Throw back! I never talked about the time I visited Cape Kidnappers, so here it is!
Once upon a time, I did a review of all the great things to do in Hawke's Bay New Zealand. I mentioned a golf course named Cape Kidnappers, but later learned Cape Kidnappers is so much more than a golf course.
After 7-months living in the area, I got increasingly curious about this place with its criminal name, rumors of mudstone protrusions, and an enormous gannet colony. I had to see what it was all about.
Jono and I took a day to stroll along its shore out to the headland and back. I ended up being enthralled by its geological features, I had a photo shoot with seabirds, and I was even almost caught in a landslide on the return trip!
Where is Cape Kidnappers?
Cape Kidnappers farm and golf course is located a few minutes east of Hastings overlooking Hawke's Bay in New Zealand.
But there's also a hike you can access nearby. Cape Kidnappers may be the best place to golf in New Zealand, but I am not much of a golfer. I do love to hike, however. The start of the hike is along the beach in front of the homes located at the end of Clifton Road.
We parked and then walked down onto the sand and kept walking. The hike began as soon as our feet touched sand, making our way southeast.
When to go to Cape Kidnappers
The hike is entirely along the beach so you cannot access the hike unless it is low tide.
The hike would take a good 4 hours, so going 2 hours before low tide put us at 2 hours after high tide on the way back. This was a good time to start so we wouldn't get caught without a beach to walk on later!
Check out tides in the area through New Zealand's Met Service.
Geological Wonders at Cape Kidnappers
As I walked along the coastline, the bay to my left had its characteristic turquoise color as it washed up over brown sand ahead of us.
To the right, a massive cliff of ridged sandstone protruded upwards in uneven layers of history. There is 300,000 years of geological history embedded in the cliff side sediment at Cape Kidnappers. The cliffs reveal ancient earthquake fault lines slanting downwards as if showing the literal shifting of the tectonic plates.
My favorite part was where the sediment had eroded away by wind and rainwater.
Over time, the erosion created huge gullies and mounds that look like enormous termite hills. I had to stand next to one in a photo to demonstrate just how big they are.
The sediment in these mounds is made up of river gravels with layers of plant material and volcanic ash from historic eruptions over 150km away in the central Tongariro region.
Sadly, the cliffs' beauty and history is eroding quickly—literally right before our eyes!
The above is a photo I took from our return trip. I was almost caught in a sandstone avalanche! I heard what sounded like a waterfall above me. By the time I realized what was happening, I had walked only a few paces out of range of a cloud of ash and sediment that had broken loose from the cliff above.
So watch out for landslides when you're on this hike! The erosion is lively and unpredictable.
I also loved seeing the ridges leftover in the hardened reef at low-tide on this walk. There were rows and rows of ridge-lined reef—blackened stripes like tire tracks in mud. I could hop from one track to the other.
The Gannet Colony
New Zealand is very well-known for its diverse sea bird population. The country actually has the greatest variety of sea bird species of any country in the world!
Cape Kidnappers doubles as a sanctuary for birdlife. Predators are kept out so populations of sea birds, and even the rare kiwi bird, can settle in and thrive.
One of the largest and most accessible gannet colonies in the world has inhabited the area. The first of 2 gannet colonies at Cape Kidnappers is found about 1.5 hours into the beach walk before turning right into full view of the headland.
They have settled onto the rocks there almost at eye-level for some excellent bird-watching. I had a great time snapping photos of them showing off their over 5-foot wing span!
How Cape Kidnappers Got Its Name
After the gannets, we walked about a half hour more to get a closer view of the famous sail-like protrusion out on the tip of the cape. This rock marks what Captain Cook first saw when he drove up on the HMS Endeavor.
I asked Jono to remind me how Cape Kidnappers got its name. Apparently, Captain Cook's encounter with a group of Maori natives here led to its namesake.
As the story goes, an altercation took place between crew and Maori natives. This led to the Maori people attempting to abduct one of Cook's crew members.
Cook open fired on the Maori "kidnappers," allowing his crew member to escape and swim back to the Endeavor. But several Maori natives were killed in the process.
This short story serves as an example of the Maori struggle against colonization.
The native people of Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand) were defending their land. Prisoners of war were inevitably a part of that struggle on both sides of the field. The fight against colonialism would continue to be an uphill battle for them, as it has been for all indigenous people at one time or another across the world.
The Way Back
On the walk back, we admired all of the locals and tourists who had come out for the day on foot, but also on motorbikes, ATVs, or tractor tours.
Off-roading on the beach is a very "kiwi-style" method of getting around on the coast of New Zealand. In fact, Jono and I drove on the 90 Mile Beach up in Northland. It's definitely a fun experience and you'll fit right in with the locals if you try it. Just make sure to go at low-tide!
Whether you off-road at Cape Kidnappers or not, I would still encourage you to walk it once. Even though it takes longer, there's something about being the tortoise in the race that really does make you finish first.
The hike provides great exercise and the east coast of New Zealand is the perfect place to take your time and reflect on the power and beauty of mother Earth.