The dramatic bluffs rise in a vertical wall for nearly 400 metres. Their pastel tones look superb in storm or sun and the vast views to Bluff Hill and Cape Kidnappers provide memorable scenery. And a neat little waterfall to boot. The Waipapa Falls are 5-metre-high waterfall that disgorge into a delightful swimming hole behind the beach.
29 km north of Napier and 88 km south of Wairoa, turn into Aropaoanui Road and follow it for 13km. At the valley floor, turn right over two bridges. Access is through private property. Note the unsealed road may be slippery and muddy after periods of rain.
The track surface varies between grass, sand, pebbles and boulders.
After following the mouth of the Aropaoanui River, it veers left along a wide, but muddy grass track, occasionally crossing sand.
As the track is flanked by open ocean on one side and precipitous bluffs on the other, it is difficulty to stray. After approximately 45 minutes, a vertical bluff forces you onto a pebble and boulder strewn beach (5 minutes), before rejoining the grass track to Waipapa Bay.
Due to the severer nature of the coastal erosion, the track may become impassable. Seek advice from DoC before attempting the walk. Watch for goats on the bluffs, which may dislodge stones onto the track below.
The rock was laid down on the edge of a coastal shelf during the Miocene Period, 25-20 million years ago. The muds and sands were compressed into the loosely bound rock we see today. Incorporated into the matrix was a vast array of fossilised cockles, oysters, fanshells, many lying strewn at the base of the cliffs. Cracked and partially visible examples sprout from the exposed rock face. Whether in loose rocks on the track or on eroded specimens on the beach, there are fossils a plenty to be fond here.
The land around Aropaoanui was acquired in 1862 by John McKinnon, who was born in the outer Hebrides, Scotland in 1825. He had survived a shipwreck off the west coast of Africa and arrived in New Zealand in 1854 as a mate of the vessel Kirkwood. He became a sawmiller then pilot for the Port of Napier.
As owner of the station he had to supervise the landing of stores by sea. This was a treacherous job, as the dangerous beach had a steep drop off. It would take 6 men to hold the surf boat while bales of wool were loaded.
The East Coast pack track passed by the beach and travellers made frequent stops at the station for refreshment. The men’s quarters were often overflowing with people waiting to cross the Aroapaoanui River, a river often in flood and susceptible to the tides. The station gained a reputation for offering kindly hospitality.
North Island ▷ Hawkes Bay ▷ Tutira
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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