Karekare & Whatipu

In which Miles sets out from Karekare to walk the Zion Hill – Pararaha Valley – Tunnel Point – Beach Circuit and gets mired down in the Whatipu swamp.

You can view the full gallery of 21 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

I used the Walks at Piha page again to choose a walk.  It indicates that Karekare Point must be rounded at low tide, so I decided to do the walk in the opposite direction.

View from Karekare Beach carpark
View from Karekare Beach carpark

From Karekare Beach I followed the Pohutukawa Glade Walk.  There is some nice bushy scenery on the way to Karekare Beach.

Pohutukawa Glade Walk
Pohutukawa Glade Walk
Pohutukawa Glade Walk
Pohutukawa Glade Walk
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach

It was a sunny day, and the beach looked great.

Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach

The Walks at Piha page indicates that there is no official track on part of the walk, but it doesn’t tell you what to expect.  I was later told by someone working for the Auckland Council that this track is a problem in winter due to the small lakes that form on the beach in the wetter months.

Just south of where I entered Karekare Beach there is a sign indicating that you are entering the Whatipu Scenic Reserve.  This brought back memories of the difficulties I had navigating Whatipu Beach.  But I forged on hoping for the best.

Coastal swamp
Coastal swamp

Knowing about the need to round Karekare Point at low tide, I decided that following the beach would be best, as opposed to staying close to the hills.  I decided to cut through bush covered dunes to get to the coast, and this quickly became dense and swampy.  It actually looks quite beautiful in the picture above.  But it slowed me down a lot.  From a higher dune I could see that even at the coast, my way was blocked unless I chose to wade.

Coastal swamp
Coastal swamp and lakes
Karekare-Whatipu-DSC_1974
Coastal swamp and lakes

I stopped and had lunch.  It had taken me a couple of hours to get this far, although I didn’t actually feel like I had gotten very far.  With just a little over 2 hours of daylight left, I decided I’d have to head back and try again another day.  I could see the lighthouse at Whatipu Beach in the distance.  But I was not even sure whether I had passed Karekare Point.  And I could see no clear way forward.

Coastal swamp with Whatipu landmarks in the distance
Coastal swamp with Whatipu landmarks in the distance

I got myself out of the bushy parts, and enjoyed the beach on my long walk back.

Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach

I’ll try this walk again in the summer.

Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach
Karekare Beach

You can view the full gallery of 21 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

North Piha

In which Miles walks the Marawhara – White – Rose – Laird Thomson Track Circuit in North Piha.

You can view the full gallery of 29 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

A lovely barista at my favorite Auckland cafe reminded me that there are many more walks available at some of the places I have visited around the Auckland area.  She recommended a walk north of Piha Beach  A Google search turned up this page, and I chose the walk she suggested – and mentally filed away the others for future reference.

Across from the carpark a couple of carved Tuatara flank a private driveway.

Tuatara
Tuatara

Lion Rock, Piha’s most famous landmark, is visible from the start of the track.

Lion Rock
Lion Rock
Start of the Marawhara Walk
Start of the Marawhara Walk

The track climbs through some nice bush and at some point becomes White Track.

Marawhara or White Track
Marawhara or White Track
Marawhara or White Track
Marawhara or White Track

Soon enough I was treated to another view of Lion Rock from a higher vantage point.

Lion Rock and Piha Beach
Lion Rock and Piha Beach

White Track ends at Anawhata Road.  A short walk along the road leads to Laird Thomson Track, which descends toward the coast.

Piha Beach and Lion Rock from Laird Thomson Track
Piha Beach and Lion Rock from Laird Thomson Track

Te Waha point is visible from Laird Thomson Track.

Te Whaha Point
Te Whaha Point
Laird Thomson Track
Laird Thomson Track

Te Whaha Point is a nice vantage point with great views in all directions.

Te Waha Point
Te Waha Point

I decided not to walk down to Whites Beach, but I got some nice views of it along the way to, and on, Te Whaha Point.

