Hawke’s Bay is a beautiful wine region in New Zealand and the best place to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the picturesque scenery is to visit the popular vantage point, Te Mata Peak. Standing at 399 metres above the Heretaunga Plains, Te Mata Peak offers breathtaking views of the scenic Ruahine, Kaweka and Maungaharuru Ranges, as well as Cape Kidnappers.
The active volcano Ruapehu, located in Tongariro National Park, can be seen from Te Mata Peak on a clear day. Te Mata Peak is also a favourite spot for picnics, wedding photography, hang gliding/paragliding, and concerts. 😀
Te Mata – the Giant among Us
Legend has it that in order to prevent the threat of a war from the coastal tribes of Waimarama, the villagers on the Heretaunga Plains made the beautiful daughter of a Pakipaki chief (Hinerakau) to seduce the leader of the Waimarama tribes (Te Mata). The plan worked and Te Mata fell in love with Hinerakau. To prove his love and devotion to Hinerakau, Te Mata was made to perform several impossible tasks.
The last task was to bite his way through the hills between the coast and the plains, so that the villagers could come and go easily. Te Mata died proving his love when he choked on the earth of Te Mata Peak. His half-accomplished work can be seen in the hills in what is known as The Gap or Pari Karangaranga (echoing cliffs), while his body forms the iconic hills of Te Mata Peak.
If we look closely, the outline of Te Mata Peak resembles the prostrate body of a man, therefore earning it the name the “Sleeping Giant”.
Top 5 Walking Tracks at Te Mata Park
Te Mata Park has a rich human and geological history, and is home to a variety of unique plants and native birds. Visitors go there for a walk, hike or bike while enjoying the panoramic views before them. The nature trails on Te Mata Peak leading through native bush, enchanting redwood forests and along limestone valleys are great for hikers and mountain bikers.
The park has 5 main walking tracks with varying distances, landscapes and level of difficulty. Each of the tracks is a different loop route, which may be travelled in either direction. The Individual Track Images and Interactive Maps are as follows:
- Piwakawaka Loop – 1.3 km / 40 mins
- Big Redwoods Track – 2.7 km / 1 hour
- Karaka Wander – 4.0 km / 1 hr 15 mins
- Rongokako Trail – 5.5 km / 2 hrs 15 mins
- Giant Circuit – 5.4 km / 2 hrs 15 mins
For your info, some parts of the Te Mata Park Walking Track traverse through precariously steep areas and are quite exposed to the elements. The tracks may be slippery after wet or wintery weather, therefore it is important to wear suitable footwear and clothing, and use sun protection. Please take note that there are no toilets or drinking water within Te Mata Park, Hawke’s Bay.
Breathtaking Views at Te Mata Peak
One beautiful day, Francesco (an Italian-Argentinean friend of mine) decided to drive all the way up to Te Mata Peak and Jenny (my Korean friend) and I happily tagged along. To be honest, the drive up Te Mata Peak requires nerves of steel, good driving skills and a pair of steady hands for the road uphill is winding, narrow and precariously steep in some areas.
In fact, certain sections of the road only allow a single vehicle to pass at a time – it is that narrow! And, the steep cliffs on the side of the road do not help either if one has a fear of heights. One wrong move and we risk plunging off the cliff into our doom. Despite so, the view was remarkable and worth the cringe-worthy drive up the peak.
At the top, we were blown away by strong winds and panoramic views of Hawke’s Bay, Te Mata Peak and its surroundings – overlooking the majestic Heretaunga Plains, Ruahine, Kaweka and Maungaharuru Ranges, as well as Cape Kidnappers. We spent a fair bit of time sitting up there, doing nothing, just enjoying the view. So happen that it was not our luck to see any hang gliding or paragliding daredevils in action that day.
The Big Redwoods Walking & Cycling Track
After that, we made our way down to the Main Gates Car Park in order to begin our brief hike/walk on the Big Redwoods Track that will take us to the legendary California redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) grove. Native to America, the redwood is an evergreen and extremely long-lived tree with a life span of 2,500 to 3,500 years. They are the tallest trees now living on earth – the record-holder is the Hyperion tree in Northern California which measures 115.61metres (379.3 feet)!
The Big Redwoods is one of the most popular places in Te Mata Park and has been the setting for weddings, concerts and even Shakespearean plays. Stepping foot into the redwoods grove was a dream come true moment for me. I have been fascinated by redwoods forest since I saw it on a National Geographic documentary and was happy that I finally get to see one in real life.
Sadly, we did not complete the entire length of the Big Redwoods Track. Due to the lack of time and experience, we decided to turn back and head home safely before it gets too dark. Overall, it was a wonderful experience for me. I will make another trip back to Te Mata Park to complete the Big Redwoods Track and possibly take on the Giant Circuit too.
Up next: Christmas staycation at the White House in Kinloch, Taupo (Airbnb)