of native bush, a winding river valley and a black-sand coast.
Accommodation is as varied as the scenery — first night in Whakapata Cottage on the Elworthy farm, hosts: Kiri and James Elworthy; second night in purpose-built Stony Bay Lodge on the coast, hosts: Amanda and Simon Bargh; and the third night in converted shearers' quarters, hosts: Jenny and Chris Bargh.
Luggage is transported for you and food is provided — lots of local produce, home-cooked and home-caught if you're lucky, as we were when we did the walk not long after it started in 1995.
There were five of us. Jane Elworthy (it was her brainchild) greeted us on our arrival so I'm delighted to see it's still in the family with her daughter-in-law Kiri now organising the walk. Jane gave us info sheets with background information and only one strict rule — leave gates as you find them!
I remember how fascinated we townies were to see aspects of backcountry life, like a horseman and his dogs mustering cattle along a valley, and to explore the almost-ghost town of Tora, with abandoned school and desolate homestead.
I also recall how exhausting I found that first day (to a lesser extent, Day 3) — up and down endless hills, following white markers that could be a splash of paint on fenceposts or gates. We saw the wind turbines at Haunui — newish technology back then. Their German engineers inscribed each with their names — there can't be many windmills in New Zealand called Hermann.
Bush in the gullies gave relief from the heat — especially Tora Bush with its nikau palms, lancewood, kanuka, rangiora and five-flnger.
In between the hilly first and third days was the short flat coastal walk on Day 2. We watched the sea pounding the remains of the coal carrier Opua, wrecked nearly 100 years ago. Surfcasters planted their rods along the beach then lounged in chairs beside them.
Country hospitality and stunning scenery — what a great break from city life!
The website www.toracoastalwalk.nz is a comprehensive website with full details of every aspect of the walk, which costs $50S per person.
— Judith Doyle, Bay View newsletter 70, November 2017