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Tracks in Ohinetahi Reserve
Set at the western end of the Harbour, as the big inlet that divides the Port Hills from Banks Peninsula is colluquially known, Governors Bay is a good base for walks in this area. The extensive network of walks along the Crater Rim are only a few minutes drive away via Dyers Pass Road, and Lyttleton is also handy. In addition, there's a range of good walks on the doorstep, suitable for just about every taste.
For a shortish (up to 2 hours one way) walk, the Head-to-Head walkway is a good option. In its entirety, this runs from Allendale Reserve in the south to Maori Gardens in the north - a distance of about 4 km. In the south, access is possible from the carpark at Allendale Reserve. From here, the path follows an old coach road along the shoreline, on the way taking in several sites of local significance. Look out, in particular, for the stately Ohinetahi Homestead, where the path curves east, and later on the fascinating (not to say beautiful) features in the volcanic rocks, known on local maps as the Volcanic Caverns. As you pass the sewerage station and approach the jetty, the track becomes somewhat more functional but rounding a rocky headland you soon catch sight of the jetty, with its sad sag half-way along. While you might imagine that this was a consequence of the Christchurch earthquake, you'd only be partly right. The damage became evident then, but its origins are much older and are due to the deterioration of the supporting piles over many decades. The jetty has been an important feature in the community, however, so unsurprisingly there's now an active campaign to raise money for kits restoration.
North of the jetty the path becomes less formed as it winds its way through trees anmd scrubland just above the high-water mark, occasionally dipping down onto the beach, until it crosses Sandy Beach Road. The beach itself is out of bounds to dogs during summer months, but is supposedly a good swimming spot, tbough beyond its fringe of sand it looks somewhat muddy and inviting at low tide. The track, now, becomes broader again, and runs above the beach, before climbing onto the next headland. After a short, low cliff section, there's a path off to the right which goes down onto the foreshore, and if you are at all geologically mninded is worth a deviatioin when the tide is right to see some good examplef of volcanicic dikes. (Dikes are vertical veins of rock that radiate outwards from volcanoes. They are formed when hot magma, instead of bubbling to the surface, forces its way along li nes of weakness into the surrounding rocks.)
The main track, meanwhile, continues to climb onto higher and rather precipitous cliffs. At this point, the local walking guide advises you to take the right hand path that runs down past a becnh beneath a pine tree to the beach, in order to reach Maori Gardens. I wouldn't advise it, however, because the bank at the base of the steps has been badly eroded: sliding down might be easy; getting back up may be more of a challenge. Alternatively, you can follow the man path upwards for another 100 metres or so to its end - where it comes out onto Governors Bay Road. As you do so, you may wonder where the gardens are. A good question. Maybe there were kumara beds here once, but there are no signs of them now. Today, the word is just a name. But even with that disappointment, it's a pleasant and often charming walk, that offers enough physical challenge to make it worthwhile. Be warned, however, that Governers Bay Road is busy and lacks a footpath - and does not offer a very safe return route. So the best way home is probably back the way you came.
If you want a longer walk, and more physical challenge, you can head up the track beside Dyers Pass Road, and join the Crater Rim walkway at the Sign of the Kiwi, from where there's an extensive network of routes. Alternatively, you can stay more local and walk in Ohinetahi Reserve (see map, below right). This contains 10 km or more of tracks running through remnant and secondary native bush, on the steep hillslope between Governors Bay and the Crater Rim. For a longish loop walk, take Faulkners Track from The Terrace to the ridgeline in Hoons Hay Reserve, then turn south along the Crater Rim walkway and return via one of the several tracks down onto Ngaio Track to Bay Heights and the coast. (Note that on some information leaflets this is shown as non-dog, but both the signs on the ground and the Summit Road Society website classify the area as on-leash.) If that's all too daunting for you, it's possible to shorten the route, and omit the steeper sections, by taking the South Boundary Track half-way along Faulkners Track and then return via Titoki Track.
Above: Weathered volcanic rocks on the Head to Head walkway.
Left: The jetty at Governors Bay