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Cape Foulwind

Westport's Scenic Must-See

Difficulty: rugged, rock-hopping 1.0 km one-way
Bring: tide chart, water sandals, swim / birthday suit
Cape Foulwind
NZGps: 41° 44' 56.8716" S 171° 28' 15.4236" E
Average: 3 (2 votes)

The Cape Foulwind lighthouse may be the least appealing lighthouse in New Zealand. Pass the smokestacks, dodge the massive cement-loading trucks on their way to/from the lighthouse’s neighbor quarry…and you’re there—just a 500m walk to see the not-too-engaging sight. You can walk the bluff-top track from lighthouse to the seal colony—it’s about 3km one-way, but not too exciting. Ignoring that option, maybe drive south to see the seal colony at Tauranga Bay. Ugh. You’ll only get a distant view of some seals from too-crowded small view platforms… probably the least interesting seal colony on the island. As much as I like seal pups, I cannot deal with a crowded platform with snap-happy tourists jostling for a crappy telephoto of a lazing seal. The only reason tourists flock to this site is because it is the first one many have seen if they’ve come south via the ferry. Save your time and pixels for elsewhere.

So, all’s foul at Foulwind right…sounds like I dislike the place and maybe you should skip it and hurry south to the pancakes or north to Abel Tasman? Nope. If you happen (or plan) on a low tide at the Cape Foulwind lighthouse’s carpark, you may be fortunate enough to stumble onto the sign announcing the HOLCIM-courtesy track down to Gibsons Beach. Look south and you may be intrigued by all the odd-looking rocks, tidal shelves, and distant mudstone cliffs. If you’re so lucky (or wellplanned) to take a walk down to the beach…hey whoa, a waterfall….then, whoa, some weird rocks looking like sea-rounded boulders nestled like eggs in a carton against the ribbed mudstone layers. Then there’s more.

Here’s what to do…wear a swimsuit and sandals, and walk 10 minutes. Whoa, two archway tunnels lead thigh-deep through the headland, onto, whoa, a secret beach. Keep heading and rock-hop over to the next hidden sandy cove. WHOA, even better!! Hope you brought your birthday suit! I love waterfall showers spitting off seaside cliffs… you??

This 1.0km slice of low-tide is a total unexpected adventure. Since I’ve now told you about it a little, I may have spoiled some surprise, but I think you’ll still LOVE it! LOW-TIDE only. Get it? There’s nothing to see and nowhere to go mid-tide or higher. Expect no footprints but your own…because the beaten tourist track leads over to the lighthouse, then to the seals. This li’l hidden nugget coast is for the other folks, folks like you, folks venturing off the Tourism path.

If you enjoyed Wharariki, then you’ll like Gibsons. If you like Gibsons, you’ll LOVE the North Island’s Tongaporutu (cover photo of NZ Frenzy North).

WALK: Down road, over rocks, past waterfall, over tidal shelves, thru arch, across beach, get wet! Repeat in reverse. Make sure to inspect the grey mudstone cliff wall for prolific fossils on the way back.

Excerpt from "NZ Frenzy Guidebook" by Scott CookNZ Frenzy Guidebook

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seal colony walk is a great

janeelder's picture

seal colony walk is a great place to see great scenery and see the seals playing in the water and relaxing on rocks


Submitted by janeelder on Fri, 2014-01-24 20:50

This is a popular tourist

johnw57's picture

This is a popular tourist spot with some good ciastal rock features for landscape photographers. The seals in the adjoining colonies are along way away as stated in the site review. If you're not there in low tide I wouldn't go out of my way to go there.


Submitted by johnw57 on Sat, 2013-12-07 19:20