The isolated and raw beach at Waikawau is a hidden gem of the King County coast. The stock tunnel forms a unique entrance corridor to the black sands and deeply eroded cliffs of the beach.
Exiting the tunnel is like stepping into another world. Tufts of flax cling precariously to the sheer faces of the spectacular sandstone cliffs. The loose rock structure is etched with lines and hollows from wind and water weathering the crumbling strata.
Waikawau Beach Road is 33 km from Awakino and 33 km from Marokopa. Access from Awakino is along Manganui Road, which is 2 km east of the town. From Marokopa, follow Mangatoa Road. The winding road travels through native forest, pine plantations and farmland. The surface is both sealed and unsealed.
Waikawau Beach is 5 km along the signposted unsealed Waikawau Beach Road. In places the road is very narrow with extremely tight corners through the road cuttings. Watch for wandering stock on the road. There is a parking area and toilet by the tunnel.
For a more hair-raising, but scenic drive, follow Wainui Road past Whale Bay from Raglan. This turns in to the unsealed Whaanga Road. Through many twists and turns, Whaanga Road climbs the western slopes of Mount Karioi, high above the Tasman Sea. Passing through kanuka forest and farmland, the highlight is the precipitous Te Toto Gorge. Driving this route to Ruapuke enhances the remoteness of the beach.
From the parking bay at the end of Ruapuke Beach Road , you will need to walk 5 minutes across the dunes. There is also a narrow, ankle-deep stream to cross, which is unavoidable.
The old stock tunnel is a dramatic entrance to the wild and dramatic beach at Waikawau. While walking through the tunnel the echoes of the breaking waves announce the nearby sea. The only window to the rolling waves is the arch at the seaward end.
To the north of the tunnel, misty headlands recede to the horizon and after periods of rain, waterfalls pour over the cliffs to the rocky shore below.
South of the tunnel are numerous sea caves, great for exploring. Be careful of rock falls from the cliffs. The black sand butts right up to the cliff base and is wide and clear of driftwood.
The tunnel was constructed with picks and shovels by Jim Richard Scott, Charlie Christofferson and Bert Perrett. They were all employees of the Government Works Department. It was excavated wide enough for the widest horned beast and tall enough for the tallest horseman. The tunnel opened up the beach route for stock to reach the 10,000-acre Nukuhakari Station.
Children of early settlers used to play in the 50-metre-long tunnel and it was often smelly with a mixture of dung and water dripping from the ceiling to the floor channel.
The tunnel was constructed because a steep bank formed an impenetrable barrier to the beach. Once the tunnel was completed, stock were driven to the beach and up the coast. The floor can be wet and muddy, but is usually passable without getting feet too dirty.
This is truly isolated and awe-inspiring beach, characteristic of the west coast’s uplifting majesty and worth the effort to get to. Ruapuke is a raw and mystical beach, usually open to the ravages of the Tasman Sea. It’s exposed black sands are fringed by steep pasture-covered hills and headlands at both ends enclose the beach.
The surf sometimes rolls in violently. There are rips and cross-currents. Surfers occasionally enjoy the waves in a south-westerly swell with offshore winds.
There is a striking polarity of colour at Ruapuke. Driftwood is bleached white and many of the trunks exhibit their gnarled and twisted bases. The froth from the pounding surf is often picked up by the onshore wind and blown across the sand like globules of mercury. The further they retreat from the sea, the more diminished in size they become until effervescing to nothingness. The white haze of salt spray lends a mystical atmosphere to the dramatic headlands and creates a surreal mood to the beach. This is a beach for walking along to blow the cobwebs away.
The beach is good for fishing, but the rocks at the northern headland are frequently battered by big waves and are dangerous to fish from. Find yourself a driftwood trunk to sit on and unpack your lunch while surfcasting.
North Island ▷ Waikato ▷ Te Kuiti
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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 😍