The Richest Beach in the World
A day of mixed adventure on the beach at Orepuki
Ten minutes drive south of Tuatapere on the Southern Scenic Route (SH99) is McCrackens Rest, a lookout point and rest area on the cliff top overlooking Te Waewae Bay. For those with bikes who wish to mix it up a little, first go another 5 minutes down the road to the Orepuki Beach café and leave your bikes there. If not biking then you need a non-walker to pick you up at the other end or two cars.
Returning to McCrackens rest make your way down onto the beach. You must time this with the tides and begin your walk on an outgoing tide. About 2-3 hours after high tide is preferable but do not begin it on an incoming tide as you may get caught.
Head south (left when looking at the sea) and enjoy the walk along the base of the eroded cliffs over sloping gravel beaches and the detritus of the Southern ocean. Hectors Dolphins can often be seen in the waves, especially in the summer months. Sharp eyes can sometimes detect whales cruising further out. The weather is often windy and the ocean can be very wild so take a parka and some drinking water.
About one and a half to two hours walk will bring you to Gemstone beach where semi-precious stones can be found in abundance depending on beach conditions. Although by now if you have been paying attention you will have your pockets full of them.
Another twenty minutes walk will bring you to an obvious vehicle access ramp which will take you up to the Orepuki Beach Cafe and a well deserved Coffee, lunch, dinner depending on the time of day.
If you wish, a further twenty minutes walk will bring you to Monkey Island. The reason for its name can be found on information panels in the area. The beach from gemstone beach to monkey island can vary from gravel to flat sand but is usually quite sandy. The early whalers noticed the glittering of gold in the sand here and gold mining on the beach is still practised by locals with a rich history of gold mining in the hills behind Orepuki over the last 150 years. On a good day, you can still see and pick up real gold flakes straight off the beach.
The real riches of this beach though are the spectacular views over the bay to Fiordland and the incredible sunsets. Returning to Orepuki pick up your bikes and ride back to your car at McCrackens rest after a sumptuously rich day of scenery, minerals, wildlife and food.
Total round trip 4-5 hours or longer. Half tide to half tide gives you six hours on the beach. Use a combination of Riverton and Port Craig tide times or ask a local.
Shorter options are Gemstone beach to Orepuki Café. Monkey island to Orepuki Café. McCrakens rest to Gemstone beach. Orepuki Café by bike to Monkey Island and back up the beach. There are many options in this area for biking/walking/ beaches so get a map and explore.