The expansive sandbar of Farewell Spit is a unique geographic feature in NZ extending out from the tip of the South Island into the Tasman Sea for 35kms. With huge sand dunes, a gannet colony, pearly white sands, fossils and a historic lighthouse, this is a popular destination.
The action of the tide combined with vicious winds, mould and reshape the giant sand dunes and sculpture the landscape creating weird ever-changing designs in the sands. Onetahu, the Maori name for the Spit means "heaped up sands" and it's these sand dunes that provide protection for the shore birds.
At low tide the shallow sand flats stretch out for approx 10 kms, attracting seabirds and migrating birds including wading birds, spoonbills and godwits. A wetland of international importance with more than 90 species of birds, this area was declared a sanctuary in 1930 and attracts world-wide interest. In spring, thousands of wading birds arrive from the northern hemisphere, while thousands of gannet nest here, the only sea-level gannet colony in New Zealand.
The lighthouse built in 1869 is the second highest in the country at 27 metres high, and with a steel lattice construction is the only one of it's kind in New Zealand.
Access to the first 4 kilometres at the base of the Spit on the ocean side, and 2.5km on the inward side, is open to the public, but only on foot; no public vehicle access is permitted. To venture further you must book a trip with an authorised tour operator.
Farewell Spit Eco Tours operate most days, with times determined by the tides. We went on the 6½ hour tour, their most popular trip, departing from Collingwood and stopping at Cape Farewell the most northern point in the South Island.
For further information on Farewell Spit tours click HERE: