Seals, seaviews, and the spiffiest lighthouse in the country - you'll find them all at Cape Palliser. This is as far south as you can get in the North Island, and it's worth coming just for the drive: cliffs on one side and sweeping black sand beaches on the other.
A grand old lady of a lighthouse
The cast iron Cape Palliser lighthouse has stood on the cliffs here since 1897 - and she's still shining strong. Climb the 253 steps (whew) to see her up close. The view at the top is a beaut - and you'll probably get a refreshing breeze with your summit drink or snack. Spare a thought for the early lighthousekeepers who had to haul oil and kerosene cans up a dirt track before the steps went in.
Seals - stinky but irresistible
The cape is home to the North Island's largest fur seal colony. Take time to watch them swimming and lolling on the rocks. If you're here November to January you're likely to spot some pups. Oh, and something else that's stinky and irresistible in the Wairarapa is our local award-winning cheese. Pick some up from Ingredient deli in Martinborough, on the way out and give the seals a run for their money!
Rich Maori heritage
This part of New Zealand has a rich history of early Maori occupation. Archaeologists believe Maori settled here in the 1300s. Look out for the huge triangular slab of rock above the road just before the lighthouse. It's Kupe's Sail - one of the best-known landmarks linked to a Maori legend.
Other Cape Palliser highlights
- Aorangi Forest Park - rugged tramping, camping, and even a cottage to rent
- Ngawi - a fishing village with raw coastal charm
- Hammonds Cape Palliser Tour
- Putangirua Pinnacles
- To the Coast with the Post
- Kawakawa Station walk
- Lake Ferry Hotel - country hospitality and fab fish & chipsl
The Putangirua Pinnacles walking tracks are exceptional for their unique badlands rock formations making for an eerie walk up in among towering rock pinnacles. For some rugged tramping nearby, head to the Aorangi (Haurangi) Forest Park. Better catered for walking can be had at the historic Kawakawa Station Walk.
The fishing village of Ngawi has the highest number of tractors per capita in the world. They're used to launch fishing boats into Palliser Bay. There is also the tiny Ngawi golf course spread over both sides of the road.
Finally, no trip to Cape Palliser is complete without popping in to nearby Lake Ferry. Overlooking Lake Onoke, there’s plenty of exploring and birdwatching to be enjoyed. The wild coastline is brilliant for fishing. You'll find a regular crowd with their fishing lines in the water. But if your luck's running low, head to the Lake Ferry Hotel for some fish and chips and great views across Palliser Bay from the southern most pub in the North Island.
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