Whites Beach
Whites Beach
Weather over the Tasman Sea
Weather over the Tasman Sea
Sea caves near Whites Beach
Sea caves near Whites Beach

From Te Whaha Point it is a short walk down to Piha Beach.

Piha Beach
Piha Beach

I followed the beach back to the carpark.

Te Waha Point from Piha Beach
Te Waha Point from Piha Beach
Sea caves on Piha Beach
Sea caves on Piha Beach

The evening light improved an already impressive landscape.

North-Piha-DSC_1844

South end of Piha Beach
South end of Piha Beach
North end of Piha Beach
North end of Piha Beach

The following weekend I returned for another walk in the area.  Weather and other factors did not cooperate, but I was able to get the picture below, overlooking Lion Rock and Piha Beach, with Te Waha Point in the distance.

Lion Rock, Piha Beach, Te Waha Point in the distance
Lion Rock, Piha Beach, Te Waha Point in the distance

You can view the full gallery of 29 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Te Rau Puriri

in which Miles visits Te Rau Puriri, Auckland’s westernmost regional park.

You can view the full gallery of 16 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Like many of Auckland’s Regional Parks, Te Rau Puriri was previously a farm, donated to the Auckland Council by the family who owned the land.  Hilly pasture land overlooks Kaipara Harbor.

Te Rau Puriri
Te Rau Puriri

There is only one walking track available, a loop of about 2 hours.  A horse-only track was closed when I visited.

Te Rau Puriri
Te Rau Puriri

Te Rau Puriri is a working farm.  During my walk I spoke with a ranger who was herding cattle.

Te Rau Puriri
Te Rau Puriri

I learned that Te Rau Puriri has been a park for about ten years.  Not much has been done to develop it in that time, but at least one picture shows large piles of materials for fencing or other building.  A neighboring farm has been added to the park, but that land is not yet open to the public.

Te Rau Puriri
Te Rau Puriri

The track leads downhill until it reaches a side track to a small beach that was full of birds.

Te Rau Puriri
Te Rau Puriri

It could really use one more bridge for easier access to the beach.

Te Rau Puriri
Te Rau Puriri
Te Rau Puriri
Te Rau Puriri

The way back leads through different pastures, containing a different kind of cow.  They stared me down, as cows do, but they didn’t follow me.

Te Rau Puriri
Te Rau Puriri

This park has more to offer when it is further developed in the future.  It was well worth a visit however.

Te Rau Puriri
Te Rau Puriri

I tried to have a look at the nearby Waionui Inlet, but there is a lot of land in military use in the area, and unless I missed something, the only road access was closed.

You can view the full gallery of 16 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

The South Island

In which Miles reflects on a summer on the South Island.

New Zealand’s South Island offers stunning scenery of all kinds, from mountains, lakes and rivers to rugged coastlines and ocean views and endless beaches.  But I agree with a fellow traveler from Taiwan who said “The best is meet the wild animals!”

Wildlife

New Zealand’s South Island has a better variety of wildlife than most places I’ve been, and much of it is very accessible.

My favorite place was Ohau Waterfall Pool when the baby seals were present.  I couldn’t have been happier that I returned to the area a couple of times and got to see them in mid-April, or that I shot enough video that I feel I was able to capture the experience.

The Otago Peninsula is an outstanding area for wildlife.  The critters on Pilots Beach, just below the Royal Albatross Centre, are so unconcerned about the presence of humans it almost felt like cheating.  There I got my best look at the smallest and cutest of penguins, and a lot of sea lions and seals as well.

Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin
Seal or sea lion?
Seals and sea lions
New Zealand fur seal
New Zealand fur seal

Of course being near the Royal Albatross Centre meant a great opportunity to watch northern royal albatross soaring on the winds.

Northern royal albatross
Northern royal albatross

Orokonui Ecosanctuary, near Dunedin, let me enjoy some animals that would be much more difficult to meet in the wild.

