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Just under an hours drive from Takaka township, Farewell Spit is the longest sand spit in New Zealand, a unique landscape formed by the process of longshore drift over a measly 14,000 years!
Still growing at the rate of 3,400,000 cubic metres of material a year, the constantly changing landscape is a wonderful area to explore. Perhaps one day the sand will again connect Golden Bay to the North Island. Probably not in our lifetimes though.
If you only have an afternoon to spare, one of the shorter walks in the area is the Spit Track Circuit, starting from the carpark at the base of the spit, just below the Paddlecrab Café.
Today we’re walking straight across to Fossil Point to begin with, 2km one way and just a 30 minute walk.
You head straight across the Triangle Flat open farmland, which at this time of year, heralding the beginnings of Spring, is dotted with doddering sheep and their cuter than cute lambs.
Follow the orange markers across a few stiles until you reach the coastal bush which gradually leads you uphill. As you wander up beneath the pines, you might notice the worn tracks made by the stock, revealing sand just beneath the grass.
You will reach a sign at the crest of the hill directing you either right, down to Fossil Point, or left to continue walking uphill, either just to get a better view or to carry on a few more kilometers along the coastline toward Wharariki Beach. For that you will need a bit more time.
A short descent leads you to Ocean Beach, the outer side of Farewell Spit. Following the beach as far left as it will go leads you to Fossil Point – huge mudstone cliffs and fallen rocks revealing fossilised shells and worm casts embedded in them.
Keep your eyes out for the seals who like to sun themselves here but keep a respectable distance – they can get aggressive and also smell rather ripe!
You may see or meet some people fishing off the rocks or beach around here – you have just walked across their farmland and they are the only ones permitted to bring their farmbikes down and fish in the area.
Once you’ve had a bit of an explore here, follow the Spit out for about 2km until you see another orange marker signaling the entrance to the 4WD Spit Track which takes you across to the Inner Beach of the Spit.
Before you cross though, have a play in the dunes (taking care not to get too much sand down the pants), on a clear day have a good look on the horizon – it’s possible to make out the peak of Mount Egmont/ Taranaki in the North Island.
If you’re REALLY lucky, like I recently was, you might see a rare thing on the sand – a giant squid washed up from the deep!
Once you reach the Inner Beach you will notice it’s a completely different world. The vast sand plain is visible at low tide and seeing it, you will understand how whales can easily be stranded here.
You will also notice a huge population of Black Swan – large in stature and with impressive white-tipped wings. In fact, Farewell Spit is home (at least some of the time) to over ninety species of birds, including the much loved Godwit. If you’re a bird lover, brings your binoculars on your excursion.
Another 2km leads you back to your car, where you might choose to picnic or head up the hill to the café for a coffee or bite to eat. There are several other tracks in the area too, so you may wish to return for another explore.