Lighthouses and Lazy Seals at Cape Foulwind

It’s the second day of spring here in New Zealand, but already it is starting to feel like summer. Fellow hostel-dwellers at Bazil’s Hostel, Westport, are sitting in the bright and colourful courtyard surrounded by murals and with the sun on their face.

After a morning of travel writing and generally getting sh*t sorted, we join them outside at the first chance we get with lunch on the picnic tables and then relaxing in the hammocks that line the courtyard. We’ve come to the conclusion that surfers make the best hostels. We get that same vibe here at Bazil’s as we did at the Raglan Backpackers – it’s a place that you can happily chill out rather than being “just a place to sleep”.

Starting the Cape Foulwind Walkway

BUT the 365 days doing the 365 activities in New Zealand is not going to do itself! So we are doing a half day trip out to Cape Foulwind – a rugged coastal headland complete with a nearby seal colony. Did we ever mention how much we love seals? Just take a look at that time seal pups did a dance for us.

We head about 10km outside of Westport to a car park on the lighthouse-side of the Cape Foulwind Walkway. The walkway goes over the headland and down to Tauranga Bay, taking about one hour according to our good friends at the Department of Conservation.

A lighthouse-like lighthouse

An extremely wide and gravelled path takes us up fairly quickly on top of the Cape Foulwind headland where the Cape Foulwind Lighthouse stands all proud and lighthouse-like. We get a great taste of the dramatic coast formations on the way up where rock has split off from the headland to create its own tall and mighty island. Further out to sea, we can see nuggets of rock that must have been part of New Zealand millions and millions of years ago!

The popping colours of Bazil's Hostel The popping colours of Bazil's Hostel
The start of most walks in New Zealand look a bit like this... The start of most walks in New Zealand look a bit like this...
The walkway as seen from a bird The walkway as seen from a bird
Views of that rugged coastline Views of that rugged coastline

So why “foulwind”?

There are information boards along the walkway giving the history of Cape Foulwind, named after Captain Cook, the British explorer to first set foot on New Zealand, was blown way offshore due to the high winds here. However, others say that the name comes from the fact that this western area of New Zealand is getting the winds from Australia…

Being teased by wekas

Whatever the reason for a name, we are enjoying this easy walk over the headland with winds mostly between flax bushes – a plant that the Maori traditionally use for clothing, baskets and fishing nets. The native flightless bird, the weka, runs across our path three or four times along the way. Remember how we were so excited to see a weka for the first time in Okiwi Bay? We thought it was such a rare sighting, but we see the bloody things everywhere now. They’re pretty much like pigeons on the streets. AND they steal your food!

The lazy seals of Cape Foulwind

Finally, our walk brings us to a huge information sign about seals and a large viewing area… This can only mean one thing. SEALS!

Are they playful and cuddly like the seal pups at Wharariki Beach? (Don’t worry, we didn’t actually cuddle a seal pup). Are they joyful and full of life?

We look down from the viewing area and really struggle to see the seals at first. Then we realise that is because:

a) they are camouflaged with the rocks, and

b) they are all completely still.

Nothing can wake these seals up!

We can spot maybe about 30 seals and all of them are sleeping. They barely move when a weka comes up to peck them in the back. Eventually, a few will roll over for a better sleeping position. Then some younger seals will then make a break for it, jumping along the rocks to inevitably find somewhere else to sleep.

We might sound like we’re complaining, but in all honesty it is quite hilarious how relaxed they can be when there are some pretty rough waves crashing in all around them!

Robin checking out that sassy coastline Robin checking out that sassy coastline
Seals that just don't give a sh*t Seals that just don't give a sh*t
The forces of Tauranga Bay The forces of Tauranga Bay

Putting the “wild” in wild West Coast

The rocky outcrops and islands protect the seals from the waves that give this region the name “Wild West Coast”. Waves crash over the islands creating temporary waterfalls on the other side.

We watch as swells get larger and larger until their inevitable crash over the rocks.

Avoiding the tide at Tauranga Bay

Although our van is back at the beginning of the Cape Foulwind Walkway, we can’t help but walk all the way down to Tauranga Bay. It’s another great place to view the mightiness of the sea.

While we are taking photos, more than a few times we are nearly caught out by the tide rushing down the beach one second then going back out to sea the next.

Well, there’s nothing left to do other than to walk back the same way to the car park – something we really don’t mind doing, as we always find that walking in the other direction gives a fresh perspective of the walk and scenery.

Only about 30 minutes later, we find ourselves back at the lighthouse then back down by the van.

Kicking back at Bazil’s

From here, it’s back to Westport and back to Bazil’s Hostel where we’re in for another relaxing night having a beer with the hostel owners, Ray and Steve, and a lovely German backpacker.

Tomorrow, we’ll be spending more time with these guys with a surf trip, Bazil’s style! Catch up with us then!

Laura and Robin

A new perspective of the Cape Foulwind Walkway!
A new perspective of the Cape Foulwind Walkway! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

That’s awesome! Check out these articles to keep you entertained on the Wild West Coast!

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See you for tomorrow’s blog post!

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