This outstanding spot was named by Captain James Cook after local Māori tried to kidnap the servant of his Tahitian interpreter. It’s believed to be the only mainland gannet sanctuary in existence. Gannets—large white seabirds with black-tipped flight feathers, a golden crown, and a wingspan that can reach 6 feet—generally nest only on remote islands. But between October and April, thousands of them build their nests here, hatch their young, and prepare them for their long migratory flight. Watching them dive for their dinner is particularly impressive; when the birds find a shoal of fish, they fold their wings and plunge straight into the sea at tremendous speed.
You can walk to the sanctuary along the beach from Clifton, a community located about 24 km (15 miles) south of Napier—but not at high tide. The 8-km (5-mile) walk must begin no earlier than three hours after the high-tide mark, and the return journey must begin no later than four hours before the next high tide. Tidal information is available at area i-SITE Visitor Information Centres. A rest hut with refreshments is near the colony.