The 5km one-way headlands walk from Wharariki Beach carpark to the Pillar Point Lighthouse is possibly the most dramatic headlands walk on the South Island! This is an exceptional route—nowhere else on the South’s West coast is there a walk as cliffy and interesting as this.
The views of the cave-studded, striped and eroded cliffs are magnificent the entire way, and then the lighthouse views over the entire Farewell Spit and Golden Bay add 100% more. Halfway along the route is the actual Cape Farewell (which you can also drive to or use to shorten the loop.) The Cape is must-see for any Wharariki visitor. The Cape view-platform overlooks a dramatic cliff, to say the least! Down below seals lounge on the rocks and waves bash up a monster spray. Just west (south) of the actual cape you’ll get a bird’s eye view down into an inlet hosting a Fur Seal breeding colony where the pups often can be seen frolicking in the surf. From the cape the route continues along the bluffs/hills to the lighthouse.
The finale of the route is the Pillar Point Lighthouse (also accessible by a 20-minute walk from the roadside carpark). The lighthouse itself is bland, but the view is divine (especially 3 minutes farther)! The grey sands of Farewell Spit arc towards a horizon peppered with the mountains of the North Island. Golden Bay shines to the south with Abel Tasman’s Separation Point being land’s end of the Golden Bay. For fun guess which way is true north? To figure it out head back to the lighthouse, where the mounted solar panel faces just a few degrees west of true north. On a clear day the perfect cone of North Island’s Mt Taranaki floats on the horizon about 45° east of north, just 100 miles away!
WALK: There is no actual “track” per se, but rather this is a route marked with colored poles that stays near the headlands cliffs most of the way from beach to lighthouse. Given that it’s often super-windy, walking the route from beach to lighthouse is the more-pleasant direction. It’s possible to make a loop out of the excursion by getting to the lighthouse then walking about 1.2km down its road, then going right on Wharariki Rd for 2.4km back to the carpark. Or, you can backtrack from the lighthouse to the Cape Farewell view-platform and then take the road back to the carpark 2km from there.
For a shorter loop you could drive to the Cape Farewell viewpoint and do a 5-ish km loop from there.