Farewell Spit & Wharariki Beach – Day 91
Getting off the beaten track in Golden Bay
Today we are joining Farewell Spit Eco Tours – the only way to explore Farewell Spit – and then we check out the stunning Wharariki Beach and all its wildlife.
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So we’re waking up extra early this morning. Oh wait, we always wake up early. Today we are going to explore New Zealand’s longest sand spit and one of the most protected places in the country.
This is probably our earliest morning to date. We are awake way before 5am and we join the team from Farewell Spit Eco Tours on a journey toward Farewell Spit which is at the top of the South Island. We are going on the tour so early because we have to play by the tide’s rules. We have to make our way toward the end of the spit where there is a stunning lighthouse before the tide starts coming back because then after we have to make our way back so we join Paddy very early for a stunning sunrise drive on the longest spit of New Zealand. Which is absolutely awesome. And soon enough we arrive to the long-awaited lighthouse.
This is probably one of the loneliest lighthouses in New Zealand. It was built in the 1870s and it has been kept in prime condition. it looks almost brand new. So as we’re walking toward the lighthouse, Paddy is telling us of the history of this place and how the lighthouse keepers that used to live here had a very isolated life. paddy also tells us that he himself used to deliver mail to the previous lighthouse owners.
So now we’re going to be making our way back down Farewell Spit, sort of a race against the tide.
But Paddy has planned a few stops for us where we’re going to be able to check out some unique sights and we are spotting on the way some massive seals. they are huge. Next stop is some particularly interesting sand dunes. So we’re walking up on top of the sand dunes and what makes these ones so special is that actually underneath where we are standing right now is a shipwreck covered in sand.
Paddy explains us that because of the wind shifting the sand dune little by little actually sand grain by sand grain some years some years you can see the shipwreck and some years you can’t. It usually takes about five years for a sand dune to shift enough so we can see or not see the shipwreck. it’s a stunning fact to see those massive sand dunes actually moving within only five years.
We also stop at the border of the protected area. So we came as far as we can go on the Farewell Spit. This marker right here symbolises the line where hikers cannot walk anymore. the rest is a protected reserve which is actually more protected than most national parks in New Zealand. And the only way to get further on that point is to get inside that bus over there with Paddy and make your way all the way up to the lighthouse.
And back in the bus Paddy is taking us to what’s going to be our last stop because the tide is really coming really quickly we are stopping at Fossil Point. It’s going to be no surprise to you guys that Fossil Point is world famous because well there is a lot of fossils. And first up Paddy is taking us to a cave where we will be able to find a coal seam. I know nothing about coal mining I know nothing about coal itself seeing what coal is actually and how you find them in the rocks is quite fascinating.
We start walking back out of the cave because there’s more to see here there’s actually whole rocks with fossils all over them. Paddy points out a few shells that have been fossilised here, as well as worms and all sort of ancient sea creatures. There’s really heaps to see right here and it’s up to us to kind of look around hunt around the rocks and find fossil that we want to photograph or just look at and we can ask paddy about almost each of them we can ask hey Paddy what is that and he will know each of them it’s crazy.
On the way back we can really reflect on how ecologically diverse Farewell Spit is and it’s such an isolated place as well only Farewell Spit Eco Tours can actually go down there.
Because of the weird tide schedule today we finish our tour around midday which gives us a lot of time to go explore the area. the drive to here was pretty long so we want to make the most of it. Next stop on our list is Wharariki Beach which is one of the top 10 most beautiful beach in the world.
To make our way to Wharariki Beach we need to cross a farm track which is pretty awesome to do during spring where we can see all the little lambs. This also leads to forest and then over sand dunes to actually access the beach. It only takes us about 20 minutes to get to the beach but once we hit the beach the wind hits us. Of course we can feel the wind but we can even see the wind here at Wharariki Beach this place is famous for how windy it is.
The first thing we want to check out is a small inlet on the side of Wharariki Beach. It’s crazy to see the wave carving their way through the rocks and creating a new beach. in a few million years this is going to be a flat beautiful sandy beach. It’s absolutely amazing to watch. then we are off to the main Wharariki Beach. And we spot a few oyster catchers which are some really unusual birds. they are always behaving in pairs and believe it or not but when one of the two birds die they actually have griefs.
On the western side of Wharariki beach we get those famous views of the Archway Islands which are seen in so many photographs of New Zealand. You can sometimes even walk out to the Archway Islands when it’s low tide but as you saw from this morning low tide has already been and gone. So instead we’re going to make our way back along the track. On the way in we did notice a little stream on the side of the track and on the way back now I am hearing a few splish and splashes in the water so I’m keen to go check that out and to my surprise there is actually heaps of seals right here in this fresh water stream.
Seals often use freshwater stream or ponds as nursery in spring when they have seal pups they will actually give birth in those areas and let them play here for quite a while before they learn how to swim and how to behave socially before they hit the big sea. It’s amazing to have spotted one of those and we sit back on the side and just look at them playing. Because of current laws we do not have the right to approach them but if seals decide to come check us out well that’s not really our fault and that’s exactly what happens. Because we stay here quietly just watching them they get curiouser and curiouser by the minute and come really close to us checking us out as much as we are checking them out.
And these seals are ridiculously cute I mean just look at the size of their googly eyes they are so curious of us and we can’t help but just stare at them all day play with each other. They are staring at us quite a bit as well. Every time that we’re trying to leave the seals are doing more tricks and their cuddling each other and just doing some really cool things that makes us want to stay even longer. We find it impossible to leave these guys. i mean, how could you say no to those little faces. We are used to see seals lazying on the rocks just sunbathing after fishing but this is something else.
After a bit of a heartbreak I finally pull Laura away from the seal pup and we clean our shoes on a parking lot and this seems to attract a lot of birds. We thought we were done for today be the wildlife keeps on delivering. We’re also visited by a peacock who wants to jump into the campervan with us and we see a little I don’t know what this is but it’s quite pretty and then we go back to the Bare Foot Backpackers in Takaka.
Two seal pups start hugging each other and rolling around and it makes it so hard to leave so cute. So, we stay there for a while like Ok we’ll stay and watch you…