Boulder Hill from Old Coach Road (Normandale)
Updated: Aug 13
Saturday, 9 May 2020
Location: Google Maps does not seem to like this exact location. Essentially you drive to the very end of Normandale Road, Normandale, Lower Hutt. If you need a location use Waglands (it is a business just before the carpark/cult-de-sac where you can park.) There is a big Belmont Regional Park map at the entrance to Old Coach Road.
This walk is one that we will always remember, perhaps because we started out not planning on going to Boulder Hill but as the day progressed, we got more committed and it turned into an epic adventure.
Old Coach Road: The first part of the walk is along Old Coach Road, this is an old forestry access road with sweeping views out towards Wellington. It's an easy flat walk, we think attempting this with a buggy maybe a bit trying though. There are stiles as you're crossing farms and dogs aren't allowed on the farmland. Because you start up so high you get the benefit of the beautiful views without having to climb.
Artillery Bunkers and the Airstrip: There is a split just after you cross the first stile where you can climb up over a hill and down to the old artillery bunkers or weave down towards Hill Road. If you take the right-hand path towards Hill Road you come across an old building that has a public toilet it in. As far as we know that is the only toilet on this walk. We took the western track and wandered up and over a little hilltop to the first set of artillery bunkers. Our kids thought these were awesome to explore (until they realised they were standing on sheep poo and animal skulls). We had lunch and then continued up to the Airstrip. We think even just walking Old Coach Road to the Airstrip is amazing. The views from the Airstrip are beautiful reaching out to Porirua, Lower Hutt and Wellington. The Airstrip is a long strip of grass at a peculiar angle. It might still be used because there is a hanger next to it which looks like it's been maintained.
The Airstrip to Boulder Hill: We then continued from the Airstrip heading north (through the farm gate). There is a house at the top of Hill Road and a signpost with a map of the park. This is when our family decided we absolutely had to reach Boulder Hill.
There's a bit of a climb at the end of the track as you approach Boulder Hill and Miss 5 needed a few piggyback rides to make it to the top. BUT making it to the top was well worthwhile, we thought after the Airstrip that the views couldn't get better but Boulder Hill feels like you're on top of the world. After lots of snackage we realised that we needed to high tail to make sure we got back before the sunset.
Our walk home: As we started our descent from Boulder Hill we saw the Kilmister Track signposts, after consulting google maps we decided it looked quicker so we started on this track. We soon realised that the track signposts weren't great (non-existent). Looking back up towards Boulder Hill and knowing that the kids would get tired we decided to take what we thought looked like the most well-maintained path. Not a good call, we basically climbed to the bottom of the valley and realised that we were not on the right track so we then had to climb all the way back out of the valley - backtracking up to the original track. We weren't lost as such as we knew how to get back, but we were confused and slightly disappointed in the sign-posts. On a side note, a few months later when we walked Old Coach Road-Bull Run we met another couple who had tried to walk the Kilmister Track from the Hill Road end, they got totally lost and spent a couple of hours wondering around the farm and then just retraced their steps (we went back June 23 and nailed it).
Once we got back to the main track we motored home, Miss 5 needed some carries (even Master 7 gave her some piggy back rides). We decided to not go home via the Airstrip and instead walked down Hill Road, stopping at the "Toilet Shed" and then carrying on up the path towards Old Coach road (it's a wide dirt track on the right hand side of Hill Road). There isn't a signpost for this track so you need to be checking for it on your GPS. In saying that it's the only wide track on your right just after the toilets.
This was an absolutely epic walk - we got home and went out for dinner to celebrate. Highly recommended. Even if you just did small bits of it. Old Coach Road and the Airstrip are amazing. Go Belmont Regional Park!
Age of Kids: Miss 5 and Master 7
Walking Time: 6-7 hours
Length: around 22km (return)
Difficulty: Hard (because it was so long)
Wet Feet: No...apart from that detour down Kilmister Track
Amenities: There's a toilet in a building on the left hand side where Old Coach road meets Hill Road.
Dogs: No (you walk across a working farm)
Cellphone Reception: Yes
Be Aware: Kilmister Track, it's not a short cut, it’s terribly sign posted. It is also really exposed up the top so definitely bring warm layers.