The author walking towards Cape Brett lighthouse
The author walking towards Cape Brett lighthouse

You will have heard of New Zealand’s eleven great walks. Often touted and worthy of the Great Walks status no doubt. However, you may not of heard of the Cape Brett Track? Whilst not currently part of this elite club it does share many of their traits. Stunning coastal scenery, an overnight option, native bush, freshwater streams, beaches, crystal clear water and more.

From the bush clad ridges, you’ll view spectacular vistas right across the Bay of Islands. Nearing the Cape and walking alongside the dramatic cliff-face, you can see abundant fish and bird life below. Sometimes dolphins and seals will come close to shore. From Deep Water Cove onwards, the track gets more challenging and becomes quite exposed with steep drop-offs to the sea below. Although not that far to the lighthouse, it’ll take you about 2-3 hours, and can be quite demanding. The effort is rewarded with outstanding views of the outer Bay of Islands, north to the Cavalli Islands and south to Whangaruru and beyond to the Poor Knights Islands.

Hopefully you'll be as lucky to see a sunset like this from the lighthouse on the Cape Brett Track!
Hopefully you’ll be as lucky to see a sunset like this from the lighthouse on the Cape Brett Track!

Getting to the Cape Brett Track

The start of the Cape Brett Track is located near the small town of Rawhiti. Which is around a 35 min 30 km (18.6 mi) drive from the historic Bay of Islands town of Russell. There are several options for walking the Cape Brett track that you’ll need to consider. Are you going just for the day? Do you have your own vehicle? Would you like to overnight? Or do you want to overnight and walk there and back? Below we’ve highlighted the main options for you to consider dependent on your schedule, level of fitness and overall interest.

Options for walking the Cape Brett Track

If you are intending to just do a day walk you have a couple of options here. You can self drive to the start of the track at Oke Bay and walk to the Cape Brett lighthouse, then turn around and walk back to Deep water Cove for a water taxi return to Russell or Paihia. This is the longest option at around 20.8km (12.9mi) and at the limits of a day walk factoring in transportation and daylight hours. Alternatively you can catch a water taxi from Russell or Paihia to Deepwater cove, walk to the the Cape Brett lighthouse, returning to Deep Water Cove for a water taxi home. These options and more are highlighted below.

Oke Bay has to be one of the top beaches in New Zealand
Oke Bay has to be one of the top beaches in New Zealand

Two day overnight option – (full track both ways)

This is the least complicated and most inexpensive option but you will need two days to complete it. Driving to Rawhiti and beginning your walk from Oke Bay to the Cape Brett lighthouse and staying the night. In the morning walk back to your car. The distance is 16.3 km (10.1 mi) each way making it a total distance of 32.6 km (20.2 mi). As no water taxis are involved less consideration needs to be given to the weather other than for general safety. You’ll need to pre book the hut also.

Two day overnight shorter option

As above self drive to Rawhiti (or water taxi from Russell/Paihia) and commence the walk to the lighthouse staying the night. Get up early in the morning and walk back to deep water Cove for a water taxi pick up and drop off back at your car. Total distance is 20.8 km (12.9mi).

One day options

All of these options involve a water taxi and you can commence from either Oke Bay or Russell/Paihia dependent on your accommodation plans.

Drive one way water taxi the otherfor the very fit

You’ll need to self drive to Oke bay and commence walking to the lighthouse and then return to Deep water Cove for a pick up. At 20.8 km (12.9 mi) in one day this is a big ask and you’ll need to leave very early and be able to maintain a relatively fast pace throughout. Of course you can substitute the drive for an early morning transfer but you may run out of time for this option.

One day shorter option – the preferred option for most

This is the preferred option for most doing a single day. In the morning take a water taxi from Oke Bay or Russell/Paihia out to Deep Water Cove. Begin walking to the lighthouse, have lunch and return back to Deep Water Cove for a water taxi back to your pick up point. This takes in the best part of the track and although not overly long at approx. 9 km (5.6 mi), it’s a tough walk with steep uphills both ways.

If you would like to walk it guided we have access to guides, so please enquire.

Looking out from the first hill whilst walking the Cape Brett Track
Looking out from the first hill whilst walking the Cape Brett Track

Walking the Cape Brett Track – quick facts

Distance: One way 16.3 km (10.1 mi)
 Deep Water Cove to Deep Water Cove via Cape Brett lighthouse return approx. 9 km (5.6 mi)
 Oke Bay to lighthouse then back to Deep Water cove approx. 20.8 km (12.9 mi)
Start point: Oke Bay near Rawhiti
Grade: Department of Conservation rate this as an advanced tramping track
Further information: Department of Conservation Cape Brett Track
Visit BOI: Cape Brett Track, Everything You Need To Know.

Cape Brett track maintenance fee

All hikers must now pay a track maintenance fee for crossing private land between Rawhiti and Deep Water Cove:
• Adult: $40pp
• Child: $20pp
Track and hut fees can be paid at the Bay of Islands Isite, in Paihia.

The number of walks in Northland of this calibre are limited, so make this a must do when you visit the Bay of Islands. Images taken by Tony whilst walking the track.

If you are looking for other activity options in Northland and the Bay of Islands you can find them on our must do adventures blog.

Topographical map of the Cape Brett Pensilar and track.
Topographical map of the Cape Brett Pensilar and track.

Luxury Adventures – Tailoring luxury travel in New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific Islands since 1999.

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in June 2017, and has been updated for accuracy, and currency.

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