Walk status: Off-lead
Patea Dam is a destination, its not somewhere you're likely to stumble across but that just adds to the charm. George and I were lucky enough to have the entire place to ourselves when we visited, but it does offer up a camping spot so won't always be so quiet.
When the weather foiled our plans to visit over the Easter weekend, I put it on the list to do the following and it gave us another chance to visit Stratford's King Edward Park and try a different route. You can find details of King Edward Park here.
Setting off from Stratford it would take us around an hour and 20 minutes to get to the dam. You'll turn at Ball Road, off South Road and from here you're in for a treat. Keep an eye out for a sight of Mt Taranaki to your left - and the views only get better on this journey. If you're a keen photographer, you'll want to be prepared. Ball Road gives you views out to the coast, Mt Taranaki and then soon enough you're making your way down the hill which opens up to views of the valley below and forest vistas. The road down the hill is windy, and watch out for the wild mountain goats who follow their own road rules here.
Upon crossing the single lane bridge, you'll then head left and enter onto private farmland. Here you'll need to watch for many forms of livestock that freely graze over the road. The sheep tend to have road sense and want to avoid you, the cows know their size and a little more reluctant to move so drive slowly as you never know what you'll encounter around the corner. Even this part of the drive is worth slowing down for, the views across the farmland, cliffs and the Patea river are stunning. George was taking every opportunity to stick his head out the window, enjoy the breeze and the sights and smells of the residents.
Eventually you'll reach the end of the road and have two options - left to the Power Station or right to the Lake. Not knowing where the walk initially started from we headed right to the lake and parked up at the very end of the road. This is where the campground area is located and conveniently some public toilets. Looking at the information I had, it looked like we had gone past the walk entrance so I drove back down the road and ended up parking in a small layby at the Power Station end.
On foot, George and I headed back up the hill and to the main sign which explains more about the area and the workings of the dam. Here we find the hidden sign that indicates the walk starts here. Strangely it says the walk will take 2 hours to walk the 2km track. I may not be a fast walker, but it certainly wouldn't take me 2 hours to walk 2kms! We added a bit of extra distance parking where I did, so all up this walk took us just under an hour, allowing for stops for photo opportunities.
The walk starts by entering through the metal gate to the dam and walking across it. Here you get some great views, before heading into the bush to start the walk. The walk starts with a small amount of stairs, and then you'll get to another sign. I'd read you should start this walk anti-clockwise so we headed right along the narrow bush path. You'll need to watch your footing on this walk as the path is very narrow in places and id expect it to be very muddy in the wetter months. Having now walked it, I think the incline is less going anti-clockwise, its a gradual climb, as opposed to the other way which is bit steeper and has a lot more stairs.
As you climb the hill, you get snippets of views down to the lake. The higher you climb, the better these seem to get. There are a couple of moments which are a bit steeper, but for the most part the climb is very gradual and easily done for most fitness levels. Positioned along the walk are some wooden seats, although unfortunately none of these offer a view of anything other than the bush that surrounds them. Reaching the top of the hill, you'll then start to make your decline back down the loop. There are more stairs this way and a few more muddy patches to be aware of - even in the warmer months.
Completing the loop brings you back to the initial sign you saw and then you're back to the point where you crossed the dam. Being a bit warm on the day we visited, and George working up a sweat, we headed back to the main carpark for a short swim. There is a picnic table positioned just up from the boat ramp which was the perfect spot to watch George cool off, and enjoy some more of the peaceful view. Unfortunately George found something smelly to roll in at this point so that was our cue to end this adventure and head home!
Although the walk itself wasn't that long, the scenery on the trip here and the dam area itself is worth the visit. Bring a picnic, or even a tent and make it a real adventure.
Location: Patea Dam, Rotorangi Road, Hurleyville
Plenty of parking available
Things to know:
There are public toilets here - located just up from the main carpark in the camping area. Signage indicates where to find these.