The Mangawhai Cliffs Timewarp Adventuriety

Scott and I have been married a few years.  We went to Australia and New Zealand on our honeymoon and overheard a couple at one of the places we stayed talking about how they couldn’t believe that they were already celebrating their 10th Anniversary by returning to the place that they had honeymooned.  We thought that sounded like a good idea and now all of the sudden it’s been over seventeen years (so we overshot the mark and the kids are with us but…) and here we are in New Zealand with our kids seemingly almost grown up.  It doesn’t seem like it’s been almost twenty years.   IMG_8114

We are spending the bulk of our time in New Zealand for this trip and began by flying into Auckland and staying our first night in a little, but beautiful town about thirty minutes north of the city called Orewa.  It was decorated with American flags to greet us and when we asked we learned that they were for a “Hot Rod”car show.


After four months of foreign language New Zealand seems relaxing except for Scott who has the added challenge of driving on the opposite side of the road.  We stopped for  “take-away” breakfast pies on our first official morning in New Zealand.


We actually had a reason for staying in this little town.  One of our fondest memories from our first trip to New Zealand was a hike that we took along some cliffs just north of Auckland.  We remember staying in a tiny town, pulling in after dark to a bed and breakfast, and the owner calling the only restaurant in town to open up and feed us something.  The next day we went on the cliff walk and scrambled down (dangling by vines and roots) onto a beach that was covered in shells.  We took six of the shells home and still have them.  We’ve told the kids the story of the beach where you couldn’t make a move without stepping on shells many times and we wanted to take them there, but we didn’t remember where it was or what it was called.


This seagull guarded us from all of the other seagulls that wanted a crumb as we ate our breakfast pies. He was very serious about his job and we tried to reward him well.  Sadly, we realized that the reason he was so aggressive was because he was very slow on the crumb grab.  Poor fellow.


The beach in Orewa where I obtained the stupidest (and yes, that is the perfect word) sunburn ever (and no, there will not be a picture).  I’m already over people commenting on my one calf sunburn.  How do you crisp one calf?  Everyone got sunburned by the way, just not quite the way I did.


It was a nice beach…


…even in the rain…so back to the reason we stayed in Orewa.  Scott is a map guy and good researcher and he’s very patient.  He spent hours looking at maps of the North Island of New Zealand trying to ascertain where the hike might be located.  He knew it was south of Paihia and that was about it.  He researched the types of shells we had and what beaches they could be found on.  I drug out a box of “honeymoon mementos” and a bit embarrassing here (pack rat tendencies) but oh so important, was a credit card statement with a Pizza Hut charge from a town near where Scott thought the beach could be.  We then moved on to pictures of the hike that we had taken and he compared them to Google Maps and I could not believe it…found the hike.  The Mangawhai Walkway…my little researcher.  He did have a great pack-rat assistant.


It was raining and the wind was blowing when we started walking down the beach.  Maybe in the beginning of our adventure year I would have balked at a cold, wet hike but now cold and rain and a sign that actually promises “WALKWAY” doesn’t sound that bad.  More importantly, it was our iconic hike and I wasn’t going to miss it for a little rain and wind.


It wasn’t crowed.


And it was so peaceful.


Over seventeen years later…


We found the shells,


a Sea Sponge,


and something else that must have been interesting.

IMG_8164 The beach was rocky…


…but this trip I came prepared with my hiking sticks.  Scott gave these to me years ago and I have been fighting them for just as long and all of the sudden, hiking in Spain, I decided that I really wanted to use my hiking sticks.  So, now I will use my hiking sticks.  I think that is one of the qualities that Scott loves so much about me!


The kids noticed these cool “Finding Nemo” Sea Stars.


We posed for a picture.


Grant was our photographer.


The weather was crazy on this hike.  It would down pour until we looked like we had stepped out of the shower and then the wind would blow so hard that we would almost dry out and then the sun would shine for a few minutes.  This happened in a continuous cycle.


This is right after getting drenched the third time.


The end of the beach walk or scramble.


These steps to the cliff part of the walk were either not yet built when Scott and I visited or we never found them.


Ashley built this cairn.


We climbed about 150 steps to get the cliff walk and this is the view.


I love this picture.  Scott and I traversed that section of rocky shore at high tide after scrambling down a steep cliff the first time we were here.  I had absolutely no skills for this type of thing at the time and I was scared to death. Seventeen years later, it’s still the same.  He still wants to bushwhack at high tide and I am still usually scared to death, but at least I can appreciate the value (always after the fact), I have a few more skills and more faith that he can actually get us back to the car.

IMG_8197 Scott and I were fairly certain that we scrambled down a steep hillside that looked just like this to get to the beach years ago.


At the end of the cliff walkway we descended just as many steps going down as we did up, along with the flowing water from all of the rain, and we walked back toward the shells.  We never found the area covered in the large shells that we remembered, but we did find them here and there.  Maybe there was a storm or tide that had brought all of the big ones to shore or maybe it’s one of those sad signs of the times. There were still more shells on the beach than the kids had ever seen and lots of sea life to admire.


We went back to that Pizza Hut too (remember the receipt we found?) after the hike and although we don’t remember it being an “Express Pizza Hut” it was still a good way (and warm way) to end a great day.

Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway


  1. I like this one babe.

  2. What gorgeous pictures of land and sea and loved ones! I would have a difficult leaving all those shells behind! Judging from the photos, it seemed you were totally alone in a beautiful paradise! You could easily rename this area the Thorshov Treasure Trove-

  3. What a lovely story and so special that you revisited your honeymoon beach. Did you know that Lauren & Susan Brown and Vance & Ginny Rogers are in New Zealand? Are you FaceBook friend? Lauren has been posting photos and they have taken hikes in some spectacular locations.

  4. Happy anniversary.. belated, I’m sure… I so enjoy your adventures…. Hi to all the world travelers.

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