Most thrilling beach walk of my life…

Our time in golden bay was coming to an end, we had loved everything about our time here and it was hard to think of leaving just yet. So we decided that three nights at a place called Wharariki beach past Cape Farewell would be a great way to finish of our time in this special part of the country. It is literally at the end of the road and there is a small camp ground there, a cafe that opens up over the summer and as we would discover a magical beach.

Once Wayne had dazzled me with his expert parking skills and squeezed the bus in to the most awkward spot to date, we had been impressed by the spotlessly clean campsite facilities and said hello to the resident peacocks and horses. It was time to go check out the beach. The beach is only accessible by a twenty minute walk through the surrounding farm land so timing it that we would arrive at low tide we headed off. Oliver is getting used to these little excursions and he was keen to get to the beach so it was a quick trip in. Once we made it to the top of the first sand dune and saw the beach start to unfold before us he took off running, smile so wide with excitement at what he had discovered.

DSC06863

The whole place is just immense, huge expanses of sand dunes, enormous rocks jutting out of the beach and the sea and when the tide is fully out it seems to take forever just to walk to the water’s edge. The boys took off at a run and I got distracted trying to catch all the beauty on camera, by the time I caught up they were in their first sea cave pretending to hold up the roof like some miniature super hero.

DSC06893

From there we made our way along the beach and found baby seals frolicking in the tidal pools left by the outgoing tide. They are obviously used to people stopping to watch them as the one female seal who was sitting on a nearby rock watching all the babies didn’t do much more than open one lazy eye to check what all the oh-ing and ah-ing was about as everyone on the beach gathered to watch the babies playing in the water.

DSC06942DSC06943

When Oliver had lost interest in watching seals swim we moved on down the beach to explore the rocks at the far end of the beach. It was a dull, overcast day and the gray skies only made the whole place seem more wild and untamed. Not many people had come any further on to the beach once they had seen the seals and snapped a few photo’s so we had this part of the adventure all to ourselves. I feel sorry for those who came so far only to miss some of the best bits this place had to offer. This end of the beach the rocks became a maze of huge sea caves, really just a small childs paradise and over an hour easily slipped away weaving in and out of the rocks, exploring rock pools and soaking in all the raw beauty around us.

DSC06962DSC06969DSC06985DSC06996DSC07001DSC07005DSC06977

It was after 4pm by the time we convinced our wet and tired little boy to start heading back towards the other end of the beach. We stopped by the seal pool for one last look at the gorgeous babies. As if by magic as we started to walk slowly away all the seals hopped out of there little pool and headed back towards the ocean where the rest of the adult seals were. Incredible how these tiny little creatures need no mother calling to them, no sign they had communicated in any way what so ever and they all knew it was time to head home, even the one that had wandered off around the corner alone followed the same internal call. So with that it was time for us to head home too, my baby needed slightly more encouragement than the seals after all his climbing through caves but we made it back all the same.

This beach was such a contrast to all the golden little bays we have been enjoying in this area, you can see how the harsh winds, rains and tides have left there mark on the place. Building the towering sand dunes you climb over to get to the beach itself, carving its mark in the rocks in the water and on the beach, smoothing away everyone’s footprints at the end of the day and bringing it back to the way it should be. Pure, unspoilt beauty.

This would sadly be our only visit to Wharariki beach. The next day the wonderful weather we had been experiencing came to an end and it rained so much that by the day after that the road in to the camp was completely flooded. Luckily we had planned on staying another night anyway, so we spent a day playing card games, checking on the flood waters and getting friendly with the two horses that were living in the campground. Not what we had hoped for but nice to have a couple of quiet days where we didn’t do too much before we began the journey back to Nelson. Wharariki was the perfect end to our time in Golden bay and it truly showed me you just never know what you might find at the end of the road.

 

A day on the spit

DSC06774

At the northern end of golden bay is the Farewell spit, it’s New Zealands longest sandspit at 35 km long. It’s also a nature reserve and because the wetlands is such an important breeding grounds for so many birds it’s more protected than our national parks. The only vehicles apart from Doc vehicles that are allowed access are from one tour company, you are also only allowed to walk on the first 4 km of the spit, though after driving out there on those miles and miles of sand I am quite sure I would have had more than enough after walking those 4 km. So we decided that this was something worth doing and put our tourist hats on for the day and joined the tour.

It is hard to actually grasp how long the spit is when you are driving towards it and looking out, because you actually can’t see most of it, some of it disappears in a mirage and then you see what you would likely guess is an island where there are a patch of trees growing, then past that there is a good ten kilometres that you again can’t see. Even once the driver had told us all this it wasn’t until we were actually on the beach driving along that you fully grasp how big this sandspit truly is. Our first stop on the beach is Fossil point, this is the end of the beach where visitors can walk to so being a fine day there are plenty of people wandering around, exploring the rock pools and the beach. I quickly regretted my choice of putting Oliver in socks and shoes as he tore around the beach splashing in every puddle he could find, luckily I was quick enough to stop him before he went in further than his knees and double lucky I had popped in his jandals in case he got hot in the afternoon.

DSC06758

After this stop it was time to head towards the lighthouse, with over 20 km of sand to negotiate it was an entertaining trip. A few seal sightings, plenty of birds and sand that seems to stretch on forever.

DSC06762DSC06763DSC06767

There has been a lighthouse here on the spit since 1869 and originally there were three lighthouse keepers stationed out here to man it. It is now automated but the three houses the keepers family’s lived in still remain and the trees that were planted to make their life on a giant sandspit more bearable have transformed the area in to a lovely little green oasis. You can see why they say the lighthouse keepers were devastated when the lighthouse was automated and there jobs there ended, it was no doubt a fairly idyllic life for people who were well suited to its challenges. We had lunch and an explore around the lighthouse, Oliver’s main disappointment was that the second tour bus got stuck coming through the soft sand to the lighthouse and our bus didn’t! But he was quickly consoled by the fact that our bus travelled faster on the sand so we were the first to get places. He was also rather impressed with the array of huge whale bones they have around the house where we ate lunch, there are a large number of whale strandings in Golden Bay probably due to the bay being so shallow, the tide going out very quickly and more than likely the spit itself.

DSC06768DSC06769

Once we left the lighthouse behind we drove a small bit further down the beach, as far as they can safely drive but far enough to grasp how far that sand actually extends and how much it curves around. After turning around and heading back the way we had come there was one final stop on the spit, perhaps the most fun part of the trip for the smaller people on board, time to run down some giant sand dunes! Wayne was a champ running up and down those dunes a good dozen times, I went down twice, up once and that was more than enough of a workout for me.

DSC06786DSC06785DSC06818

It took a bit to convince Oliver to leave those sand dunes behind, they were the perfect thing to unleash some of his boundless four year old energy on. I imagine those mothers of young children at the lighthouse sending them to run up and down the dunes when they got restless and tucking them in to bed at night well and truly worn out. For us there was a bit more driving and a quick stop at Cape Farewell, the northern most point of the south island.

DSC06842DSC06844

This trip exceeded any expectation I had of it. The spit is its own little world out there and it’s amazing to see the amount of bird life that is living out there, left alone their environment not being interfered with by humans. It makes you wonder if this is not the tactic we need to take more often to help some of our endangered birds, reserve some important areas that are solely for there use so they can just do what they have been doing for their entire existence before we started changing there environment for our own purposes. What ever the solution is I know that exposing our children to the beauty of the world around them can only help when it is their time to be the caretakers of it. Because if they don’t see the world and the creatures in it they will never know they need saving.