The best thing about tramping in New Zealand is that every time we go, I have a new favourite tramp. We've just discovered the Peach Cove Track and - voila! - another tramp goes into my top 3. This makes at least 25 tramps in my top 3.
New Zealand Northland boasts some of the prettiest coastline in the country and Peach Cove Hut is perfectly situated to take advantage of it. However, you can quickly rule this one out if steps are not your thing. The NZ Wilderness Magazine trip notes say there are 818 steps to the hut, while the graffiti on the hut junction sign offers a few suggestions into the possible number of steps: 814, 825, 857... or if you measure in flights: 76. We counted twice and got 809 both times. Perhaps my maths shouldn't be trusted given my tramp ranking abilities, but I did have the help of two expert counters (aged 7 and 9). There are another 500 or so steps from the carpark leading up to the ridge line and few flights along the ridge. You might want to check with your knees before booking this one.
The tropical kiwi jungle is lush and birdsong carries you along the track as you glimpse the ocean, meander around boulders, and sneak under trees. Peach Cove Hut is a cozy little hut with a large deck outside, just a hop, skip, and a jump to the beach below. Stormy seas during our visit meant it was shell shopping for us instead of swimming in the crashing waves, but I'm told the beach is normally very calm and considered to be safe for swimming.
Luckily Peach Cove "Fun house" Hut, has plenty to do even when it rains. There are two boulders just outside, begging to be run up and climbed. A massive Pohutukawa tree grows over the larger of the two boulders. The roots seem specially made to be hand holds and foot holds and there are plenty of places to perch at the top for a photo, a picnic, or to spy on trampers entering the hut below. Double checking the number of steps leading to the hut is also a good option for a rainy day.
Warning: After a drought, bring your own water. The rainwater tank was near empty on our visit and there were lots of tiny worms in the water. You can boil it of course, but there is no getting over the sight of squiggling beasties in your drinking water.
Check out Te Whara Track for options for lengthening the trip to Peach Cove Hut if your tramping crew is more robust and you have more time.
Peach Cove Track, Whangarei Heads, New Zealand
Distance: 3.6km return
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: The stairs might be tricky for some, but it's a relatively short walk.
Barefoot: Not tested, but the ground seemed pretty barefoot friendly. I would skip shoes if I wasn't carrying an overnight pack.