New Zealand Walk: Harry Ell Walk

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Brenda Greene

The Harry Ell Walk­way in Christchurch’s Port Hills has spec­tac­u­lar views. Park next to the Sign of the Takahe, on either Hack­thorne Road or Dy­ers Pass Road. There are toi­lets on Dy­ers Pass Road, a drink­ing foun­tain and a short walk to a spec­tac­u­lar view and look­out.

The Sign of the Takahe is now re­paired fol­low­ing the Christchurch earth­quakes, but still sur­rounded by se­cu­rity fences.

Walk on the South­ern Alps side of Dy­ers Pass Road, but take care cross­ing at this point. Here three roads in­ter­sect and it is dif­fi­cult to see traf­fic. Look out for the start of the Harry Ell Walk­way on the left hand side as you walk steadily up­hill. You will see some rocky steps but no ob­vi­ous signs. Go up the steps. Turn right to stay on the walk­way, and from here on­wards you will be re­warded with views over Christchurch and snowy moun­tains.

The track runs along­side Vic­to­ria Park, and there are sev­eral side tracks to take you there. When in doubt, turn right to con­tinue on the walk­way’s eas­ily graded climb. There is an­other road cross­ing, this time in­side Vic­to­ria Park, be­fore the track ex­its onto Sum­mit Road.

You will pass the charred re­mains of pine and macro­carpa neatly stacked on the track side, and many run­ners and walk­ers. Con­tinue up the Sum­mit Road to the Thom­son Track or be­yond, or down the Sum­mit Road to­wards the Sign of the Kiwi. Here three roads in­ter­sect, and there is the added ran­dom­ness of cars turn­ing in and out of a car park. As you just can’t look five places at once, it is a dan­ger­ous in­ter­sec­tion, and best to take your time.

Rest at the Sign of the Kiwi for an excellent cof­fee and su­perb date muf­fin af­ter this 5.5km one way walk. The Sign of the Kiwi has been beau­ti­fully re­stored fol­low­ing the Can­ter­bury earth­quakes and was saved (but closed for quite a while) fol­low­ing the fires. It is heart­en­ing to see it roar­ingly pop­u­lar again.

From here you can walk, cy­cle or drive along the Sum­mit Road. A bronze re­lief map shows ma­jor land­scape fea­tures, and you look down over hectares of charred pine for­est, in­clud­ing the re­cently opened and then de­stroyed moun­tain bike park.

The re­turn is an easy down­hill, and we were glad to have walk­ing poles as fol­low­ing heavy rain it was a lit­tle muddy and slip­pery in places. We took three hours to do the en­tire round trip, en­joy­ing the re­laxed pace and warm hospi­tal­ity of the Sign of the Kiwi.

Above from top : Cross­ing the Sum­mit Road and Dy­ers Pass Road to the Sign of the Kiwi. Charred re­mains of macro­carpa and pine line the walk­way. The Harry Ell Track ex­its onto Sum­mit Road. Be­low: Dogs on a leash are al­lowed on the track.

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