Wild coastline never disappoints

Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014
Buller River
Ross Giblin/Fairfax NZ

RUGGED FUN: A whitebaiter checks his net on the Buller River.

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It feels like a beach at the edge of the world.

OPINION: The sand stretches out in a curved sweep until the bay appears to touch the bottom of nikau and fern-covered hills.

Welcome to my favourite place, a slice of coastline from the Mokihinui River, north of Westport, to Tauranga Bay southwest of the town.

Some days a howling nor'west wind will whip up the sea, throwing rain down in great heaves. On others, delighted tourists escape their campervans to watch a disappearing sun cast an orange hue over the Tasman.

Either way, I'm never disappointed.

On this stretch of coastline you can enjoy one of the simplest pleasures - running on the beach, dog chasing, with no-one else in sight. Life's worries fall off with each muted thud of foot hitting sand.

Over nearly four decades I have swum in the sea here, dragged myself onto the banks of the Buller River to fish for whitebait at dawn, played golf on the beach-side course and walked bush-clad coastal tracks.

I grew up making visits to my great aunt and uncle's Carters Beach house, first drinking fizz and then graduating to expertly-chilled lager.

They are gone now, but I can still see them squabbling and laughing at each other's jibes as the sea rolled in just a couple hundred metres away. No-one ever sat on their porch with their backs to the sea.

From their house you could see The Steeples, rocky outcrops off Cape Foulwind that are purpose-made for a pirate ship to emerge from.

Cape Foulwind was named by James Cook after he endeavoured to steer his creaking bark through a lashing storm. But there is nothing foul about the cape. It is a languid place with B and Bs and the Star Tavern, which has wonky floors, a fire burning coal and hundreds of banknotes of varying origin pinned to the ceiling by tourists. Each note represents someone who has come a long way to this remote, special place.

Around the other side of the cape is Tauranga Bay. On one side is the Bayhouse Cafe nestled at the back of the beach, among the flax, with views of the surf. Numerous hours have been spent eating and drinking here, watching surfers grapple with big swells or none.

Growing up, my parents took us to the bay for afternoons to explore the rugged coastline and see the seal colony. They were grand adventures for three young lads. I didn't thank my folks at the time. I do now. I want my son to have many similar adventures on the Coast.

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- The Press


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