Hinewai Falls Loop | The Best Short Walk In The Hinewai Reserve

Many visitors flock to the Banks Peninsula to walk the French-inspired streets of Akaroa and admire the dramatic ancient volcanic landscape from the harbour. But very few venture into the Hinewai Reserve – a pocket of lush native forests hiding in the folds of the rugged mountains, teeming with waterfalls and views of the secluded southeast bays.

We stumbled upon the Hinewai Reserve on our recent visit to Akaroa, while exploring the many dirt roads branching off the scenic Summit Road. And after picking up a hand-drawn map from the private visitor centre, we chose to walk the Hinewai Falls Loop.

With over 20 km of walking trails weaving throughout the Hinewai Reserve, choosing a circuit will be the hardest part of your day. However, we found that the Hinewai Falls Loop provided the perfect introduction to the reserve in an action-packed 4.3 km circuit.

In this detailed guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to explore the Hinewai Falls Loop – including the best time to visit, optional side trips and another of our favourite walks in the Hinewai and Purple Peak Curry Reserves.

Hinewai Falls, the best waterfall in Akaroa located in the Hinewai Reserve
Hinewai Falls

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What To Know About Walking The Hinewai Falls Loop On The Banks Peninsula

Quick Statistics For The Hinewai Falls Loop

4.3 km circuit

1.5 – 2.5 hours

Grade 3

Elevation Gain
273 m

Highest Elevation
487 m 

Entrance Fees

Trailhead: Car park, toilets, information boards and visitor centre

Where Does The Hinewai Falls Loop Start?

The Hinewai Reserve lies above Akaroa on the southeastern slopes of the Banks Peninsula, a magnificent landmass shaped by volcanic activity millions of years ago. The Hinewai Falls Loop begins from the Hinewai Reserve Car Park found on Long Bay Rd, 12 minutes east of Akaroa.

How To Get To The Hinewai Reserve

By Car

The Hinewai Reserve Car Park is located 1 hr 30 minutes southeast of Christchurch. It’s a navigationally easy drive, where you’ll stay on State Highway 75 (Christchurch Akaroa Rd) until you reach the outskirts of Akaroa.

Just before you drive down into Akaroa, you’ll turn left onto Long Bay Rd and continue along the winding road for approximately 6 km before arriving at the Hinewai Reserve Car Park on your right.

Hinewai Reserve Carpark

The drive into Akaroa is absolutely stunning, with plenty of stops along the way. We suggest allowing a little extra time so you can enjoy the drive, and even stop in at Barrys Bay Traditional Cheese Shop on the way.

By Public Transport

The Akaroa French Connection provides daily shuttles between Christchurch and Akaroa, leaving the city at 9 am and departing from Akaroa at 4 pm. It’s actually quite affordable, costing $50 per person return.

The only downside is that the bus will only take you as far as Akaroa. From the town, your only option to reach the Hinewai Reserve is to hitchhike or walk.

Who Is This Walk For?

The 4.3 km Hinewai Falls Loop weaves through regenerating native forests on a well-marked track, following the course of the waterfall-laden stream. The highlight of the Falls Loop is, of course, the four waterfalls – Fuschia Falls, Ghost Falls, Hinewai Falls and Boundary Falls.

Climbing the stairs out of the Hinewai Falls Loop from Boundary Falls

If you’re looking for a short 1.5 – 2.5 hour nature walk that will allow you to wander through native forests, learning the names of the major plants and trees courtesy of the plaques at their base, then the Hinewai Falls Loop is perfect.

However, if you’re in search of a walk that will offer uninterrupted views of the ancient volcanic landscape and the countless bays, then you’re better off choosing one of the summit walks such as the Stony Bay Peak Track.

Note: While the Hinewai Falls Loop is relatively easy, it does require a steep ascent for the final 1.6 km. This can be avoided by returning the way you came after reaching Boundary Creek.

What To Pack For The Hinewai Falls Loop

Walking through the beautiful forests of Hinewai Reserve in Akaroa, New Zealand

The Hinewai Falls Loop takes roughly 1.5 – 2.5 hours to complete, depending on how long you spend at each waterfall. All you’ll need for this walk is a small day pack with water, some snacks, and your swimmers and a towel if you plan to swim in the shaded pool beneath Hinewai Falls.

Best Time To Visit Hinewai Reserve

The Hinewai Reserve can be visited year round, offering a unique experience with each season, making it one of the best things to do in Akaroa. Winter can often bring snow to the higher elevation of the Banks Peninsula and during spring and summer, the forests are filled with blossoming flowers.

