Farewell Spit tours
Farewell Spit Nature Reserve is a bird sanctuary and wetland of international importance, being more strictly protected than a national park.
Farewell Spit is around 35km long and public access is restricted to the first 4km. Through sharing the experience of visiting Farewell Spit we can help to raise public awareness of this extraordinary ecosystem, so vital for the migratory birds. Come to this special place, where you can view the historic lighthouse and explore its intriguing reserve. The Farewell Spit Tour, our most popular, departs from Collingwood and visits Cape Farewell (the South Island’s most northern point) and Fossil Point, and also includes our Lighthouse tour.
Group Size : Minimum 2 people.
Duration : 6.5 hours ( Farewell and Gannet colony ) and 2 hours ( Water Watch).
Departure Location : 6 Tasman Street, Collingwood.
Departure Time : Departure times for all tours vary each day according to the time of the tide.
Departure dates : All year (Closed Christmas Day and ANZAC Day (25 April).
Category : Sightseeing.
Farewell Spit tour
Most people choose our signature Farewell Spit Tour which, as well as exploring the spit, stops in Puponga and at the most northern point on the South island, Cape Farewell. From the cliff tops, seals and their pups can be seen all year basking on the rocks below. Cape Farewell is the northernmost point of the South Island and the cliff-top views are spectacular. These dramatic coastal cliffs are sliced through with fault-lines (vertically walled slashes) where streams strangely run inland rather than to sea. The next stop is Fossil Point, at the base of the Spit, a popular hauling out place for NZ fur seals. Fossilised shells and wormcasts emerge from blocks of mudstone at the base of the cliffs and sea life abounds in rock pools nearby. Thirty kms along the ocean beach we stop at the Lighthouse reserve, where we pause for 45 minutes to check out the lighthouse and pouwhenua, and discover the connection between the local Iwi and Onetahua (Farewell Spit). There we also enjoy refreshments in our lighthouse keepers' cottage and soak up some local history. Returning from the lighthouse, you will climb a sand dune at Mullet Channel for panoramic views of the ocean beach. It's a spectacular sight, gazing over the dunes along the centre of the spit and out to the inter-tidal plain where the migrant waders from the arctic circle feed during our NZ spring, summer and autumn. The wind-blown sand creates beautiful designs along the dunes, their colours changing as the sun rises or sets, depending on the time of day. During the summer there are up to 20,000 godwits and 30,000 knots at the Spit, as well as other northern migratory birds, New Zealand natives and introduced species. Bring cameras and binoculars to make the most of this nature-lover's paradise.
There are around 9000 birds here each year and we are able to visit between September and April. The Gannet Colony is two kms beyond the Lighthouse. It's a 20 minute walk across the flat sand on the spit's end to view the colony. You may get your feet wet here, as we stop to observe the gannets for 15 minutes. It is often a two way process - the gannets are very inquisitive and will fly low over us to get a better view. Then you will take the bus back to the lighthouse keepers' cottage for refreshments. While there you can explore the reserve and soak up the serenity.The last stop is to climb one of the huge dunes for a look into Golden Bay and beyond. The Gannet Colony Tour is limited to 20 people per day so it is important to book in advance. Gannets usually choose rocky outcrops as breeding and nesting sites, but the Farewell Spit colony is the only one in New Zealand that is right at sea level, affording excellent views of the parent birds caring for their young. We have the only license granted by the Department of Conservation to visit this colony, which is New Zealand's newest.
The focus of this tour is on the migrant waders and we run this tour between September and April. We travel to Farewell Spit as the tide is rising and spend time near the base of the Spit, observing the birds flying in to roost as the tide chases them across the inter-tidal plain. The opportunity for this tour only arises about one third of the time and we are restricted to a maximum of 4 people per trip. The tidal range at Farewell Spit is huge - at low tide over 9 kms of sandflats sweep out to the clear blue waters of Golden Bay. This is where the migratory arctic waders come to feed and you will be able to see many of them, though the number of species observed on some trips depends on tides, weather conditions and the time of year. Over the years we have studied the best times to see the bird life; the godwits, knots, turnstones and other arctic waders are usually on the Spit from late September until early April.
Camera, jacket, binoculars, sunhat, sunscreen and water.
Farewell Spit tour :
Gannnet Tour :
Wader Watch :