A return to Whatipu, Pt. 1: The Beach

I first visited Whatipu in October of 2015, from which I got 72 photos and two posts.

As this lovely location is one of my favorite spots on the West coast, I decided to revisit it. At 178 photos I got over 100 more pictures than last time. I intentionally did not re-read my original posts before going because I wanted to see how the shots I got this time around compared to last year’s shots. I’ll leave it to you to determine how I got on.

What I didn’t mention in my previous posts is what an ordeal it is actually getting to Whatipu. The trip involves some very windy switchbacks, some dodgy gravel roads, and even fording a small stream with your car! If I had recalled what a pain the drive was, I would maybe have rented a car. But I didn’t, so my longsuffering Alfa made the trip with me, and thankfully held up well!

The carpark is right beside this cozy-looking retreat, which is probably a nice place to spend some time away.

The toilet hut continues to be picturesque in a weird sort of way. Very…uh…rustic.

The same picnic table is still there, but it was nearly 2pm when I arrived thanks to some earlier-morning phone calls I needed to make, so no lunch here this time.

I looked at the pond for a little bit, but fortunately having been here before I didn’t waste any time being lost and trying to find the trails!

Not that this bridge is hard to find, of course, but cut me some slack. I was young and stupid.

A quick jaunt down the black sand pathway leads to Whatipu beach. Despite still being Winter and the area’s general seclusion, I still encountered some other beachgoers!

This miniature replica of Pride Rock is one of Whatipu’s distinguishing features. Meanwhile, the gray sky to the North is a harbinger of things to come. This is why I’m getting the beach out of the way first!

The tide was in further this time than last time, so I didn’t walk even as far toward the lighthouse as I did then (I did at least have some sandals on; my boots were in the car waiting for me to change before the hike).

(I have discovered that the rocky bit the lighthouse is on is called Ninepin Rock, for some reason. At low tide it’s pretty accessible, and apparently it’s a fairly popular spot for fishing.)

Last time I came I didn’t go toward this part of the beach at all. I decided to rectify that this time around.

There’s a small pass through the rocks with some dunes on the left-hand side.

These dunes can be climbed with some little effort (the more Sherlockian among you will notice by the footprints that I took this photo after having already climbed them).

The pathway gets pretty steep, but being moderately packed sand the penalty for a fall is pretty light. Thankfully I avoided that penalty, or else I’d still be cleaning sand out of my camera and pack!

Further up from the beach, the scrub starts to take hold. This makes the ascent easier, but make sure you don’t mistake a gorse bush for a handhold!

Those of us who find heights problematic might at this point want to be cautious about looking back down. The wind was so strong I took my hat off and put it in my pocket so it wouldn’t blow away! By the time I got to the top, I also took my glasses off. That’s how strong the wind was blowing!

The view, though, makes it entirely worth the climb!

The water is such a clear blue.

This shot is looking back along the mainland with the Southern bit of the Manukau Heads on the right-hand side.

Probably not a great spot for a cliff dive, given that there seems to be some submerged rocks. If Taylor had come with me he might have tried it anyway, but he was busy so there were no fatalities on this trip.

My elevated vantage point also gives a great shot of Whatipu stretching out to the horizon with the aforementioned Ninepin Rock on center stage. What a lovely beach!

Geography note: This beach is at pretty much the Southern tip of the North Manukau Head (nobody calls it that, but that’s what it is, and if New Zealand got serious about naming things properly that is what they would call it). As you can see, it curves around and starts running North along the Western coast.

Afterward, I walked back along the path and returned to my car to prepare for the hike ahead. You’ll have to come back next time for that story!


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