Makara beach to Ophiro Bay

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  • #15771 Reply
    Sander Wissing

    Hi all,

    Just a quick question to the experts: I am toying with the idea of a beack walk aroud the bottom end of Wellington. Starting at Makara Beach an ending at Ophiro Bay.

    Has anyone done this? I am particularly interested to know if there are any areas that are
    – impassable?
    – tide dependent?
    – tricky river crossings?


    #18845 Reply

    Hi Sander,

    This is an interesting walk but it’s a long way and not completely straightforward – it’s a good 10 or 12 hours between Makara Beach and Owhiro Bay (or Ohiro Bay as the locals call it), depending on how fast you walk and what route you take in one or two places. You can do it as a long day walk if you like but it’s also not uncommonly done as an overnight tramp, camping overnight in the Oteranga Bay / Cape Terawhiti area (or possibly in the Ohau Bay / Te Ikaamaru Bay area). People who don’t know the area commonly underestimate how long it takes and get into trouble. I was once camping out at Cape Terawhiti when a rather tired looking day-walker turned up fairly late in the afternoon or early evening having come from Ohiro Bay. He didn’t have a map, a jacket, any warm clothes, or a torch. His face lit up when he saw me and he asked how far it was to Makara Beach, clearly thinking it was just 10 or 15 minutes away around the next corner, and I rather sadly had to inform him that he was only at about the halfway point, with the more difficult half still to come, and it was still another 5 or 6 hours to Makara Beach. (I say I rather sadly informed him but in fact I did it with a certain degree of satisfaction – I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who set out on such ventures without at least bothering to look at a map!)

    If you do this walk, make sure you have a map, a jacket, warm clothes, food, and a torch. You can safely drink water out of most of the streams out there but I wouldn’t drink out of Karori Stream, which runs down from Karori and has a sewer pipeline running down it, or the stream at Ohau Bay, which is one of the most intensely stocked parts of Terawhiti Station.

    Note that quite a few part of this walk are on shingle beaches, which can be tiring to walk on. On these beaches there is sometimes a bit of a track at the base of the hillside at the top of the beach, or alternatively it can sometimes be easier to boulder-hop along larger boulders close to the sea at the bottom edge of the beach.

    Here are a few route notes. (Note that I haven’t actually been out there for quite a few years since the wind farm went in, so things may have changed in a few places, but probably not much.)

    From Makara Beach follow the walkway around the corner to Fisherman’s Bay (Wharehau Bay).

    From Fisherman’s Bay to Opau Bay you have two options:
    1) follow the shingle beaches around the coast – this is fairly tiring walking on shingle beaches
    2) follow the walkway up the hill to the old gun emplacements and then follow down the roadway to Opau Stream (or for a more interesting alternative you can follow down the fenceline on the ridgeline above the sea immediately to the west of the roadway). This is probably the more interesting option although it does involve a climb up the hill.

    From Opau Stream follow the shingle beaches around the southern corner of Opau Bay. The next kilometre or two into Te Ikaamaru Bay is probably the trickiest part of the trip. There are two obstacles to get past. First is a rock rib which blocks travel along the beach. You need to climb up the hillside above it, sidle around, and then drop steeply back down to the beach beyond it. (There used to be a rope attached to one side of this rock rib to help you over it but I don’t know whether it is still there.)

    The second obstacle is a few hundred metres further on at the southern end of a shingle beach (through a natural cave arch) where there are impassable cliffs at the bottom of a steep rock rib or spur. Here you need to climb up the rock rib following a steep fenceline for quite a way until you reach a point where you can cross over the rib and descend steeply back down to the beach on the southern side. (A possibly easier alternative is to keep following the fenceline all the way up the spur until you reach the farm track coming down from Quartz Hill and follow that down to Te Ikaamaru Bay.

    It is possible to avoid this stretch of coast between Opau Bay and Te Ikaamaru Bay by ascending steeply up the hillside through scrub on the southern side of Opau Stream, following the farm vehicle track south along the top of the spur until it joins the farm track coming down from Quartz Hill, and following this track down to Te Ikaamaru Bay. If you do this you strictly speaking need permission from Terawhiti Station (and possibly Meridian Energy) but in practice you are unlikely to meet anybody and are unlikely to have any problems if you do. (Note that this route may have changed since the wind farm went in – I haven’t been out there in recent years.)

    Te Ikaamaru Bay is a real gem (assuming it hasn’t been destroyed by the wind farm) and is a good place to stop for a swim on a hot day. There are nice shade trees and usually a bit of a sandy beach at the far end of the bay.

    From Te Ikaamaru Bay follow the farm vehicle track up over the headland and down to Ohau Bay. Strictly speaking you need permission from Terawhiti Station to do this, but again, in practice you are unlikely to run into anybody or have any problems. (It is possible to follow around the point at sea level on the rock platforms but you don’t want to try this at high tide.)

    Ohau Bay is another nice bay but a bit more barren that Te Ikaamaru Bay. There is an open hut belonging to Terawhiti Station in a grove of pine-trees about five hundred metres inland up the valley.

    From Ohau Bay to Oteranga Bay you have two options – either follow out around Ohau Point and down the coast, or else cut inland southwards across the saddle and down Black Gully.

    If you follow the coast it is a long way on shingly beaches and pretty remote and barren. There are some serious scrambly bits around Cape Terawhiti. In particular there is one bit which is impassable at sea level and you need to ascend a rock rib onto a raised terrace and follow across that before dropping back down to the beach. Depending upon the time of year you may run into some aggressive seals at Cape Terawhiti. You may also encounter some annoying swarms of flies under some of the damp overhanging rock faces.

