New Zealand Walk: Harry Ell Walk
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.