75 km west of Christchurch, where the Canterbury Plains meet the mountains. The mighty Rakaia River has spent the eons carving a path through the surrounding hills on its journey toward the ocean
The walk itself starts at a car park next to the river itself. Jet boat tours departing from the area combined with people launching their own boats can make the place pretty busy. So I would recommend arriving early in the day if possible.
Near the car park a historic bridge crosses the river in two parts. The beginning of walking trail itself can be found near the start of the first bridge span.
While the track follows the path of the river the majority of the walk; the walls of the gorge are very high and close to vertical. So your actual opportunities to get close to the turquoise coloured waters are limited to the start of the walk and a side trail near the end that you can take down to the waters edge.
The track is well formed for the most part, offering a few lookouts and vantage points along the way. It’s also fairly level with only a few steep uphill grinds to get the heart pumping.
Near the half way mark the track moves away from the river for a small stretch to wind around the back of a gully. A small side track leads off this section to a couple of old coal mines.
Theses have been secured with metal bars to prohibit entry and the area around the shafts was very wet when we visited. But its still a worthwhile side trip if you don’t mind getting your feet wet to add a bit of variety to the walk.
Further along the track splits in two, forming a loop in the last bit so it doesn’t really matter what direction you take. Going right will lead you up a hill and across some farmland before heading back down near the river for the trip back to the intersection.
All up the walk is around 10.5km but it’s not very intense. We took 4 hrs to finish it but could have been done much quicker. The scenery is just so amazing that a lot of time was wasted taking pictures along the way.
More information about the Rakaia Gorge Walkway can be found on the Department of Conservation website.