For the waterfalls in Hinewai Reserve, they usually flow the best in early autumn and winter. But the Banks Peninsula as a whole receives a relatively high amount of rain annually, so you’ll most likely have flowing waterfalls throughout the year.

Hiking to Ghost Falls in the Hinewai Reserve, New Zealand

Hinewai Falls Loop Track Notes

Hinewai Reserve Car Park To The Visitor Centre

You’ll begin the Hinewai Falls Loop from the fenced-in Hinewai Reserve Car Park, located just off Long Bay Rd. Remembering to close the gate after you, wander along the wide grassy path leading southwest, following the signs for the visitor centre.

As you enter the forest, look out for the signs at the base of the trees that indicate what species you’re walking past.

After 300 m, you’ll arrive at an information board consisting of a large map and a collection of wooden planks with important information written on them. You can pick up a paper map with all the various walks listed from the pamphlet box but if it’s empty, there will be more inside the visitor centre roughly 100 m further along.

The Visitor Centre To The Lookout

An old woolshed has been renovated to house the visitor centre and doubles as a self-contained lodging that sleeps up to 12 people. If you’d like to stay at the lodgings, you’ll need to contact the manager, Hugh Wilson. 

Inside the Hinewai Reserve Visitors Centre and hut
Hinewai Reserve Visitors Centre

Along with plenty of information about the Hinewai Reserve and the work of the Maurice White Native Forest Trust, you’ll find toilets and drinking water at the centre. 

Once you’ve used the facilities and grabbed a map, follow the signs towards the West Track. You’ll find that the entire walk is very well sign-posted so long as you remember which tracks you need to take. These are listed on the paper map that you grabbed from the visitor centre.

Trail signs pointing hikers in the direction of their desired walk in Hinewai Reserve
Example of the many signs throughout the Hinewai Reserve Walks

Almost immediately after stepping onto the West Track, you’re engulfed in a scruffy kanuka forest. A worn dirt track gently descends before following the contour lines of the mountain around to the west.

Walking the Hinewai Falls Loop in Hinewai Reserve

After 400 m, you’ll come to the first side track. The short 100 m detour takes you to a clearing in the forest that boasts breathtaking views down the valley to Otanerito Bay.

The Lookout To Fuschia Falls

Otanerito Bay Lookout on the West Track in the Hinewai Reserve in Akaroa
Otanerito Bay Lookout

Once you’ve finished gazing out upon Otenarito Bay, return to the West Track and continue traversing the mountainside. The slightly more open landscape allows you to catch snippets of the valley and the bays as you walk.

You’ll come to a wooden bridge 200 m later that crosses the top of the stream that the track will continue following for the remainder of the Hinewai Falls Loop. Almost immediately after, you’ll find a sign for Fuschia Falls.

Hinewai Falls Loop trail bridge

Fuschia Falls is a pretty little waterfall just off the West Track, surrounded by a tangle of tan coloured trees with their roots stretching to the water’s edge. The waterfall cascades over dark moss-covered rocks into a shallow pool strewn with small boulders you can hop across.

Fuschia Falls in the Hinewai Reserve, Akaroa
Fuschia Falls

Fuschia Falls To Ghost Falls

Retrace your steps back to the West Track and continue wandering through the Kanuka Forest. Soon after, you’ll come to a track junction. This is where you’ll leave the West Track and begin on the Big Kanuka Track.

Hiking through the Big Kanuka Track, passing dense tree ferns in the Hinewai Reserve

As you follow the Big Kanuka Track, you’ll begin to descend deeper into a fern-filled gully. After 400 m, another track junction will appear. The Big Kanuka Track ends here and you’ll continue walking south via the South Track.

Not long after leaving the Big Kanuka Track, the forest thins for a moment to allow for glimpses of the shimmering bay in the distance. Entering back beneath the forest canopy, you’ll arrive at the Ghost Falls side track 400 m later.

Ghost Falls is the longest detour, taking roughly 12 minutes one way. While the waterfall isn’t our favourite of the bunch, the walk makes up for it. You’ll wander down the banks of a small creek, crossing twice via little wooden bridges, before stepping onto the rocky edge of the stream.

Hiking up the creek to Ghost Falls in the Hinewai Reserve
Walking up the dry creek towards Ghost Falls
Ghost Falls on the Hinewai Waterfall Loop
Ghost Falls

Most of the walk to Ghost Falls requires you to walk upstream, making this detour unattainable when the water level is high. You’ll follow wooden signs and white tipped poles along the easiest path and arrive at the base of the waterfall 200 m later.

