Follow this wild coastline, rich in Māori legend and archaeological sites, once populated by European whalers, to the southernmost point of the North Island.
Now home to the North Island’s largest native fur seal colony, remoteness and unrelenting seas are a bonus. Lolling in the sun the seals blend into the roadside rocks. Sit awhile and watch pups at play in the rock-pool ‘nursery’ or the ungainly bull seal launch into the wild seas of Cape Palliser.
Make the climb up the 250 steps of the turn of the century Cape Palliser lighthouse. The stunning views along the coast are across to the South Island on a clear day.
Sheltered by the Aorangi Mountains but exposed to the ravages of the sea, Palliser Bay’s commercial fisherman eke out at living at Ngawi. See the boats come ashore with the morning’s catch, dragged up the beach by ageing tractors, some with distinct personalities and colours to match.
Uncover the weird rock formations of the Putangirua Pinnacles. Venture through bush along a stream bed to reach these ancient gravel deposits sculpted into narrow canyons of rock.
Nearby bush-fringed Lake Wairarapa is an important wetland habitat for rare and migrating birds.