Takahe are critically endangered
Takahe are critically endangered
Otago Skink
Otago Skink

The Catlins Coast is a wild place with lots of wildlife.  Cannibal Bay allowed me to get up close and personal with a group of New Zealand sea lions.

New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay
New Zealand Sea Lions at Cannibal Bay

Curio Bay, on The Catlins Coast, gave me my closest look at a yellow-eyed penguin.

Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay
Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay

I was not particularly anxious to pet them, like the little girl whose interest drew my attention to the New Zealand longfin eels she and her mother were feeding in Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park, but I found them fascinating to watch.

Lake Rotoiti eels
Lake Rotoiti eels

Weka are far from rare, and far from shy, but the only place I saw them was in Abel Tasman National Park.

Weka on Abel Tasman Coast Track
Weka on Abel Tasman Coast Track

Many visitors meet several varieties of dolphins and whales, orcas, sharks, tuatara, kea, and kiwi, and undoubtedly many more cool critters that escape me at the moment, but I wasn’t so lucky this time.  I’ll just have to try harder next time!

Landscape

The South Island landscape is incredibly varied.  I’m especially drawn to the unusual, and the South Island offers terrain from unusual to surreal and otherworldly.

Te Waikoropupu Springs are stunningly beautiful and surreal.  Somehow the fact that they are so easily accessible makes them seem even more surreal.

Te Waikoropupū Dancing Sands Spring
Te Waikoropupū Dancing Sands Spring
Te Waikoropupū Main Spring
Te Waikoropupū Main Springs

Besides Pupu Springs, the area around Takaka is full of bizarre landscapes, mostly involving rocks.  Labyrinth Rocks is a great example.

Labyrinth Rocks
Labyrinth Rocks
Labyrinth Rocks
Labyrinth Rocks

The Grove has some similar characteristics.

The Grove Scenic Reserve
The Grove Scenic Reserve
Passage to the lookout at The Grove Scenic Reserve
Passage to the lookout at The Grove Scenic Reserve

Rawhiti Cave introduced me to the amazing phytokarst!

Phytokarst at Rawhiti Cave
Phytokarst at Rawhiti Cave

The cave features amazing examples of phytokarst, a phenomenon in which mosses and algae and calcium work together to “grow” stalactites and stalagmites.  These plants grow on the rock formations, and are constantly saturated with calcium carbonate, becoming part of the stalactites.  The plants grow faster on the sunlit side, causing the stalactites, and stalagmites, to grow toward the light.

Rawhiti Cave
Rawhiti Cave

The landscape at Wharariki Beach is epic and amazing, and in addition to incredible rock formations offers beautiful beach, sand dunes and rock pools full of life – and so many seals I had to be careful not to step on one!

Archway Islands
Archway Islands
Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach

An ancient rusting train wreck adds a unique character to the Pacific coastline near Haumuri Bluffs, south of Kaikoura.

Haumuri Bluffs Walk
Haumuri Bluffs Walk

Still more epic rocks contribute to Castle Hill‘s amazing landscape.

Castle Hill
Castle Hill
Castle Hill
Castle Hill

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes is particularly surreal.

Pancake Rocks
Pancake Rocks
Pancake Rocks
Pancake Rocks

Sawcut Gorge requires wading  as well as walking in order to enjoy its unique environment.

Sawcut Gorge
Sawcut Gorge
Sawcut Gorge
Sawcut Gorge

Of course Moeraki Boulders must be on any list of unusual places.

Moeraki Boulders
Moeraki Boulders
Moeraki Boulders
Moeraki Boulders

Tunnel Beach, near Dunedin, is a place as unique as any.

Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach

There are few if any petrified forests in the world like Curio Bay.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay

And then there is the merely gorgeous!

Mountains

I walked to the summit of two mountains.  The first was Mount Robert, in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Lake Rotoiti from Pinchgut Track
Lake Rotoiti from Pinchgut Track
Near the top of Mount Robert
Near the top of Mount Robert

Mount Fyffe offers great views over the beautiful Kaikoura area.

