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February 2014 Issue
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5 best coastal walks


With an easily accessible and extensive coastline covering many thousands of kilometres, there are unequalled opportunities to explore, walk and to adventure near the sea this summer. Pat Barrett chooses his top five easy coastal walks

Slope Point, Catlins

This is as far south as you can go in the South Island – yes, it’s even further south than Bluff – so expect wild weather when visiting this ragged cliff thrust out into the Southern Ocean. This is Roaring 40s territory and it blows here more days than the locals would care to remember, just take a look at the angle on the nearby macrocarpas.

But take it in your stride and don’t get too close to that cliff edge. The lighthouse and the destination sign is your goal and it only takes about one hour. The view and experience are fantastic. It’s a great spot for some pictures of the family or your mates.

Port Robinson Walkway, Gore Bay, North Canterbury

Arguably Canterbury’s best beach, Gore Bay is about 90min north of quake city and has a nice motor camp and some easy coastal walking to the north to visit the historic Jed Cemetery, where many of the early settlers to this region are buried.

To the south, over the hill at Manuka Bay, you can take the scenic Port Robinson Walkway which heads down to the Hurunui River mouth through scattered pockets of native forest and farmland. This is a beautiful trail with excellent ocean views which take in Banks Peninsula, on a clear day, far to the south.

Wharariki Beach, Puponga Farm Park, Nelson

Just west of the South Island’s northernmost point at Cape Farewell, is the large ocean bay called Wharariki Beach.

This utterly spectacular and energising bay and oceanscape is fascinating – not only its spacious sandy space, dunes, seabirds and waders, coastal cliffs and caves, and seals, but also the stunning view out of the bay to the great monoliths of the Archway Islands. These sea stacks have been eroded by wave action to form unusual shapes and make great photographic subjects. Although the beach can be reached in just 20 minutes from the car park, a full day can be spent wandering here and completing the Green Hills Loop Track to the west or Cape Farewell to the east.

Waipatiki Beach, Hawke’s Bay

Here’s a hidden cove which I discovered recently in the Hawke’s Bay. This small beach and its privately owned motor camp make a great jump-off point to walk the coast to the north to reach the beautiful and remote Hawke’s Bay Coastal Walkway, a 15km trail that runs from near Aropaoanui to the Waikari River, cutting underneath 200-300m cliffs and through pockets of forest before exiting out along a long section of beach to reach the Waikari River.

The coastline here is rugged and often inaccessible to all but walkers and has some grand views to the south toward Napier. It’s an up and down sort of a trail, reaching a highpoint of around 150m, so the views can be quite extensive, leading you on to the next vantage.

Castlepoint, Wairarapa

Is it any wonder that this archetype of New Zealand’s coastal scenery continues to inspire photographers, walkers, beachcombers and all comers? In a word it’s majestic.

The beach, bay, headlands, and cliffs are wonders of the natural world and over them all rises the vibrant column of the lighthouse. The walk begins on the sandy flat beneath the light, where huge fishing boats are hauled ashore by tractors, ascends via the paths and stairways to the lighthouse and viewing platform and its jaw-dropping view, descends to the oceanside rock platform, where a hidden ladder accesses a lower cliff top and then regains the upward paths.

Once back on the sandy flat you can head off around Deliverance Cove to climb the cliff to Castle Point itself. The entire setting is a wild interface of ocean and coastal cliffs and will be especially memorable should you visit when a huge surf is up. Just watch where you tread in such conditions, there’s no forgiveness here.