Tuesday, August 31, 2010


 Does the Tutukaka Coast have a soul?  Is there some sort of essence that distinguishes this portion of Northland from everywhere else?  From the poignant Bougainville monument high on the ridge between Whananaki and the Tutukaka Coast, Jan and I have spent years documenting the coast line, visiting publicly accessible locations all the way south to Ngunguru Bay and then documenting its changes at dawn and dusk in mid-winter.  At this point we sensed a new challenge.  To complete the big picture, both wide and deep, we needed to visit intervening locations on privately owned coastal land and in some cases, to push the edge and reach points of view right off the beaten track.  Only then, we surmised, would it be possible to gain an insight into the very heart of this highly indented and diverse headland coast.

Every landowner we approached gave us full support -and many a cup of coffee!  We gazed at surfers out in Sandy Bay from cliffs to the south; we peered down into the narrow, rocky, almost unknown cove at Kaone Point, just before Woolley’s Bay.  From a high point, now a house site, we surveyed the whole of Matapouri Bay and we looked out across the forested summits of its northern headlands towards the fabled Mermaid Pool.  Our computer assembled a composite view of this entire turquoise tide gem before we slipped across to Horseshoe Bay and its steep ridges and plunging cliffs, skirting the Edge of the World out to the Giant Staircase, meeting a curious wood pigeon along the way.  Moving south we explored a series of dearly loved and well cared for coastal paradises, spectacular seascapes galore; pest-controlled patches of coastal forest, a landscaped lakelet swooped over by swallows and even an immaculate infinity pool colonized by several generations of nesting red-bill gulls.  The owner was perfectly content to accept the sea birds claiming her home as their territory as they had, for centuries, bred along this coast.  A pohutukawa tree, fallen over a cliff path but still alive, had been neatly traversed with wooden steps, rather than sawn in two.

At Bowden Cove we found a rare sight: an intact section of coastal habitat from covenanted forest valley to wetland lagoon, shore-edge creek and shingle beach.  The wise family had agreed that no house would command this charming view.

Further south we were intrigued by Te Whata, a bizarre promontory shaped like the head of a hammerhead shark with twin beaches either side of its neck.


Then we explored the North Gable where we found this coast’s only black-backed gull colony, saw a nesting blue reef heron and a rare patch of flowering sundew plants.  The strangely formed Middle Gable fascinated us, its north side like part of a volcano crater.  The owner is making a huge effort to revegetate the area with native trees and shrubs.  From Rocky Bay we watched a dramatic storm cloud sweeping along the coast on a blue-sky day and we discovered a tiny secret cove with a minute island at its centre, perhaps only visited by curious kayakers who find this coast such a delight to explore.


Even within Tutukaka Harbour, out towards Lighthouse Gable, we found a wilderness area very few have trod and we called it Mystery Cove.

Across the Harbour and just before Dolphin Bay, we explored a narrow, steep isthmus dissected by twin ditches or fosses excavated long ago to secure a powerful Maori stronghold.  Down paths at either end Dolphin Bay has public access to the water’s edge, and offers superb snorkeling and scuba diving but, with so much to see, it is often overlooked by visitors to this coast.  We explored its deep rock pools at the ideal, low tide time when it reminds us of a foray on a coral reef.

Further south the high cliffs offer sweeping views east to the Poor Knights Islands; north along the coast; west across Ngunguru Bay or south to Goat Island and Whakairiora Mountain.

A triumph for Jan was her 180-degree panoramic picture of the entire Ngunguru Bay in the late winter light, from cape to cape and including the golden dunes of Ngunguru Sandspit and the shining coils of the river.

Our visual journey came to a stunning conclusion following the path out to Goat or Harakeke, Island, with its pristine array of coves and caves and deep blue tide pools.

Yes, we concluded, after reviewing the entire Tutukaka Coast on our DVD discs*, image after image and accompanied by music: this coast does have a special cachet, a soul of its own, but as in fairy tales, it is not accessible without some effort and it bewitches and enchants us passionately.  Its special locations can be revisited again and again, at any hour; season by season; year after year and are never the same; with tide and wind and time their magic is constantly changing.  * “It’s a kayakers’ coast,” remarked another viewer, “ with so many coves and reefs.”  A diver's coast too.  Over the years, since shifting here in 1968, Jan and I have dived every bit of it with delight and wonder.
DVD DISC available: www.wadedoak.com
*Other DVD Discs: Explore Tutukaka Coast-Walks,etc and Tutukaka Coast at Dawn and Dusk.

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