Napier to Tolaga Bay

After five fabulous days in Napier exploring the Hawkes Bay region we were sad to leave but it wasn’t the end of our adventures as we were heading to Tolaga Bay.

Along the way we were excited to be able to see the Shine Falls, Hawkes Bay highest waterfall. The turn off to  Shine Falls is about 45 km north of Napier on SH2. The Falls aren’t that well signposted so keep a look out for Tutira and then turn left into Matahorua Rd, then left on to Pohokura Road. After 11km turn left into Heays Access Rd. Follow this road for 6.5 km until you reach a DOC car park. The drive there is actually part of the adventure as its through stunning countryside.

Shine Falls is part of a mainland island which took me a while to get my head around but its basically a reserve to attempt to regenerate native birds and bush and its seemed to be doing a pretty good job as the bush and bird life was amazing but I have got ahead of myself.

The first half hour the walk is through paddocks with some towering cliffs, a landscape that reminded me of something you might see in the Swiss Alps. We then entered the mainland island and walked for about another half an hour to reach the waterfall along a relatively easy track. The waterfall was indeed amazing. I have always loved waterfall and find the watching the water plunging from a great height mesmerising. After lots of photos and videos and then a few more photos we headed back to the car.

From here we were heading to Tolaga Bay and were hoping to find a lunch spot with a view of the Mohaka viaduct but unfortunately we didn’t find one. And then it was a lot of driving – turns out it’s a long way from Napier to Tolaga Bay and we arrived as it was getting dark to discover that the campground was on limited power and we haven’t packed our off the grid lighting. Thankfully we had power at our site and managed to get the camper up before the sun went down.

I woke in time the next morning for a gorgeous sunrise over the historic Tolaga Bay wharf and ventured down to the beach for the best view where I discovered that the beach had been hard hit by the recent storm and many a storm over the years by the looks of the piles of branches and logs strewn along the beach. It really wasn’t what I was expecting at all especially as from the campground a small sand dune blocked the view of the debris.

We had a relaxing start to the day having breakfast at the beach before we headed off on the Cooks Cove walk which we could access from our campground. Cooks Cove is where Captain Cook stopped in 1769 as part of his circumnavigation of New Zealand. Its an easy 6km return walk through farmland and bush. Of course the walk would have been a little easier if it hadn’t just rained so heavily and the first paddock wasn’t like a swamp where my son managed to immerse his feet in mud to the ankles within the first few hundred metres. Just for the record he walked in in muddy shoes and out in bare feet.

The trail has lots of information boards with the history of the area along with stunning views back over Tolaga Bay & the historic walk and views to Cooks Cove. We spent some time exploring the Cove which is very small, those sailors must have been amazing at manoeuvring the ship.

We were also delighted to find a hole in the rock ( my husband had probably read up on the walk so knew it was there but I always like to leave something to be surprised by ) We clambered up some rocks to enjoy more views over Tolaga Bay before heading back along the trail to the campground.

Later that afternoon we walked out the historic Tolaga Bay wharf which is an amazing 660 metres long. I almost started to feel a little seasick at the end of the wharf as the waves rolled in, or maybe that was watching the kids peer over the side of the wharf when falling in would have meant a long swim back to shore.

With more time we would have liked to have gone right round the East Cape but we would have to save that adventure for another time. For now we headed for Rotorua ( of course we couldn’t go passed a mountain bike in the Redwood forest) the following morning via Rere Falls and the Rere Rock Slide.

To check out the Rere Falls and Rock Slide, drive approximately 50km north-west from Gisborne on the Wharekopae Road and you will reach the small community of Rere. The Rere Falls are just a little further on and you don’t even have to get out of the car to view them. If you do get out of the car and there hasn’t just been a storm apparently you can walk behind the Falls but of course given the recent storm when we were there, there was too much water to safely walk behind the cascading water.

And then on to Rere Rock Slide. Bless my husband he had packed our wetsuits and boogie boards so we could enjoy the Rock Slide but it was about 12 degrees when we got there and the recent storm had turned the area quite swampy. I stayed warm and watched the other teenagers whizzing down the rock slide. It looked like a bumpy ride and some inflatable items didn’t live to see another day.

From here you could return to Gisborne but we decided to head for Rotorua on the back road which turned out to be an adventure in itself with logging trucks and flocks of sheep sharing the narrow gravel road with us.

If you are in the area check out the blog on exploring the Hawkes Bay.