Last Updated: 13th May 2024

Beginner - Intermediate

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Nikau Palm Gully

Akaroa, Canterbury

Submitted by Zeinab Chegini

Last Updated: 13th May 2024

Beginner - Intermediate

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I've done it Done

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Grunt Factor: 15 ?

Gnarl Factor: 12 ?








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Front country - easily accessible

Out and Back

Undulating, small hills only

Native bush


Open farmlands

Open ridges/tops


Run Makeup


Farm Road / 4WD Track

Moderate Single Track

Average Uphill Gradient: +8.5%

Average Downhill Gradient: -8.3%


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Estimated Times to Run







Once you arrive at Onuku Farm Hostel, start from the gate sign posted "Reserve Track" on the left of the red shed. Run through open farmland with views of the Akaroa harbour.

In summer you can enjoy views of the abundant kanuka blossoms. The track is well-formed and marked and is quite wide.

At about 2km in, farmland gives way to kanuka bush. At the 3km point, the track splits, follow the sign for the Nikau Palm Gully (the track on the left is the private Banks Peninsula Track). At about the 5km point the track turns into a steeper single track through native bush which can get quite slippery after some rain. Poles would be quite useful here.

After a few hundred metres continue down some steep stairs, cross the stream and look for the track marker on the other side. From here continue following the track markers. After a few hundred metres the track goes over a waterfall above a sheer cliff.

Enjoy views of the gully and the palms before heading back the same way.

The track runs along coastal cliffs with beautiful views of the Akaroa harbour, and ends in Nīkau Palm Gully.

From the DOC website: "The size and number of Nīkau palms in the reserve makes this one of the best coastal forest remnants in Canterbury. The nīkau is the only palm tree endemic to New Zealand and this is the southern-most extent of nīkau palms on the east coast of the South Island. The dark volcanic cliffs which soak up the heat of the sun and the mild maritime climate keep the palms frost free. Nīkau palms are slow-growing and can take up to two hundred years to reach their maximum height of 10 to 15 metres."

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Park at the small signposted DOC parking site on the main Rd and walk about 300m to the beginning of the track. Do not park on the farm premises.

223 km

188 minutes


Name: Onkuku Farm Hostel
Telephone: +64 22 025 0706


Once in the gully, look out for the track markers and keep to the track.

Very patchy.

Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map

There is no drinking water available on this track. There are a few streams but they run through farmland.

Some parts of the track can be very slippery after rain. The track runs along coastal cliffs so can be exposed to strong winds and sun.

The track runs along some steep cliffs (albeit mostly fenced) so don't veer off the track.

Akaroa Fish and Chips
59 Beach Rd
Great spot for a classic F&C feed.

The Little Bistro
33 Rue Lavaud
Amazing food and great spot if you're looking for something special in Akaroa.

Trail Legend


Clare Gunton

has completed Nikau Palm Gully once in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

I have wanted to do this trail for some time; the allure of its isolation and reserve status piqued my 'wild thing' curiosity. And, I was not dissapointed. I completed this trail early yesterday, and the morning light shining in was magical. The trail starts on a long farm track heading slowly out towards the most north east headland. Once off the farm track and into the reserve proper, the trail became quite overgrown with grass, native trees and 'the dreaded 'onga-onga'. As I trotted along I was blown away by sheer cliff lines, then down down into the native forest, some stairs and before I realised I was standing into a beautiful grove of temperate rainforest peppered with Nikau palms. The grove is hidden in a small alcove between towering volcanic rock cliffs. I went down the path further and came out onto a clearing and looked back at the magical place, as though time stood still. The soil in and around the Nikau reserve is a rich red colour, and I can imagine it would be very slippery after rain, however it was very dry and dusty yesterday. I noted that all the streams crossing the path were quite full of algae, and suggest you bring a water filter if you do not want to carry water. On the way back, I was feeling quite euphoric, and unfortunately ran into, and felt the 'full wrath' of an onga-onga tree into my left thigh! so keep your eyes peeled peeps! The farm appeared heavily stocked with sheep, lambs and cattle, although it was closed when I went through, I rang the number, and got a recorded message to follow the reserve path as instructed. I left my name details of the run and my car rego for them and parked in the appropriate DOC carpark as instructed. This trail is an absolute 'must do'!!

Lynette ELFICK

November 8, 2022

I wasn’t sure what to expect, going into this run. On paper it is a small bit of bush in an out-of-the-way corner of Banks Peninsula. I’ve seen nikau palms before and they’re neat enough. So I was completely unprepared for how special and alive this place felt!! You could feel the mauri and the wairua. I felt like I had journeyed to the end of the earth. I don’t think a lot of people go to the reserve but I completely understand the landowners’ strong desire to see it protected. I was left contemplating, not for the first time, what Banks Peninsula looked like before all the deforestation.

Matt Halverson

February 6, 2022

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