We love to break the journey up from Franz Josef to Wanaka by stopping along the way for short and very rewarding walks to stretch the legs. We are excited to share with you two of our favourites Ship Creek and Munro Beach. Here we will talk about the penguins you may see there if you're lucky!
Ship Creek Walk - West Coast, New Zealand
This is a lovely walk, passing by dunes and windswept trees with the pounding, rolling waves in the background. From the viewing platform there are expansive coastal views all the way to Jackson Head, overlooking a dune lake with reflections on a good day. You may ask 'what is a dune lake?' It is a freshwater lake formed by sand blowing over the dunes, creating hollows which fill with water.
Ship creek is coloured by tannin and humic acids with the nutrient-rich water enhancing the surrounding soil. As a result, Kahikatea (white pine), cabbage trees, flax and kowhai grow well. Whitebait, eels and a variety of birdlife can also be found here, including kingfishers, bellbirds, tui, fantails, gray warblers, kea and kaka.
The interpretation panels make excellent reading so it is worth lingering awhile. Most interesting for me is the social history as I read about and appreciated the multitude of difficulties that faced the early settlers and explorers.
Munro Beach Walk
Monro Beach Walk is a highlight of any trip to New Zealand. It is a gorgeous place to explore on your way to or from Franz Josef heading to Wanaka. It takes about 1.5 hours round trip and the hike is mostly flat. The path is well maintained and it winds through pristine rainforest with morning bird song. Seeing the crashing waves on the beach is a special experience. It is a really enjoyable place to explore though TripAdvisor is full of complaints of people finding the sandflies a bit overpowering!
At Monro Beach, there are sometimes Fiordland Crested penguins to be seen. However, you have to be there at the right time of the day and only in the nesting season. What a great way to way to break up the long drive.
New Zealand Penguin - Fiordland Crested Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus)
Watching Tawaki (Fiordland Crested penguin) is an unforgettable, very special wildlife experience. Tawaki are special! They are the only penguin in the world to breed in a temperate rainforest. During the July to December breeding season, they are most easily seen along the Lake Moeraki coastline about a two-hour drive south of Franz Josef. At other times, they are at sea, fishing and sleeping at sea whilst floating in the water because their fat makes them very buoyant.
Tawaki nests are found in caves, rock crevasses, under tree roots, logs and thick vegetation. This, combined with the fact that most of the areas they inhabit are very difficult to reach, explains why we still know very few details about the species. Tawaki make their way through the crashing waves and rugged Tasman coastlines to their rainforest nests.
They are 60cm tall and weigh about 4kg. The main threats to tawaki are domestic dogs, introduced stoats (weasel family) and disturbance. Their total population is approximately three thousand pai
Learn more about this remarkable penguin www.tawaki-project.org/homepage/
The Tiaki Promise
It is easy to mistake New Zealand as a tiny country where it is possible to zip about quickly. We know that trying to fit too much in to a short visit is an easy trap. There are tempting signs pointing to amazing looking places that are clearly marked on maps, but may require travel on gravel roads. These are slower to drive along, prone to washouts after heavy rain, and demand considerably more care and attention from the driver. At times, our guests arrive here at Ribbonwood accommodation, feeling tired and overwhelmed after far too long a day on the road. The answer we have come to our guests and for ourselves is to 'see less, better. '
Keen on the outdoors, we often hike around our local area so we can pass on all our knowledge about Westland Tai Poutini National Park.