Like other tramping destinations you can only reach at low tide, there's a shroud of mystery around the Tutukaka Lighthouse in Northland, New Zealand. Half the time, Tutukaka Lighthouse on Kukutauwhao Island is in complete isolation. The sea acts like a castle moat, but there is no drawbridge. As the tide goes out, you'll need to time your visit just right to safely discover the secrets at the bottom of the sea along the way and continue onto Kukutauwhao Island to see the lighthouse itself.
It's short walk, jam-packed with interest and beauty. The terrain starts with a dirt and gravel track with steps leading down to the rocks. As you meander along the rocks, you can spot sea life in the tidal pools. When you reach Kukutauwhao Island, it's up the dirt track surrounded by native bush until you come to the clearing with a view to Poor Knights Islands and beyond.
Do you want to know the secret? The lighthouse is pretty anti-climatic. It's a small solar powered beacon. The real surprise is the view. If that's your thing.
It can get bit a boring around here with me always ranting and raving about how stunning New Zealand is. We did this walk with a large group of family visiting from overseas, many of whom would not choose to walk for fun. As each of the wouldn't-be trampers reached the top, we clapped and cheered. But no amount of encouragement can change someone into a nature lover. As one of my cousins said, "Look at that coastline. It's beautiful... just the same as all the other scenery in New Zealand. You've seen one hill, you've seen them all."
Thus, this blog and this post in particular comes with a warning: Prepare to be underwhelmed by another of New Zealand's gorgeous vistas.
Kukutauwhao Island Track, Tutukaka Lighthouse, Tutukaka, New Zealand
Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Moderate. Stairs and uneven terrain.
Buggies: No. Baby carrier backpack would do.
Barefoot: There are small stones on part of the track, so plan for some barefoot action and bring your shoes.
Set out 1 hour each side of low tide. It can be dangerous to cross in high tide or rough seas.
Try Motuopuhi Island (aka Rat Island or Dinosaur Island) in Tauranga for another superb low-tide only track.