    From Cape Terawhiti around the southern point into Oteranga Bay you can follow around the beaches by the sea but it is a bit scrambly and there is a short section coming into Oteranga Bay which is impassable at high tide, so a better and easier option is to cut across the farm paddock on the raised terrace and follow the benched vehicle track which sidles into the bay.

    The easier and quicker alternative between Ohau Bay and Oteranga Bay is to cut inland across the saddle. If you do this you need to get permission from Terawhiti Station. From Ohau Bay head inland up the valley past the hut, then up the vehicle track up the spur to the saddle. From the saddle follow the vehicle track down the western branch of Black Gully, past the old gold mining battery site at the junction of the two branches of the stream, and out down the vehicle track down the valley to Oteranga Bay. (Note that this area may have changed and there may be more vehicle tracks since the wind farm went in.)

    Oteranga Bay (also known as Cable Bay) is a fairly bleak, windswept place in a southerly. The Cook Strait cable comes ashore here on the eastern side of the bay, and there is an access roadway behind the cable station which climbs steeply up the hillside over Mt Misery and follows the hills northwards out to South Makara Road south of Makara Village. There is an open hut in the bay belonging to Terawhiti Station, tucked hard in at the base of the hillside on the western side of the valley about five hundred metres up the valley from the beach.

    From Oteranga Bay there is a vehicle track all the way back around the south coast to Ohiro Bay. There are only two possible bad spots. One is at Cave Bay, west of Waiareiki Stream, where the waves can pound up against the cliffs at high tide in stormy weather. This is highly unlikely to be a problem but if it is you can get around on the remains of a raised terrace high up the hillside. The other spot is at Long Beach, east of Karori Stream, which is soft sand and tiring walking, and again it could conceivably be impassable at high tide in heavy seas in a storm (although I’ve never known it to be).

    Depending upon the time of year you may see (and smell!) seals on the rocks at Sinclair Head.

    The last 45 minutes from Red Rocks to the end of the road at Ohiro Bay is a popular walkway and you will probably run into lots of people (although this area has really been scarred and destroyed by the quarrying and road building and is nowhere near as nice as it used to be 40 or 50 years ago).

    I hope this information proves useful

    #18846 Reply

    You would definitely need permission from Terawhiti Station.

    #18847 Reply

    Yeah, I probably should have been a bit clearer about getting permission from Terawhiti Station, which is basically all the land west of Karori Stream and Opau Bay.

    If you stick to the coast the whole way then legally I don’t think you need permission – I’m pretty sure it’s Queen’s Chain the whole way around. But if you go inland then you need permission. If you just go briefly inland a short distance to get around a rock outcrop or over a cliff and then drop back down to the coast again then in practice I don’t think anyone is going to mind, but if you do more than that, such as going inland between Ohau and Oteranga Bays then you definitely need to get permission. (And even if you stick to the coast, as a matter of courtesy and safety it would probably be a good idea to let Terawhiti Station know anyway.) In my experience in the past, getting permission from Terawhiti Station shouldn’t be a problem (although things may have changed since the wind farm went in).

    Also, I mentioned there were a couple of huts out there but I wasn’t meaning to suggest they were free for public use. If you wanted to use them you would have to get permission. Terawhiti Station used to hire out the hut in Ohau Bay and presumably still do (I’ve stayed there a couple of times many years ago). Similarly I mentioned the Cook Strait Cable access road into Oteranga Bay but this is a private road with a locked gate and you would have to get permission from Terawhiti Station (and presumably Transpower) if you wanted to use it.

    #18848 Reply

    Hi Harry,

    The huts in Ohau and Oteranga Bay are both private, and privately rented, so certainly not open to the public.

    There are a couple of areas around the coast where it is not Queen’s Chain. The headland between Te Ikaamaru Bay and Ohau is the most prominent. There is also a large portion on the eastern end of Cave Bay on the south coast which is not Queen’s Chain.

    #18984 Reply

    Hello everyone as a child and young teen my family and I knew the farmers and had vehicle access to oteranga bay, that all changed when the wind farm went up my mum and her friend, Mary and mabelle stayed away as vehicle access was restricted due to big trucks ect I’m writing this because I am now 30 and haven’t been out there for around 16 years I now have my own family with 3 daughters aged 13,12 and 3… I have so many good memories there with my own siblings and I would love to take my daughters out there to show them and possibly stay out there for a weekend. I know we can get dropped off and picked up via wgtn site seeing company but what I am unclear on is whether or not I can rent the oteranga bay hutt, especially now that I have come across the previous comment :) any help with advise or info would be very much appreciated.

    #18985 Reply

    Hi Crystal,

    contact Terawhiti Station. Their number is in the phone book.

    – Harry

    #27461 Reply

    Hi Harry
    I’ve just done this hike and all your notes are still accurate and were very helpful, thanks!

    #27823 Reply

    Terawhiti Station in many places has riparian rights, which means they own the land to the high water mark-no queens chain. One of the previous articles mentions the walk around terawhiti. A really good place to bivvy for the night is the wooden fronted cave a couple of kms around the coast from Oteranga Bay, heading towards Ohau. This cave was used as a base by the noted artist Nugent Welch in the 1930s.In the 1970s three local bach owners, Tony Penfold (Red Rocks), Mike Denison (Long Beach) and Paul Josling ( Karori Stream) ‘modernised’ the cave by replacing the roof, adding a visor fireplace, a window etc. An ill fated air drop of vital supplies resulted in a large area of the adjacent Putiki Terrace covered in white paint and warm beer.

    #30451 Reply
    Tony Gazley

    Harry’s story with his route description has been updated in the WTMC newsletter with some photos and a short video.

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