Saturday, 15 October 2016

Beach Hop South- Lighthouse Walk, Castlepoint


I did ask you how many photos one can take of a lighthouse, didn't I? Well here's good selection of them for you. The weather forecast wasn't great so I was keen to do the lighthouse walk before it closed in. David was more keen to wash the dust, salt spray and road film off the vehicles so I headed off on my own, leaving him to his chores.

I love a beach like Castlepoint; when it's low tide (this is about half tide), there's a lovely wide sandy beach to walk along...

...and when it's high tide, the waves are crashing against the retaining boulders... both directions

...and they come halfway up the access stairways.

At the end of the beach there's a wide sand bar that joins the mainland to the limestone reef that the lighthouse stands on. And although the sand is wet, the tide never comes right up to the boats.

Looking like something out of a Mad Max movie, the commercial crayfishing boats are stored on the sand awaiting the next outing to retrieve their cray pots.

These are monster boats and classic Kiwi 'number 8 wire' ingenuity has been applied to the tow contraptions that haul them in and out of the water. 

We spoke to the owner of the boat below on another day (this unit looks like an old combine-harvester), and he told us about his business. It was hard work but lucrative when they could get out to check the pots. But more often than not, they weren't able to fish because of rough seas.

I kept missing the boats as they arrived back at base and were hauled out of the water; he told me he radioed ahead to his brother-in-law who then raced down to the tractor unit and backed it in and out. Which was obviously before I'd even thought about leaving the van and striding along the beach. I did manage to zoom in from the comfort of the van a couple of times though.

The baby of the group had a standard tractor.

I had Castlepoint to myself as I made my way across the sand (those are my footprints and this was taken on my way back!)...  

...towards the pathway up to the lighthouse. And although the tide might not cross the sandbar and join with the lagoon, there are signs warning to watch the tide, it does reach quite high and also if the sea is rough the waves can cut off the access at the bottom of the path.

It's very easy going up the path but there are a number of seats to rest at for the less agile. 

The view behind me is spectacular; that's Castle Rock at the back. Captain Cook named it for obviously reasons....well, obvious to him. Apparently it has similarities to the battlements of a castle. From the sea.

A panoramic shot of Castlepoint, this is 4 shots stitched together. 

This is a lovely lighthouse (I'm collecting lighthouses too)- its first light shone in January 1913. It was built to allow ships to make landfall on their voyage from Panama to Wellington and was one of the last attended stations to be built in New Zealand.

There's a worrying lack of barriers on the cliff edges around the lighthouse. I think I'd be firmly holding the hands of any children if they were with me. I spy half a dozen seals lounging around on the rocks far below.

Once past the lighthouse, a narrow stairway climbs to a point above.

I stop at every landing on the way up, not only to catch my breath- there's a brisk cold wind blowing- but to soak in that view behind. 

I still have the place to myself, and in fact I don't see another person on my travels. New Zealand like it used to be.

Castlepoint village; there's quite a number of homes on the hill behind the beach. Private & with stunning views, these can't be seen from the beachfront road below.

The stairway ends on a large platform that stretches along the top of the point and thankfully it's surrounded by a study fence. It also has magnificent 360 degree views.

I zoom in on the camping ground, and what do you know? I can just pick out David cleaning the van! So he's not telling fibs just to get out of a walk!

The cast iron lighthouse stands 23 metres high and is 52 metres above sea level. The light flashes 3 times every 30 seconds and can be seen for 26 nautical miles (48kms).

Another stairway leads you off the far end of the platform and down steep stairs to a huge rock platform on the ocean side of the point.  

Woah! This is scary stuff, it's a hundred foot drop over the edge into churning ocean below. There's a few metal screw eyes in the rocks; perhaps there used to be a wire barrier here or maybe someone uses them to anchor their rope when they go over the edge.

I'm thinking if I slipped and disappeared over the side, nobody would know. I'd be gone forever, no more photos, no more blogs. After David, I'm sure the next person to notice I was missing would be one of you! I just can't bring myself to look right the way over.

I carry on along the rocky platform and back towards the lighthouse, happy to have some dirt and vegetation separating me from that drop.

The lighthouse was fully automated in 1988 and the lighthouse keeper withdrawn. It is monitored by computer and Maritime NZ staff in Wellington.

I made my way back down to the sand bar...

...and around towards the sheltered lagoon...

...with the adventure movie name of Deliverance Cove; one of Captain Cook's better name choices. The tide lines indicate how far the lagoon reaches up the firm sand.

There's a large opening into the lagoon right below Castle Rock and also as the tide rises, waves break over two low rock barriers, filling the lagoon. 

I decide I'll wait for David to join me before exploring Deliverance Cove and Castle Rock. I make my way to the top of the large sand dunes behind me and find myself in the carpark- this is the carpark where you're allowed to freedom camp, and I can certainly see why you're likely to get sandblasted parking here. And look, there's a church for me to photograph.

