The rocky section along the beach could be a bit challenging at high tide, but otherwise the singletrack through the woods and easy elevation profile for this route would make it a great option for an out-and-back run.
From the Rarakau car park, run south until you come to a gate and the official start of the Hump Ridge Track
. The start of the trail heads through a lowland podocarp forest complete with ferns, tall beech trees, nikau palms, and many types of mosses. The trail through the woods is winding and well marked with orange triangle DOC blazes.
After this short run through the woods, the track descends a steep set of stairs that head nearly straight down a gully. Use caution as the wooden steps can be wet and slippery on this descent. This quick drop takes you from the forested bluff down to a singletrack that winds alongside the beach until coming to a suspension bridge that crosses a wide estuary where the river has carved an impressive slice from the eastern bluff. The suspension bridge will take you across to the Paptotara Coast Road which is little more than an unimproved 4x4 road. There is a small fisherman's hut, and you'll want to head south toward the coast to pick up the track which at this point continues along the beach.
Once you contour around the sandy promontory, the trail continues along the beach which is covered in a assortment of round rocks that have been washed smooth by the rolling waves. It is easiest to cross this section at low tide, as at high tide you may find yourself scrambling along the rockier sections as well as navigating some large logs and stumps that have washed in with the tide.
After about 3 km of running along the beach, look for the sign marked "South Coast Track/Hump Ridge Track
" with a large orange triangle marker as this is where you'll wan to exit the beach. The trail can be a little hard to spot if the grass is high, so just keep an eye open for the sign on your right-hand side. If you hit a rocky promontory, you have gone too far.
From here, the track crosses another small stream on a suspension bridge and, for a short ways, follows the wider doubletrack of the coastal road. You'll come to a junction with a private cabin; keep to the left here. This section can be a little confusing as there are several unmarked junctions with other roads. Generally, keeping to the most well-used path is your best bet, and you can use the Trail Run Project mobile app
to help make sure you are on the right track.
The track eventually comes to a wide ford with a pedestrian bridge next to another private cabin. Cross the bridge, and you'll pick up a nice section of singletrack that will quickly leave all traces of civilization behind. After a short climb, the track will come to a junction with the Hump Ridge: Flat Creek to Okaka Hut
which runners can take for the full loop track. Or for a nice day run option, continue on a short descent to cross the rocky Blowhole Beaches to end at Break Neck Creek.
Lowland podocarp forests. Birds such as robins, bellbirds, tuī, and wood pigeons.