New Zealand Walk: Secrets and joys of a secluded paradise
Mimiwhangata Coastal Farm Park is one of the places I like to come back to at any stage of the year. The varied landscape of the peninsula includes white sand and light blue marine waters, dizzy cliff stretches, chains of small islands, broad beaches, and vast headlands with sand dunes.
There are also numerous inland wild life locations such as little ponds and swamps which give home to brown teal, spotless crake and bittern.
The calls of kiwi and morepork are heard at night from native forest, rich in kanuka, kohekohe, totara and tarairere.
During the day time you may be lucky to see kaka or even eastern rosella.
Mimiwhangata is also a divers’ paradise. Within the reserve more than 70 species of fishes are present. Many of them are subtropical, for example fox fish, comb fish, spotted black groper or surgeonfish.
Rare invertebrates, like ivory corals and red line bubble shells occur as well. Deeper waters are hiding kelp forest and sponges.
The walkers can explore the Park via three different loops displaying most of the area’s diversity.
Whilst The Puriri Track leads to outlaying southern beaches, The Tohumoana Track takes you up to one of the highest point of the park and provides a panoramic vista over the coast. The Peninsula Loop Walk circles the main headland containing a mixture of Mimiwhangata scenery. The Puriri Track
Access: Signposted on the right side of Mimiwhangata Road. Time: three hours. Distance: 7.5 km
After crossing the fence and a creek, a short grassy flat area brings you into the bush where mostly manuka and tanekaha flowering. A steep clay path rises up the hillside with a little clearing allowing a bit of relaxation before another bush climb to the ridge. Here you have an impressive view which overlooks Pareparea Bay and longshore islands.
Sloping downhill the trail signposted as “Southern Beaches” enters into a large open pastureland. If you keep on descending you soon notice the stream at the foot of the vale. It will let you out to the southernmost corner of Okupe Beach. However consider crossing it and heading up in a slightly more eastern direction. This leads you to the western end of Pareparea Bay, where an extremely pleasant swimming and snorkelling spot is located. Another bonus, a charming tidal lagoon, spreads out further ahead, in the proximity of tiny Ruatahi Island.
The last 2.5 km of the journey is a classical beach walk opening onto a magnificent scene of crystal clear foamy water crowned by the Wide Berth archipelago on the horizon.
On the day of my trip I enjoyed spotless skies and the continuous company of a pair of variable oystercatchers.
Timid NZ dotterels and pied stilts were to be seen as well. The beach is walkable even in the high tide, with an exception of a strait near Okupe Island. In this case a short alternative route leads you up to the Rearea Pa on a bluff over the point. The grave of Captain Joseph Glenny from Devonport is lo- Above: A headland between Mimiwhangata Bay and Kaituna Bay. Opposite Page - Above: A view from Okupe Beach. Below: The track winds its way over undulating hills.
Once you cross this spot a short left hand side connecting rod takes you to the main car park, where the track finishes.
Tohumoana Lookout Track
Access: Signposted on the left side of Mimiwhangata Road. Time: 1,5 hours. Distance: 4 km.
An extensive view featuring Cape Brett, Piercy Island and Poor Knights Islands is the main reward for climbing Tohumoana lookout, a point on a hill in the northwest part of the Park. The path, hemmed by regenerating forest, green hills and little wetland, is steep but short.
From the top, the track heads sharply down to the coast. Waikahoa Bay, situated at the end of a small pohutukawa grove, is nowadays a DOC campsite. Its eastern corner leads up to the Rukupo Pa, from where you can overlook Mimiwhangata Beach.
A memorial plaque reminds us that Queen Elizabeth II was picnicking here in 1970 during her visit on a nearby property.
Once you pass a campsite’s carpark, spacious farmland sprawls in front of you. You can take the footpath in the middle and face inland, or alternatively, you can carry on via the beach following the gravel alongside the bay.
A fork on the horizon, in view of the Rangers house, offers a quick connection to the main carpark. I returned back to my starting point through the slope upon the coastline viewing once again the upper sections of the peninsulas’ northwest.
Peninsula Loop Walk
Access: The main carpark at the end of Mimiwhangata Road. Time: 2 hours. Distance: 4,5 km.
Apart from rugged scenery, this track also offers good insight into the Mimiwhangata history. A coastal pathway extending the main road, guides you up to a hillock with a clear lookout to Rimariki Island.
At the end of the last century the island was a short term refuge for two teenage Aucklanders, who built their house here and planted fig trees.
Kaituna bay, coming after a short descent, is sheltered and therefore ideal for another swim break. Two hundred years ago this peaceful spot was a scene of one of the largest battles between the iwi of Ngatiwai a Ngapuhi, two Maori tribes originally ruling the area. Twelve fortifications, burial places, and remains of the vegetable gardens affirm their long term presence.
From Kaituna Bay a grassy route leads you up to the vicinity of Tarapapa Pa. Whilst the eastern side offers a view over the extensive farmland with ponds and slopes, the western part focuses on the bays below. Whale Bay, just under the fortification, is a reminder of the short-lived whaling venture in the 1870s.
A wide selection of access lines and the informal character of this loop give you freedom to choose where to head once you are up here on the ridge.
In the 1960’s there was a serious intention to transform Mimiwhangata Reserve into a multimillion dollar tourist resort. It is a blessing that this did not happen. These were the thoughts in my mind when I retraced my way back to the base in Okupe Beach.
Above: Inland part of Peninsula Loop Walk.