Mount Fyffe
Mount Fyffe
Mount Fyffe
Mount Fyffe

Amazing Cliffs and Coastline

Rocks, cliffs and trees are the stars of my favorite bits of New Zealand coast.

The coast around Tarakohe, on the east end of Limestone Bay, features a lot of the kind of rock formations you can see below.

Tarakohe
Tarakohe
Tarakohe
Tarakohe

The cliffs at Cape Farewell are spectacular, and the whole area features a wide variety of beautiful terrain.

Cape Farewell
Cape Farewell
Coastal cliffs on the way to Pillar Point
Coastal cliffs on the way to Pillar Point

The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway features a lot of unique rock formations and cliffs.

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

I was impressed with Cannibal Bay before I met the sea lions.

Coast at Cannibal Bay
Coast at Cannibal Bay
Coast at Cannibal Bay
Coast at Cannibal Bay

And Curio Bay would be a special place even without the petrified forest and yellow-eyed penguins.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay

Abel Tasman National Park is famous for its 5 days of beautiful coast.

Torrent Bay
Torrent Bay

And then there are the beaches!

Beaches

Abel Tasman National Park is best known for offering visitors beach after beach after beach of white sand and clear blue waters.  If one is too crowded for your liking – if there is anyone else there at all – you can just walk on, and soon enough you’ll find a stunning playa all your own.

Bark Bay
Bark Bay, Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman Coast Track
Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman Coast Track

I met no porpoises at Porpoise Bay, but I couldn’t be too disappointed.

Porpoise Bay from Florence Hill Lookout
Porpoise Bay from Florence Hill Lookout

Kaikoura‘s mountains are a spectacular backdrop for it’s beautiful beaches.

The beach in central Kaikoura
The beach in central Kaikoura

The number and variety of beaches around Kaikoura compels me to include at least one more.

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

Collingwood, like Kaikoura, backs up its beaches with a beautiful range of mountains.

Beach on Golden Bay
Beach on Golden Bay

Farewell Spit is 26 kilometers long with unbroken white sand beaches on either side.  That’s more than 32 miles of beach!

Whale bone on Inner Beach
Whale bone on Inner Beach, Farewell Spit
Farewell Spit
Farewell Spit Ocean Beach
Farewell Spit Ocean Beach
Farewell Spit Ocean Beach

Wharariki Beach!

Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach

Sandfly Bay!

Sandfly Bay
Sandfly Bay

Rabbit Island!

Moturoa / Rabbit Island, Tasman Bay
Moturoa / Rabbit Island, Tasman Bay

Have you booked your flight yet?

But wait, there’s more!

Cities

New Zealand is a young country, and you don’t come here for the cities.  But there are a few that offer some very pleasant surprises.

Oamaru is enhanced visually by the Steampunk Headquarters and the steampunk aesthetic which compliments a nice Victorian District.

Steampunk HQ
Steampunk HQ
Steampunk playground
Steampunk playground

Oamaru is home to a colony of little blue penguins, and lots of friendly people.  It is one of the particularly relaxed cities in New Zealand.  In my ~2 weeks there I came to feel a bit like a resident.

Friendly Harbor from Oamaru Skyline Walk
Friendly Harbor from Oamaru Skyline Walk

Dunedin is a bit busy in the center, but there you’ll find some of the country’s more interesting buildings, including the most photographed building in the country, The Dunedin Railway Station.

Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station

The outskirts are much more rural and lovely, and of course offer great access to the wonderful Otago Peninsula.

Collingwood is relaxed and friendly with a slow pace and and incredible setting.

2016-01-26, 07:18:50
Collingwood, 2016-01-26, 07:18:50

These are some highlights, but I saw many more beautiful and amazing things on the South Island.  This post lists some of the things I didn’t see, and that list contains some major attractions that most tourists would never miss (I had seem many of them before, and will again).

Four mouths on New Zealand’s South Island made for, without a doubt, the best summer I’ve ever spent.

