Stunning Beach Scenery
Bring: headlamps (for caves), sandals
Gps: -40.502575 , 172.680080
Wharariki Beach is arguably the most impressive and intriguing beach on the South Island. Wharariki is definitely unlike any other beach on the South Island. Compared to Abel Tasman’s bright and inviting beaches, Wharariki is dark and mysterious. Abel’s beaches are like a pretty cheerleader, whereas Wharariki’s beckon like a moody, tattooed and tempestuous woman.
The Wharariki Beach itself is about a mile-long cove bookended by rocky headlands. In between the headlands, well,…it’s as if Mother Nature picked up a handful of beautiful beachscape features—dunes, rocks, caves, arches, sea stacks, and islands—gathered them up and tossed them across Wharariki’s cove like dice, leaving them scattered in every direction. Sort of like an orgy—good stuff just piled up! The just-offshore Archway Islands are uber-scenic with sheer rock faces and archway holes…the dunes dazzle with an array of windswept patterns…and the rocks studding and bookending the beach are laced with caves and a myriad of thrupassages— bring a headlamp, as some of the passages are so long that you’ll want extra light!!
Two things to know: this beach is notoriously windy, and thus the sand dunes. But, the constant wind means NO SANDFLIES—Yay! Wharariki might be the sole West Coast beach without a sandfly plague. Bring extra clothes because it’s way windier at the beach than the carpark. Try to visit at half-tide or lower, because at higher tides you can’t access many of the labyrinthine tunnels and archways.
Wharariki is literally the end of the road from Golden Bay, but it still sees about 50 visitors per summer day. Most visitors are lazy though and often don’t walk the entire beach all the way to the south end of the long cove to Stone Bridge Beach. Make sure you do—the south end is the most impressive!
WALK: There is a mapboard at the carpark showing the tracks. From the carpark there are a couple of options, the first being the 12-minute “Hilltop Walk” over the hills to the beach. If the wind is howling from the west, Dion (the campground owner), recommends that people walk the more-protected farm track south/west first, cross the paddock to the “Stone Bridge beach”, then walk back up the entire beach with the wind at your back (the Hilltop walk is marked at the top of the big dunes…if you got to the creek you’re a bit too far).
If you want to investigate an even more remote beach, then the signed Green Hill Beach is another 25 minute walk along the paddock track from the Stone Bridge Beach track. Chances are there’ll be nobody but you at this isolated (though lessscenic) cove (from carpark to Green hill beach is a 35-minute walk).
FYI: There is a new campground/Holiday Park at Wharariki Beach which opened in Feb 2010, and thus may not yet be in some guide-books. It costs a few dollars more, but the hot showers to wash off the windy salt and sand spray are worth it! Spending a sunset at Wharariki is divine!.
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