Saturday, June 15, 2013

Kahurangi Point

This is the story of a little family trip to a really cool spot, Kahurangi Point lighthouse.

Back last century I did a 30 day walk with Zane Snook around much of Kahurangi National Park. With limited reading material, the park map we had was pored over, and future missions memorised. Kahurangi Point lighthouse was one of those and finally last month I got there, with Penny and Mae.

Kahurangi Point is more of a change of angles than a peninsula. It signifies the abrupt end of the wild and harsh Heaphy Coast and the beginning of the eastward trending sandy beaches that culminate in Farewell Spit. To get there you keep heading west from Golden Bay to Westhaven (Whanganui) inlet, you pass through the inlets forests and over its causeways, then the limestone farmland and windshaped coast of Paturau before finally getting to the roadend at Anatori. From Anatori it is a 4-8hour walk down the coast to the Lighthouse Keepers hut.

The Wairoa river is one of the many arms of the inlet bridged.

What keeps so many people away from Kahurangi Point, apart for the remoteness of the road and the myriad of other attractions in the region, are the tales of big rivers and sinking sands along the coastline. It is true that there are three places along the 10km coastline that you really want to be at close to low tide; the Anatori Bluffs, Anaweka Estuary Mouth and Big River. This spatial reality morphs a relaxing stroll along a beach into a stressful striding march. The first secret is that the Anatori Bluffs can be taken out of the equation by following the farmroad from Anatori to Turimawiwi this is perhaps the best way in for first timers.

Penny and Mae on the road past Anaatori

The second secret is that the Anaweka mouth and Big River are only about 45 minutes apart and at low tide (and not in flood) they are quite easy wades. The tides times are more similar to Nelson than Colllingwood. We had no trouble, wandering down the coast with the accompaniment of some friendly 4wd bikers. After we crossed big river we relaxed and let Mae play for a while among the sculpted limestone rocks.

There are not many places in New Zealand where limestone meets the sea and this makes for some great reefs and scenery. The reef at Kahurangi Point is a pearler at low tide. Goood sized mussels above the low tide mark, big Octopuses patrolling the pools and a healthy range of reef fish. Next time I am taking my snorkel (and wetsuit).

The hut is quite unique, in that it was initially built for a lighthouse keepers large family (back in those days when two familys could justify the need for a school house). After the Murchison earthquake in the 1920's in which the original houses near the lighthouse was destroyed, the keepers moved to the current site and farmed much of the surrounding land which is now slowly returning to bush. The history is well recorded in the hut which features a school project of one of the daughters describing life there in around the 1940's. The best feature of the hut itself must be the bath which runs off a wetback, a first for me in the NZ backcountry.

Mae tells me she expects a bath in every hut

From the hut there are a few cool little things to do, the reef of course, and you can also explore little tracks and creeks to find the sand pass, which takes you to the beach to the south and the cool little waterfall a little way up Kahurangi stream. There was a boogie board at the hut for the purposes of sand sliding. At low tide you can come back around the coast to the hut and check out the lighthouse (there is no track, just find the route through the likely grove of Nikau.

The odd bit of pingao still survives on the shiftiest dunes
Less hard core than it looks
Kahurangi Point from the South

Because of the tides we began our walk back up the coast around 5am. Mae was well bundled up and loved being out in the moonlight. We didn't need our torches even with the moon at our backs. We were hoping to sneak through the Anatori bluffs but arriving at the start of them the spring tide was too high, and we were being chased by a southerly front, and we had a small baby (the excuses just keep collecting), so we have a new piece of coastline for next time we are down that way. Highly recommended little bit of country.


GB Katuwal said...

So cool,nice family trip and beautiful photographs.i don't read completely your this post.but i will read.and i want to know Kahurangi national park is in New Zealand.?very beautiful place.

Jamie Stewart said...

Hey GB, good to her from you. I hope all is well with you and your family.

Kahurangi is a beautiful National Park in the north of our South Island.

It has some mountains, they look big but they are only 2000 metres high, not quite as big as the ones in your backyard!

Ruahines said...

Kia Ora Jamie,
Ataahua! Good to see you posting about your lovely family and still getting out there with the wee one. Glad to read and see all is well e hoa!

NaC said...

Hey, really enjoyed your post. Nice to see something written that's longer than 2 paragraphs. Looks like Mae had a great time!

Jamie Stewart said...

Hey guys, thanks for checking in, hope all is well with you and yours. J

rob.g said...


What a great writer you are.

Neat photos, and I'm sure these early life adventures will be brilliant for Mae, plus you guys are still getting out there. Even more fun if she had a bro or sis!!!

Rob G