 

Cook Strait

In which Miles crosses Cook Strait and returns to the North Island.

You can view the full gallery of 21 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

A leisurely breakfast left me with some time before my afternoon voyage, so I asked a waitress at the cafe for a tip on another good lookout over Picton.  She had just the thing.  Kaipupu Point is very close the the center of Picton, and the short drive offers views over both Picton Harbor and Shakespeare Bay.  I didn’t expect to see so many trees being loaded onto ships bound for points unknown, but that was interesting too.

Shakespeare Bay
Shakespeare Bay

In Picton Harbor my Bluebridge ferry and an Interislander made ready for their voyages to Wellington.

Picton Harbor
Picton Harbor

I was looking forward to the voyage, and this would be the first time I crossed south to north, but I was a bit sad to be leaving the South Island.

Boarding the Bluebridge ferry
Boarding the Bluebridge ferry

But as they say, all good things must come to an end.

Leaving Picton and the South Island
Leaving Picton and the South Island

Queen Charlotte Sound is quite long, so there was a lot of nice South Island scenery left to take in.  And it was a beautiful, sunny day, although the air was cold and it was windy on the sound and on the strait.

Queen Charlotte Sound
Queen Charlotte Sound
Queen Charlotte Sound
Queen Charlotte Sound
Arapawa Island
Arapawa Island
Arapawa Island
Arapawa Island
Arapawa Island
Arapawa Island
Northern South Island
Northern South Island

By the time the ferry leaves Queen Charlotte Sound the North Island is visible.  The lighthouses at Pencarrow Head are an especially photogenic landmark.

Pencarrow Head, North Island
Pencarrow Head, North Island
Pencarrow Head
Pencarrow Head

And soon enough, Wellington.

Wellington
Wellington
Wellington
Wellington

I found a fast-food Mexican restaurant for dinner, and that was enough of Wellington traffic for me.  I found a campground just north of the city for the night, and continued north in the morning.

The mountains of Tongariro National Park were shrouded by clouds.

Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park

Taupo was even more cloudy.

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo

I camped near Rotorua.  The next day was sunny, but even the charms of Rotorua didn’t distract me for long.  I was ready to go home.

Rotorua
Rotorua

You can view the full gallery of 21 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

The Snout

In which The Snout Track serves quite well as an introduction to the nicer things that Picton has to offer.

You can view the full gallery of 12 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

I went to the office of the Bluebridge ferry late in the morning, too late to buy a ticket for that day.  I bought one for the following day.  I had a leisurely lunch and asked the proprietor of the restaurant how to get to The Snout Track.  I hadn’t had much luck finding helpful info online, or in Google Maps, but his directions got me close.  I had to ask another local for help to finally get to the Snout Track car park.

Snout Track car park
Snout Track car park

You can also start the walk from Picton, but I got a late start again, and decided to save about an hour total by starting at the top of the ridge.

The Snout Track offers great views of Queen Charlotte Sound and the Picton area.

Picton from The Snout Track
Picton from The Snout Track

Queen Charlotte View Lookout offers a picnic table and toilets and a great view, making it an ideal place to take a break before continuing on to The Snout itself.

Queen Charlotte View Lookout
Queen Charlotte View Lookout

There is another picnic table at the end of the track, where the peninsula narrows at the end of the headland.  On my first ferry crossing to the South Island ten years ago I was intrigued by the picnic table at the end of this point when I saw it from the ferry.  It was probably my main motivation for walking The Snout Track.

View from The Snout
View from The Snout

The Snout was named by Māori.  I haven’t been able to discover via Google exactly why.

View from The Snout
View from The Snout

I enjoyed the sunset from The Snout.  Most of my walk back then was in darkness.  As on Queen Charlotte Track,  I saw a large number of possums.

Sunset from The Snout
Sunset from The Snout

I would cross to the North Island the next day.  But I wasn’t quite done with the South Island.

You can view the full gallery of 12 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.