Ghost Falls To Hinewai Falls

Wander back along the rocky stream once more and cross another small bridge to continue descending along the South Track. The terrain shifts again to a slightly open shrubland, allowing you to gaze out into the deep valley while you walk.

Walking to Hinewai Falls

300 m after the turn-off to Ghost Falls, you’ll arrive at a sign for Hinewai Falls. This waterfall only requires a short 3 minute detour down the steep bank and is our favourite of the four.

The double tiered waterfall plunges into a small emerald pool below, encompassed by a rock wall covered in moss and ferns. Behind you, the stream continues to ramble down into an open gully on its way to the sea.

Hinewai Falls, the best waterfall in Akaroa located in the Hinewai Reserve
Hinewai Falls

Hinewai Falls has the largest pool beneath the cascading waterfall and is the best option for a dip on a hot summer day.

Hinewai Falls To Boundary Falls

Once you’ve had enough of Hinewai Falls, walk back up the embankment and continue descending along the South Track for another 200 m until you reach the final track junction. The East Track will conclude the Hinewai Falls Loop and lead you to your last waterfall, Boundary Falls.

Boundary Falls from a birds eye view
Boundary Falls

Boundary Falls is located just after you turn onto the East Track. A bridge crosses the stream, allowing you to stand in the middle of the small waterfall. There is a side track that takes you to the base of Boundary Falls via a ladder, but we didn’t bother with the 10 minute detour.

Boundary Falls To The Hinewai Reserve Car Park

Now begins the arduous climb out of the deep gully. A set of steep stairs begins the ascent, followed by a relentless dirt track that offers very little reprieve until you reach the car park 1.4 km later.

Steep walk out of the Hinewai Reserve on the East Track

The Hinewai Falls Loop took us a total of 2 hours to complete, including taking plenty of photos at each of the waterfalls and the lookout. While the waterfalls are certainly not the biggest or grandest you’ll find in New Zealand, it was a nice nature walk to witness the regeneration progress of the land and learn the names of some of the native flora species.

Other Important Information For Walking The Hinewai Falls Loop

Leave No Trace

The Hinewai Reserve is a private conservation area that has invited the public to roam the beautiful forests within. It’s imperative that we respect their efforts and practice the 7 Leave No Trace Principles while wandering the trails.

Walking through the beautiful forests of Hinewai Reserve in Akaroa, New Zealand

It’s as easy as using the toilets provided throughout the trail network – there is one at the visitor centre and another near Boundary Falls – and packing out all your rubbish, including tissues and food scraps.

You can learn more about how to avoid compromising the conservation efforts via the Hinewai Reserve’s official website.

Other Walks Within The Hinewai And Purple Peak Curry Reserves

You could spend days exploring the intricate web of trails crisscrossing the Hinewai and Purple Peak Curry Reserves. The best resource to learn about these tracks is by chatting with Hugh Wilson, the reserve’s manager, at the visitor centre.

But to help you pre-plan, here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Skyline Beech Lookout Track

Skyline Beech Lookout in Akaroa

Beginning from a car park on Brocheries Rd, the Skyline Beech Lookout Track weaves through the Purple Peak Curry Reserve to Browntop Saddle which overlooks the beautiful Akaroa Harbour. The track then continues along the ridgeline, affording sensational views of the eastern and western bays, before ending at the Skyline Beech Lookout.

This short 1.6 km return walk takes roughly 20 minutes to reach the lookout, making it a perfect option for sunset.

Stoney Bay Peak Track

This is a popular walk that can either be added to the Hinewai Falls Loop or started from Brocheries Rd. Stoney Bay Peak is the second highest summit in the Hinewai Reserve and provides stunning views over the rugged volcanic landscape.

Where To Stay Near Hinewai Reserve

The beautiful town of Akaroa at sunset

The Hinewai Reserve lies in the mountains above Akaroa, a beautiful harbour town that is popular among tourists and locals alike. Akaroa is the perfect place to base yourself while exploring the Hinewai Reserve and the great Banks Peninsula.

Alternatively, the Hinewai Falls Loop is only 1.5 hours southeast of Christchurch, making it an easy day trip if you’d rather stay in the city.

Final Thoughts

Akaroa is a beautiful destination full of unique landscapes and lush countryside. But a visit isn’t complete if you don’t make the trip into the Hinewai Reserve. The Hinewai Falls Loop pleasantly surprised us, we weren’t sure whether the regenerating forest would captivate us but it did.

If you’re searching for something different to do while you explore the Banks Peninsula, be sure to add the Hinewai Falls Loop to your itinerary. And if you visit in the height of summer, don’t forget your swimmers!

Happy Hiking 🙂