Beach access to Cape Kidnappers goes through an active rockfall zone
19 km return return via same track
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.
The beach from Clifton to the Plateau colony is subject to landslides and rockfall, and serious landslide events have injured people in the past. The risk from landslide is equivalent to that of someone mountain climbing. The walk can only be attempted around low tide and high tides and big seas will block the beach access.
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 and unsettled geological history of the area. This impressive geology is reflected in the nature and frequency of landslides at the site.
Black Reef is the first gannet nesting site, 7.5 km from Clifton. A 1 km climb takes you from the beach to a benched area on the hill where you can view the second colony, and spectacular views of Hawke's Bay.
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.
If undertaking the walk, the best time is between early November and late February. 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.
The geology of the cliffs at Cape Kidnappers influences the nature and frequency of landslides. The type of landslides at this beach can’t be predicted. Although there are some events that make them more likely to happen – such as earthquakes or rain – there is no obvious trigger for many of the landslides.
Serious landslides and rockfalls have injured people in the past. Do not attempt to climb the cliffs. Spend as little time as possible on the beach to reduce the risks, and do not stop or picnic here.
A significant landslide seriously injured two tourists in January 2019, and another large landslide occurred in February 2020 leading to closure of the beach.
If you are not comfortable taking on high risk adventures, this is not the trip for you. There is an alternative way of visiting the plateau gannet colony using an overland commercial operator.
This walk is along a beach and can only be attempted during low tide. Ensure you check the tide timetable and leave yourself enough time to return safely. It's best to:
Occasionally, high tides and big seas block access along the beach.
Ensure you take:
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.