A day or two later, David joined me for a repeat circuit (I did warn you there are plenty of photos, didn't I?) It's the weekend and there are a lot more people about. 

Boaties launch their boats into the safety of the lagoon before heading out to the open ocean through the entrance below Castle Rock. Other fishermen have scrambled up onto the rocky ridge that separates the lagoon from the sea. It's another terrifying drop down into the ocean swell on the other side, there are warning signs on the approach which are obviously ignored.- the fishing must be good.

A surfer makes his way along Deliverance Cove, past more vehicles and trailers awaiting the return of their boats...or high tide, whichever comes first. 'The Gap' a popular surfing break inside the sheltered waters of the lagoon, is flanked by Castle Rock and the imposing limestone reef that forms the east side of the lagoon.

As we make our way across the sandbar to the base of the lighthouse track, a scooter posse roars past us, heading down towards Castle Rock. It's not only a surprise to see them on the sand, but its also a long way to ride out from Masterton. They came prepared though, one has a spare tank of petrol strapped to his carrier.

I think I prefer the place to myself; I can't help feeling anxious when I see the places people venture.  

The view is still spectacular, and today the tide is further in.

I want to show David the drop into the sea at the bottom of the stairs but when he gets close, I can't stand it and beg him to move away. And stop fooling about, which he's now doing when he sees how agitated I am.

I think my fear is borne from once getting stuck on a cliff edge high above a boiling swirling white water cauldron of rough water at Mahia when I was a teenager. I'd followed my brother up a goat track without realising actually how steep the walls of the cove were. I was paralyzed with fear and can't remember how we got down in the end but the worse case scenario kept playing through my head for weeks afterwards.

It didn't help my case when the yound couple I'd seen earlier, suddenly appeared  below me as I was photographing the fishermen on the other point.

At least there was a ledge below the top edge along this part of the platform, I felt fine walking along along there.

 But I get vertigo just looking at this photo!

And for those that commented on not seeing my little stick man over winter; he makes a special appearance here, just for you. He was missing over winter because we were parked up with family much of the time and not out on cold walks in inclement weather.

As we were making our way back down the path, I spotted the young couple again. This time they were clambering up the rocks at the other end of point. I'm sure he was out to impress his girlfriend. He'd told me (when I took a photo for them earlier), that he was revisiting his childhood holiday destination and showing his friend the sights.

Back on the sand, I was lining up a reflection shot of the lighthouse in the tide when this girl came prancing through, photobombing my shot and disturbing the still water. No matter it wasn't a good reflection anyway and she wouldn't have realised. She only had eyes for the... 

...huge sand dune below the rock wall and her siblings playing on it. And there's another crazy couple stretching the boundaries. I need to move along before I really do have kittens.

The weather is closing in fast and this will be the last calm (and clear) view for a few days.

To be continued...yes, there's more! Can you tell we loved Castlepoint.


  1. I share your fear and have to grit my teeth in places like this too. I love Castlepoint and have enjoyed your blog.

    1. Thanks Carol, glad you enjoyed the blog. I think it must be the female nurturing instinct that sets our nerves on high alert!

  2. Stop it Shellie......You are finding far too many interesting places to visit all your haunts (well the good one's anyway) a full time job.
    I admire your dedication and pluck ability to the task.
    Your camera (while I'm at it) must be too hot to handle, even on the windy days!

    1. I hope you're adding all the good ones to your 'must visit' list Jimu. You'll have no excuses not to visit the east coast now. And yes my camera is getting a little weary, it and my lens need a major overhaul but I can't let them go for a couple of weeks. I mean, what will I do without them, I'd be lost.

  3. Another great post. It must keep you fit with all the exploring you do - especially climbing up all those stairs.

    1. Thanks Katrina, yes it does to a certain extent but I wish it kept me a little fitter. Sometimes I spend too much time in front of the screen when I should be out there walking. I've made a rod for my back. :)

  4. EVERY one of your outstanding photo essays deserves comment, which I have been avoiding to allow you to focus and enjoy your travels. Although it’s been months since my last note, your Beach Hop series has worn me down, and this Castlepoint installment has broken my resolve! I’m conflicted, don’t know whether to heap more piles of well deserved admiration for your wanderings, or bitterly curse you for reminding me that, despite several explorations of Aotearoa, I barely scratched the surface of your homeland. I could have done a much, much better job on the SE coast of North Island, rather than just taking a leisurely drive down SH2 from Napier to Featherston. These isolated coastal beach towns are simply fabulous. Thanks again Shellie – and best wishes for your excellent, to be continued, “never ending story”!

    Mike (NJXJ)

    1. Hi Mike, lovely to hear from you again and thankyou again for your kind words. Don't beat yourself up, many Kiwis take that 'leisurely drive' down SH2 all their lives, never branching of to explore either. And, what you don't see in the blogs are the endless miles of rolling countryside that we pass through to get to the jewels at the end of the road. Glad you are enjoying the Beach Hop, there's still a few more to come.


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