Wharariki Beach is spectacular in that wild, west coast New Zealand way.
The approach is through grassed-over sandhills that built up over thousands of years aided and abetted by the lower sea levels of the last ice age that exposed huge swathes of brilliant white sands.
The prevailing westerlies bend the manuka scrub into fantastic shapes. Nearer the beach damp hollows behind the active dunes were full of difficult-to-spot bird life. On the walk out just by the car park we ran into a group of Californian Quail who made of at great speed in a stuttering upright walk, their little head pendants fluttering.
The beach rock formations are huge and imposing and the beach is wide and exposed to the full force of the Tasman Sea. Some protection is afforded by the Archway Islands and these are a favourite breeding ground for New Zealand Fur Seals.
We hit the beach at the perfect time for seal-pup-watching purely by chance. With the waning sun bouncing off the sand and crisp clear waves we stood entranced for half an hour watching the pups cavort, swim effortlessly up to the watchers and run on their little flippers into the oncoming waves. Their mums watched placidly from the haul-out rocks. For more photos go to New Zealand Fur Seals.
It was idyllic but the tide began to flow and the safe rockpool refuge was soon flooded with powerful eddies and currents. The walk back in the piercing light up and over the dunes was more tiring than it should have been and the drive back to Pohara was laced with anxiety as we raced to catch the stores in Collingwood before they closed.