We are at Cape Brett today, a few kilometres north east of Russell, in the Bay of Islands region in the North Island of New Zealand. It is definitely one of the most remote places we have visited to date.
Russell was an important township early in the colonisation period. It was a melting pot of European, Russian and Americans, a trading port important for commerce,whaling and military & naval power. It was reputed for its lawlessness, drunkenness and its adult entertainment industry. Local Maori weren’t too impressed either by all accounts, raiding the place on more than one occasion.
Cape Brett lighthouse came about in 1909 after concerns that there were no lighthouses between of the top of the North island and south to Auckland. Originally, the only way in was by boat, either at the foot of the cliffs, or further round the coast at Deep Cove bay, about 2 1/2 hours walk from the settlement. But eventually a track was established from the nearest Maori settlement at Rawhiti, Kiangahoa Bay. This enabled supplies and people to travel overland, unrestricted by any tides or storm surges.
From Rawhiti to Deep Cove is private land and maintained by the local Iwi, and then from Deep Cove to Cape Brett is part of a National Park. One of the original lightkeeper family houses has been retained and converted to a 23 bed hut by DOC for overnight stays.
The track itself is approximately 16kms to the lighthouse. And all the literature says it takes between 6 – 12 hours to traverse, depending on weather conditions, personal fitness and sightseeing etc. The average time is 8 hours for walking and if you want to run there and back, the fastest times are all under 5 hours! There’s even an annual Cape Brett Challenge. Having done some tramping, we were intrigued as to how 16kms could take so much time.
We found out pretty soon. It’s an undulating track. Up and down, up and down again, up and… we’re sure you get the picture. But the scenery and views are well worth it. Shortly after leaving Rawhiti, the views just keep getting better and better of the Bay of Islands…
We managed to get past the Deep Cove junction before sunset and made our way along the last couple of km’s. Sunset was , well you can see for yourself…
By the time we reached the lighthouse and the hostel, it was night and dark. We traversed over the last saddle using our torches. And there are no photographs because we were to busy concentrating on the cliff edge pathway to take any.
The next day was sunshine, with blue sky and little wind. If you have seen other photographs on this blog, you’re probably under the impression that New Zealand only has blue skies!
Cape Brett lighthouse stands 149 metres above the sea, right on the edge of a spectacularly sloping grassy cliff. The remoteness is tangible, given the effort to get here. So quiet and only seals and seabirds for company, once the tourist boats have stopped their sightseeing tours and gone for the day. (We saw 2 during our stay.) Apparently, storms are common here, and are tremendously powerful. The DOC has records of storm waves thundering over the houses!
And as we sat on the helicopter landing pad*, Neil asked Sharlene if she would marry him, to which she replied “Yes…”.
And Cape Brett is on the shortlist of wedding venues.
*Helicopter landing pad? Well, Sharlene is a pilot…
And we took the boat home… 🙂