New Zealand Walk: Se­crets and joys of a se­cluded par­adise

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Pe­tra Daw­son

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.

cated here.

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.

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