Follow the beach from Clifton to Cape Kidnappers 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.
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
This walk is along a beach and can only be attempted during low tide. Ensure you check the Cape Kidnappers 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.
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 www.hawkesbaynz.com.