The sheer cliffs of Cape Kidnappers, with their banded strata, form a mesmerising visual to the walk. Interbedded layers of sediments read like a geological story and draw your eyes effortlessly along the headland.
An Australasian Gannet refuge at the cape is one of the finest places to watch the antics of these eye-catching birds.
The walk is only negotiable around low tide. You should leave no sooner than 3 hours after high tide and depart from the cape no later than 1½ hours after low tide. Even with this time window, you may have to get wet feet clambering around rocks at the base of the cliffs - if there is no swell. Seek tide times from http://www.metservice.com/marine-surf/tides/cape-kidnappers
Between early November and late February, you can observe the gannets as they return to their original breeding grounds, establish partnerships, breed, nest and rear their chicks. The close proximity of the viewing platforms allow you to observe courtship displays, aggressive territorial squabbles (where beaks are locked amid much wing flapping) and rearing of nestlings.
Don't walk directly beneath the cliffs as they are very unstable.
If 6 hours walking is too long then check out the Tractor Tours that cover the same route - a well run kiwi institution.
Cape Kidnappers is comprehensively signposted from SH2 in Napier and Hastings. The walk starts from the beach by the motor camp.
The walk follows the beach all the way from Scotsmans Park at Clifton to the cape. Vertical cliff walls on one side and the sea on the other make straying from the track difficult.
The walk is only negotiable around low tide. You should leave no sooner than 3 hours after high tide and depart from the cape no later than 1½ hours after low tide. Even with this time window, you may have to get wet feet clambering around rocks at the base of the cliffs if there is no swell. Seek tide times from local papers or information centres.
Do not rest below the cliffs as rock falls may occur. Take care to avoid the 4WDs and motorbikes, which also use the beach as a highway. Some drive like idiots.
Time to picnic shelter with toilets is 2 hours. Time to Plateau and Saddle colony is 30 minutes one-way.
The track to the Plateau Colony departs from just behind the picnic shelter. It climbs steeply over muddy paddocks and around a huge chasm by the DoC Ranger’s Residence. To return you can follow the wide, metalled 4WD track from the east of the Plateau Colony. Keep to the track as the cliff face is nearby.
Access to the Saddle Colony is by permit only.
Some of the rock layers along the coast were deposited under marine conditions in shallow seas and exhibit occasional shellfish and fossils. Other layers are freshwater in origin, a coarse conglomerate of pebbles and mud; while some strata are volcanic in origin, caused by either ignimbrite flows or wind blown ash and pumice. All were deposited between 300,000 and 1 million years ago.
In contrast, Cape Kidnappers is composed of ‘papa’ rock, a bluish grey siltstone, formed around 4-5 million years ago. It has been eroded to the shape we see today with an impressive rock tower off the headland. You can watch the waves crashing here and witness the immense height attained by the foam as it rises and descends.
The tilt and fragmentation of the banded layers is the result of upheavals, caused by earthquakes. An apron of slumped material lies strewn at the base of many cliff faces and occasional waterfalls pour from the tops.
Watch for rock pigeons resting on the holes and also the unusual weathering patterns in some of the layers.
Australasia gannets Morus serrator or Takapu are often found in large colonies around the New Zealand coastline. Around 46,000 pairs breed around the New Zealand coastline of which around 6500 pairs breed at Cape Kidnappers. Colonies were first recorded around 1870 by a Hawke’s Bay naturalist, Henry Hill, who recorded 50 birds at the Saddle Colony. The Plateau Colony was established around the 1930s. Today gannets also breed around Black Reef.
The Australasian gannet is a member of the booby family. When chicks are 4 months old, they undertake a 2300km journey to Australia, returning to breed 2½-3½ years later. Having completed their OE, they live over 20 years and mate with the same partner for life. They are expert fliers, often soaring and gliding on sea breezes.
The sight of a diving gannet is always enough to make you take note. They can dive at speeds of up to 145 km/h to catch fish below the surface. They inflate air sacs around their head and neck to cushion the impact and their nostrils are located internally.
The best viewing is at the Plateau Colony, where information panels tell you about their behaviour and life cycles.
Heed all warning concerning behaviour around the birds.
Between July and January, you can observe the gannets as they return to their original breeding grounds, establish partnerships, breed, nest and rear their chicks. The close proximity of the viewing platforms allow you to observe courtship displays, aggressive territorial squabbles (where beaks are locked amid much wing flapping) and rearing of nestlings.
The updraught from the cliffs is also harnessed by the birds to aid take off. You can watch them swoop and glide before deftly alighting on the hummocky terrain of their nesting grounds.
Cape Kidnappers took its European name from Captain Cook, who visited in 1769. After trading with local Maori, a young Tahitian boy aboard Endeavour was taken aboard a Maori waka. In the ensuing altercation, shots were fired, which killed some Maori and the boy was able to return to the ship.
North Island ▷ Hawkes Bay ▷ Te Awanga
Showing 13 reviews of 54.
Beware of the tide to do this walk, you couldn't do it when it's high tide.
Good information board about the sea levels so you know where to start and go back. Really nice view of the cliffs. Good possibility to observe the birds.
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More signage would have helped.
A very good and long trek (18km) on the beach, you can see the gannet colony. Stay at the self-contained place on Clifton Road.
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Long walk, but really worthy, cloudy weather, high water, check the tide before you leave,
Nice animal watching with a beautiful beach walk.
Great walk to the beach, we have seen the gannet colony at the end of the walk with a lookout. And the must for the return, a quad pickup for us - very nice!
Long walk on the beach to see gannets at the end, and a very nice view at the top of the Cape.
Did it in November. Started at 9h30 came back at 14h30. Nice walk, you will be very close to the Gannets ;)
Wonderful tidepools and excellent viewing of gannets nesting (some with chicks!). The walk was long and would be made better without the tourist tractors and occasional dirt bike.
Nice walk and beautiful views. A great time.
We expected a harder walkway. You just walk along the beach so very easy. The rock is very beautiful and to get to the end of the cape is a very challenging walk. Be careful with the tide!
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 😍