Cape Palliser NZ

Road trip holiday part 2 – Cape Palliser

The next part of our holiday adventure is Cape Palliser. I’ve been excited to write about this because it’s one of my favourite parts of our whole trip.

I touched on this in Part 1 of our holiday road trip post but we really had the best day exploring this area. There is so much to do and see here.

Cape Palliser is the southernmost point of the North Island. It’s only an hour from Martinborough so you can easily take a day trip out here.

We took a little detour and stopped by Lake Ferry on the way. Lake Ferry is a small coastal settlement by Palliser Bay. There’s Lake Ōnoke, the ocean then also Okorewa lagoon.

The landscape here is quite interesting. The beach was also full of driftwood

After Lake Ferry, our next destination was Putangirua Pinnacles. This was in the list of places we really wanted to check out.

This geological formation is such a sight to see. It’s an example of badlands erosion and they are approximately 125,000 years old. These earth pillars / rock formations are so cool and you need to come here to see the scale of this cool landscape.

If this looks familiar to you, you may have seen it in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Apparently this the Dimholt Road or Paths to the Dead backdrop for the movie.

To get here, you park in the Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve carpark and walk 45mins through the streambed.

The walk through the streambed has no shade so if it’s a sunny day, definitely wear a hat and sunscreen. It was a hot day when we walked but the view was well worth it. We said a few times that it doesn’t look like we’re in NZ. The landscape is different.

After Putangirua Pinnacles, we made our way to Cape Palliser lighthouse.

Going up to the lighthouse needs warning as there are about 250 steps to get up there. It will increase your heart rate. We’ve just done a 90min walk in Putangirua Pinnacles so our legs already had a workout. Getting up there was a bit challenging.

The view up the top was amazing though!

Cape Palliser lighthouse was installed in 1897 and is around 78m above sea level. The lighthouse isn’t too tall at 18m high. It is quite windy up there though so keep that in mind. Your hat will be blown away.


Putangirua Pinnacles and the lighthouse were spots that we really wanted to check out but we were also hoping to find seals. Cape Palliser is known to have North Island’s largest fur seal colony so we were on the lookout for them.

Max ended up stopping to look at the view and unknowingly at the time, we actually stopped at the sealion viewpoint. You can still see the lighthouse in the background so we weren’t too far from it:

This spot ended being the perfect fur seal viewing spot. We walked further towards a cove and found so many fur seals. It was AMAZING.

We perched up on a rock and just enjoyed this view. Our photos don’t show how many fur seals there were. They were everywhere. On the rocks, by the shallow end and also further away deeper in the water. It was an incredible sight to see.

I think we sat here for half an hour just watching the fur seals. The baby fur seals were so cute! They make such weird noises as well. It was such an amazing experience and this was one of my highlights of our trip.

You can also stop by Ngāwī, the little town within Cape Palliser. Apparently, it has the most bulldozers / per capita than anywhere else. They use them to haul fishing boats.

Driving along Cape Palliser road is also pretty cool. The landscape changes quite a bit and you can amazing views of the southern coast of the North Island.

If you’re ever in the south Wairarapa region, please check out Cape Palliser. It is a beautiful place and you can watch the baby fur seals! If I can go back and relive just one day from our road trip, I would choose this day. I’ll sit by the rocks and watch the fur seals again because that was such a cool experience.

We loved this area so much that we took the most selfies we’ve ever taken together. This must be a record for one day as we tend to forget. Haha

I’ll end this post here but I still have at least two more posts about our road trip. Up next is Castlepoint and our drive up to Hawkes Bay. Castlepoint is another cool place to check out. We are so lucky here in New Zealand!

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