Ballroom Overhang - Punakaiki - Paparoa
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The Ballroom Overhang is a hiking highlight in the Paparoa National Park. This trail includes 8 river crossings one way and can be hiked only in right weather conditions. The Fox River shouldn’t be higher than your knees at the first crossing. Check the weather forecast before hiking. Consider if there is rain predicted the water level can rise quickly and hikers can get trapped. It’s dangerous to hike here in flood. Weather Forecast Punakaiki Area
It’s a mild climate due to the close location to the sea. Weather in NZ and especially on the West Coast is very changeable. You can experience 25°C / 77°F one day and the next day heavy rainfall and much colder temps. The warmest months are November to March. If you camp consider the average low night temps of around 10°C / 50°F. The average day temps are below 20°C / 68°F but can reach up to 30°C / 86°C in summer. Nights are pretty chilly from May to September. Rain is very common coming from the Tasman Sea on the West Coast on average each month more than 200 mm except February which is usually a little drier. Generally, spring (Sep.-Nov.) is the wettest time of the year.
Where to Stay Nearby:
The Paparoa National Park is popular for day hikes, the Pack Track, and the Pancake Rocks. Due to massive damage of cyclone Gita, the Inland Pack Track was closed, same with the Pororari River Loop. The only option we had was the Ballroom Overhang 12 km north of Punakaiki. It turned out to be one of our favorite hikes in NZ.
The indicated duration is 2 hours one way with a trail length of 6 km. We can’t agree with this information. The hiking time depends on the water level and the difficulty of the Fox River crossings. The river was knee deep at the first crossing and the flow pretty strong most of the time. The return hike took us more than 5 hours and is 15 km long from the car park until the end of the ballroom overhang and back.
Hike with appropriate shoes and carry Crocs or Teva for the crossings if you don't want to continue in wet shoes. The trail is marked with orange triangles and is maintained. After ½ hour of hiking, you get to the first crossing. The water was pretty cold and the river wide. Continue hiking for roughly another 45 minutes. We put on our Crocs again and crossed the river 7 times. First, we walked to the right through the river until it branches where we turned left. To the right is the entrance of the Dilemma Creek Gorge. After several crossings once again, we had to turn right. Soon we could see an orange triangle to the Ballroom Overhang. From here it took us another 45 minutes to get to the Ballroom Overhang. The Overhang is an impressive colossal limestone rock formation.
Unfortunately, it started raining, and we just headed back without a break. Again, we forded through the river in this tremendous gorge until we spotted the next sign. The several crossings are strenuous due to the cold river temperature and the strong flow. The trail itself is easy to hike, but parts were muddy and slippery.
- Camping under the Ballroom Overhang is permitted. Insect repellent for sandflies is essential.
- This trail can be combined with the Fox River Caves. Add another hour for hiking plus exploring the cave. Bring a strong torch for it. The caves are an attraction since 1908. The upper cave can be visited only. When we came here in April 2018, also this trail was closed and fenced.
- Parking at the DOC car park Tiromoana at the Fox River just 15 minutes drive to the north from Punakaiki.
- Update for the new 55 km long Great Walk; Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track; it'll be opened on first of December 2019. Book your hut accommodation far in advance. Paparoa Track Brochure