Sandra Smith says that the New Zealand coastline is the ninth longest in the world.
Coast New Zealand
Nearly all of our roads lead to the coast and there is no location that is more than 130 kms from the sea.
The length is pretty hard to measure accurately through the countless twists and turns around inlets, spits, headlands, bays, harbours, fiords, sounds and estuaries.
About two thirds is hard rocky shore while soft sand or gravel cover the remainder so it’s fair to say that it’s a pretty diverse coastline.
The wonders of Fiordland
In the deep southwest is Fiordland. Here there are 14 fiords, carved out of the mountains about 20,000 years ago by glaciers.
Mounds of hard rock block the entrances so that there is little flow of water between the sea and the fiords and on the surface is a layer of fresh water created by the heavy rainfall.
This rain also feeds the waterfalls that cascade down the steep bush clad cliff faces.
The spectacular West Coast
Stretching 600 kms up the West Coast from Fiordland is some of New Zealand’s most spectacular coastal landscape. Wild and isolated in the south to subtropical in the north there are amazing beaches to explore.
Gillespies Beach – a place of early settlers broken dreams; Hokitika Beach with its wide mouthed river, a haven for birdwatchers and (in season) for whitebait lovers, not forgetting the quirky beach art…
Punakaiki Beach, just north of the Pancake rocks – one of the best places to watch the sunset; Flagstaff Beach located near the town of Karamea is a walking beach but not a swimming beach. This long stretch of beautiful white sand is in a constant state of change as the Tasman Sea crashes up to the shore.
Top of the South
Around the top of the Island now to Golden Bay – aptly named. With its beautiful golden beaches, forests to explore and a mild climate it is a vast paradise for nature lovers and a trip out to Farewell Spit is very worthwhile.
In a little further to the northeast are the Marlborough Sounds covering some 4000 square kilometres – an extensive network of drowned valley, called a ria coastline.
Here, the steep wooded hills and small quiet bays are sparsely populated as access is difficult. Many of the small settlements are only accessible by boat.
Just to the north of Marlborough Sounds is Cook Strait. This body of water separates the North and South Islands and is infamous for its strong currents and rough waters especially when the wind is direct from the south or the north.
Ferry sailings are sometimes disrupted and Cook Strait is regarded as one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world. However, on a good day you may spot the dolphins!
Down the East Coast
Further east around the coast and now heading south again is the Kaikoura Coast. In 2016 Kaikoura was rocked by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake followed by a 7 metre tsunami. The coastline moved northwards and rose by almost a metre. As a result the rocky coast which was home to many varieties shell fish is now exposed.
A mix of sandy beaches trail down to Banks Peninsula which forms the most volcanic feature of the South Island. The two dominant craters formed the Lyttleton and Akaroa harbours.
At the Peninsula is the Pohatu Marine Reserve which is home to over 2000 penguins.
This is a wonderful sea kayaking area and Okains Bay and Le Bons Bay are among New Zealand’s best and safest swimming beaches and camping areas.
Along the Canterbury Bight the coastline runs almost uninterrupted to Timaru.
The shingle beach is composed of material eroded from the Southern Alps over millions of years and carried down to the coast by the braided rivers.
Down the coast past the fascinating enigma of the Moeraki Boulders are the beaches of Dunedin. Although we are a fair way south now these are beautiful sweeping sandy beaches with nothing between them and the Antarctic!
South of Dunedin is the Catlins coastline which is unlike any other on this east coast. It is rugged, forested and very scenic. It has sea cliffs which rise to 200 metres, reefs, rock stacks, sandy beaches, estuaries and coves.
Most dramatically it has the Curio Bay petrified forest which allows a glimpse of a young forest of jurassic-age conifer trees that was vibrant with life 150 million years ago.
Phew! That was a quick trip but perhaps you will get the general idea. Better still, come and find out for yourself…