Our Most Beautiful Coastal Hike

Trip Start Apr 17, 2009
Trip End May 09, 2010

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Where I stayed
Mangawhai Lodge

Flag of New Zealand  , Auckland,
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

From Russell and the Bay of Islands we headed down the Tutukaka area of the coast and on to a spot called Mangawhai Heads. Our sole purpose for visiting this area was to hike the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway which we had read about in our NZ Frenzy book. We stayed in a decent B&B called Mangawhai Lodge. It was pleasant enough, but it could not compare to the place we had stayed in Russell.

The letter combination of “wh” is very common in place names across New Zealand, and most of these place names are derived from words in the old Maori language. It was here, in Mangawhai, that we learned that the letters “wh” when spelled together are pronounced as an “f”. So, Mangawhai is pronounced like Mangafai. We learned that this pronunciation of “wh” as an “f” has only been used by the English speaking public for the last 10 or so years. It is the correct way of making the sound in in the old Maori language and has been incorporated as a bit of political correctness out of respect for the minority Maori people and their language.

We had just two nights in Mangawhai because our goal was simply to do the hike we had read about. Fortunately, the one day we had for our hike was BEAUTIFUL. The trail is quite new and was built by the New Zealand DOC just a couple of years ago. Once again, we were basically the only people on the trail. The hike was suppose to be a moderate three hour loop. The first part is a high trail along the very upper cliffs overlooking the ocean and the second part is just open walking as a return loop down along the beaches and coves underneath the cliff track.

The hike started off from a beach with a path climbing high up into the hills and along the 100 to 200 foot high cliffs overlooking the beach. The scenery was once again like a mix of Tuscany on the interior (inland) areas and Maine along the coastal beach areas. It was just beautiful.

The trail went through forests of native palm trees and Pohutukawa trees and there were jaw dropping views around every turn. You could easily see the Hen and Chicks islands as well as Little Barrier island out in the ocean. As we looked down on the beautiful coves and beaches below we never saw another person. I can’t reiterate enough how strange it is to have so many gorgeous beaches without a single person on them.

Finally the cliff top trail descends down to a rocky cove where you are suppose to begin the return loop back by walking along the beach and coves beneath the cliffs. Unfortunately, we did not realize the importance of timing the return track along the beach with the low tide. If you try to do the return loop portion along the beach and coves at high tide then you are going to have areas that are completely covered by the sea with no way to cross them, and that is what eventually happened to us. So, we had some very harrowing experiences climbing over cliffs, sliding down hillsides, and wading through crashing surf in areas where the sea had covered our return path. We actually had fun along the way and stopped to lounge in the numerous old Pohutukawa trees that lined the beaches and coves.

Another interesting thing we saw on the way back were the parachuters who were jumping off the highest cliffs with parachutes and then floating for as much as an hour using the ocean winds along the cliffs to keep themselves propelled in the air. John was enthralled with this sport and would love to try it.

Because of the high tide, the whole round trip hike ended up taking five hours because we had to take our time and make quite a few unusual maneuvers to get around the sea flooded areas where the trail was suppose to cross. Fortunately, we made it back safe and sound. We definitely rated this as the most beautiful hike we have done so far in New Zealand.

From Mangawhai we will head to the Coromandel Peninsula. Stay tuned…..
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Mike K on

What a beautiful, if harrowing, hike. And I wouldn't want to do the parachute thing, but would be mesmerized by watching them...

Rachel Scott Marshall on

That sounds absolutely fabulous. Loved the pictures. We're still dealing with snow! YUK! But I'm imagining hiking along the ocean with nice warm breezes, etc. etc. Did I tell you we're going to Atlanta for the shoe show next week? We'll miss seeing you all! Weather forecast today says even a chance of snow in Atlanta! Can't seem to get away from it.

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