Rock climbing at Kawakawa Bay

David Jewell

There’s a steadily growing group of rock climbers in the club. Most often you can find us in Fergs or Hangdog trying to keep our skills up, but there’s nothing like being out on real rock. Winter isn’t exactly the best time to be climbing outside, it’s tough going when you’re cold, especially if the rock is wet. But we’re one persistent group – even after the desert road closed on Friday night, we took the extra long detour to get to Kinloch on Lake Taupo – setting up our tents at 12:30am in the waterfront park that doesn’t allow camping but has toilets, water and plenty of flat grassy areas…a little over 7 hours after leaving Wellington.

Views of the Kawakawa bay camping area at the crag from the top of a climb
Views of Kawakawa bay crag camping area from the top of a climb

A 6:30am alarm, saw us catching the boat at 7am for the 25 minute ride to Kawakawa bay. We skipped the easy 1.5-2 hour walk along the now well developed mountain bike trail, since we figured less time on the track meant more time on the rock. You can also choose to walk in and have your pack and gear ferried over, but be careful – if the weather turns and the boat can’t get in, you’ll have to carry out everything you brought in.

Kawakawa bay offers a wide range of excellent climbs including both sport and trad, with grades ranging from 14 to 27, including well protected and well-bolted routes to the nappy climb (‘Nappy advised as protection is poor, climbing is run out or there’s loose rock’).

Brendan Eckert
Brendan Eckert

Several climbs offer spectacular views and significant exposure including several excellent multi-pitch climbs. Guide books are available for free on the internet from either the NZ Alpine Club or But I’d recommend purchasing the copy available for sale from the Alpine club as it had far more climbs then either of the free download versions. At the Bay there is a large DOC shelter that would be useful in the pouring rain but isn’t good for much else with only one wall and a style of pot belly stove that doesn’t put out heat. Fortunately there are plenty of spots to camp and room for campfire.

Katy Glenie
Megan Sety
David, Yibai and Megan – belaying and route planning
Megan and Katy – success at the top of ‘high hopes’


1 thought on “Rock climbing at Kawakawa Bay”

  1. hi from austria, europe.

    is there a group for rockclimbing in the kawakawa area of northern new zealand? travelling the country by bicycle and climbing gear in december 2014. would like to join some climbers a bit. not very strong, but its OK with me :-))) thanks for replies! best from salzburg, austria, EUROPE

    jerry – austrian mountain rescue Service


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