Beach access to Cape Kidnappers goes through an active rock fall zone. Further rock falls both at this site and at other places along the way are possible at any time with no warning

Image: DOC


The track is closed for public safety due to major rock falls.

Track overview

19 km return return via same track

Walking and tramping

5 hr return Easy: Walking track

Seasonal restrictions

This walk is along a beach and can only be attempted during low tide. Don’t get caught out by the tide - check the tide timetable  and leave yourself enough time to return safely.

The walk is possible all year, but visit between early November and late February to see the gannets.

Dog access

No dogs

About this track


Follow the beach from Clifton to Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauwae-a-Māui alongside cliffs that show fragmented fault and tilt lines, recording the gradual rise of New Zealand.

Black Reef is the first gannet nesting site, 7.5 km from Clifton. A 1 km climb takes you from the shelter on the beach to a benched area on the hill where you can view the second colony, and spectacular views of Hawke's Bay.

Getting there

The track starts at Clifton, 21 km south of Napier and 18 km east of Hastings.

Local tourism operators can provide transport to/from the gannet colony if you don't want to walk there along the beach.

Nature and conservation

The towering cliffs are made up of sandstone, conglomerate, mudstone, river gravel, pumice and silt, as well as glimpses of petrified wood and lignite. Fossilised shells can be seen in the sandstone near Black Reef.

The Cape’s coast, cliffs and dunes provide habitats for native vegetation and wildlife. Birds here include the white-fronted tern/tara, variable oystercatcher/tōrea, reef heron/matuku waitai and Caspian tern/taranui. Little blue penguins/kororā nest around the Cape.

The offshore reefs are rich in marine life, including the sandmason tube worm that constructs sand tubes on the rocks.

The track sits within the footprint of Cape to City – a collaborative, landscape scale restoration project that is working to ensure our native species thrive where we live, work and play. 

History and culture

History tells the story of Te Kauwae-a-Māui, the tip of the fishing hook of Māui. In ancient times Māui took the jawbone of his grandmother Muri-ranga-whenua to use as a fish hook and pulled up the North Island/Te-Ika-a-Māui (the fish of Māui). The sacred jawbone forms what is now known as Hawke’s Bay.

After an incident between local Māori and Captain James Cook’s crew on the Endeavour in 1769, it became known as Cape Kidnappers. 

Know before you go

When to go

Try to visit between early November and late Feburary. Nesting occurs between mid-September and mid-December. The first chicks hatch around the beginning of November and the last chicks migrate to Australia in May.

What to expect
  • Change in elevation: +/- 100 m

Elevation profile of Cape Kidnappers Walking Track.


This walk is along a beach and can only be attempted during low tide. Ensure you check the Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauwae-a-Māui tide timetable and leave yourself enough time to return safely. It's best to:

  • departing from Clifton to the Cape: leave at least 3 hours after high tide
  • returning from the Cape to Clifton: leave the cape no later than 1 hour 30 minutes after low tide. 

Occasionally, high tides and big seas block access along the beach.

The cliffs along the beach are unstable and slips can occur - do not attempt to climb these, and rest or picnic away from the cliffs.

  • Toilets at the amenity area at the gannet colony.
Be prepared

Ensure you take:

  • plenty of drinking water
  • a water/windproof jacket, a hat and gloves, sunscreen and wear warm, layered clothing
  • sturdy footwear such as tramping boots
  • head torch
  • communication device.

How to pack for a day walk

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.

Learn more about preparing for a day walk in the Day walks guide: English | Français | Español | Deutsch

In the area

For information on transport, accommodation, activities, and attractions in the Hawke’s Bay region, refer to


Ahuriri / Napier Office
Phone:   +64 6 834 3111
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   59 Marine Parade
Napier 4110
Postal Address:   PO Box 644
Napier 4140
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