During a road trip from Christchurch to the Abel Tasman in the South Island of New Zealand I aimed to put a bit more focus on running. Darryn was still in the midst of recovering and getting back on track from his calcaneus (heel bone) injury. This put any long day or multi day hiking adventures and hours of outdoor climbing out of the picture for us. As an act of balance between getting enough movement in for me, not too much but enough walking for Darryn and actually spending the holiday together, we had an idea:

We would find short day walks to walk together and therefore test and stretch Darryn's walking limits. I would then either run the tracks again or if the tracks permit keep running the path while Darryn starts his return back to the start of the track.

This way I eventually ended up running the 5 beautiful tracks you see listed below and that I'd like to introduce you to. As a reference, our road trip started in Christchurch, passing through Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve, towards Whites Bay near Blenheim. From there over Picton, Elaine Bay and then reaching Abel Tasman National Park. We actually made it all the way up to the Farewell Spit but that's secondary to my wee running journey :)

The distance range of all tracks combined is anything between 2.5 - 60+ kilometres one way. So, there are options for lots of variations depending on what kind of distance runner you are. In case, you're not a runner but are here anyway, no need to leave the page. All of the tracks are splendid, well maintained walking tracks and, at least, equally as enjoyable at a slower pace.

Runner or not, I hope the list below will inspire you to put on some trail runners and get out into a wee bit of green, maybe even checking out some of the tracks below.

Maruia Springs Nature Walk

Maruia Springs Nature Walk

I've mentioned Maruia Hot Springs in another article before. Its somewhat remote location in the midst of Lewis Pass invites to a disconnect from the stressors of a city and a connect to more nature.

This wee gem hides behind the reception building and is a mere 2km loop. Hence I ran it a couple times. The track starts with a beautiful forest bit. Fresh air for running guaranteed. The picture shows one of my favourite trees to be found on that section. One that's fallen, cut apart to make just enough room for the path and has been foundation to a bunch of mini ecosystems. Combine this kind of environment with a wee runner's high and you're good to go for the day :)

There are also many other trails in the area, such as the Lewis Tops Walk or St James Walkway. Lots of options for more challenging and longer distances for a run or hike, if you desire.

Black Jack Track, Whites Bay

Black Jack Track, Whites Bay

Whites Bay / Pukatea can be found a short drive northeast from Blenheim in the Marlborough region. We stopped there for a night and I took the time to check out the area for some running.

There are a few options for different distances and challenges regarding elevation gain, etc. I picked the Black Jack Track.

Running from the campsite and going for the loop this track totals to about 4km. I ran the lower sections of it multiple times to get up to a certain distance.

There's an elevation gain of about 200m over the first 1.5km. I love steep uphill sections when hiking. Running these is another story. I should also mention that, by the time I was running this track, I wasn't necessarily what I'd call a regular trail runner anymore. Meaning, in the months leading up to this holiday I've been doing my runs primarily in the park across the street or along the Ōtākaro / Avon River in Christchurch. All flat, no ups and downs. That's one of the reasons why I've decided to focus on trail running during this road trip to start with.

Long story short, I expected to be exhausted and tired after this one, only to realise once more that I find a whole lot more joy on a challenging trail compared to a city park. Despite the feeling of running backwards because I was so so slow most of the time. One S T E P at a time, I guess :)

Ah yeah, by the way, there are some pretty rad views waiting on top of the uphill section. Serving as a perfect answer to the question "Why am I doing this again?", circling around in my head on the way up. "To soak up the views and cruise down the track like nothing is easier." These moments when life couldn't feel simpler.

Snout Track, near Picton

Snout Track, near Picton

Introducing the Marlborough Sounds and the Snout Track on a wee peninsula just outside of Picton...

Darryn and I started walking part of the track from the car park to "the Snout" - the end of the trail - together. I got to see the Interislander for the first time on this section. The Interislander is the ferry that travels back and forth between NZ's North and South Island.

When we reached a viewpoint with nice views of the Queen Charlotte Sound I continued running while Darryn would slowly make his way back. The elevation gain isn't as much as on the Black Jack Track but the heat was crushing me on that day. That being said, it felt so much harder. No cloud in the sky, I was happy about most of the track being sheltered by trees. A little boy I was passing twice, on the way to the trail's end and back, was exclaiming to his father the second time I passed him: "She's really sweating." Can't argue, I sure was.

I had a wee breather or two when reaching the Snout to take some mental images and enjoy the moment. Pretty, pretty views, I dare say.

As a reference, from car park to the turning point it's about 4km.

Piwakawaka Track, Elaine Bay

Pīwakawaka Track, Elaine Bay

Pīwakawaka is the Māori name for fantail, one of my most favourite bird species here in Aotearoa. They're the tiniest birds with at least half of their total body length made up by their eye-catching tail. Their behaviour feels like they're playing, flying really close and circling around you. It is said that they're actually trying to catch some of the tiny insects being disturbed by our presence. If it wasn't for them being gone as quick as they appear I could get lost for hours and hours just watching them.

Now, let's try to focus back on running. The Pīwakawaka track is a short 2km one way. The trail ends in a bay and marks the beginning of my "run-swims". Running followed by taking a short swim in the ocean.

I walked the track to its end together with Darryn, then ran out and in again while he was chilling at the bay's beach. Quickly swapped running clothes with bikini after the run to wash off salty sweat with salty ocean water. Flowing in the water, feeling weightless after a run through the most beautiful forest.

Moments of happiness created in alignment with moving within Nature - despite, or maybe because of, the friggen cold water temperature.

Abel Tasman Coast Track

Abel Tasman Coast Track

If all the other tracks had you bored because of their rather short distances, this one may catch your attention. The coastal track in the Abel Tasman National Park is 60 km one way. Lots of options for any sort of variation in distance. The ups and downs are minor reviewing the parts I've run so far. It's a nice track "highway" to cruise along.

The scenery is quite distractive. Ocean, bays, islands, native flora, birds, birds, birds. I haven't mentioned yet but if you're one to run with headphones, I recommend leaving them at home. I'd say the bird sound will be enough, if not much, much better, entertainment. It's New Zealand after all. You generally don't have to walk far to be sung to.

With plenty of little bays along the way, I continued my run-swim habit. To my delight, I became more and more used to the water temperature with each time :)

Before we finish off my little trail running journey, I'll have to introduce you to pungas. Punga being a kiwi word for tree ferns and shown on this article's main picture at the top of the page. I've known ferns to be growing close to the ground. Reaching up to 12m this is definitely not the case for these kind of ferns. But hey, I've also known birds to fly and keep their distance to humans. Some things seem to be a little different in this part of the world. Different in the very beautiful kind of way :)


Leave a comment*

(*Please see A word or two.)