New Zealand

    Castles in the Sand

    May 21, 2020Carl Rapson

    6 min read

    There are certain places that seem to become indelibly printed in your mind when you first see them in a photograph. Landscapes so awe-inspiring and magical that they cannot be forgotten. Castlepoint in the Wairarapa is that sort of place, an almost fortress like rock formation stretching for a kilometre along the rugged coastline. Once we’d seen pictures of it in a magazine, we just had to go there.


    Castlepoint and Castle Rock

    It's about an hour’s drive from Masterton (the nearest town) out to the coast, and the road meanders through some beautiful countryside, with awesome views over the rolling hills. As soon as we arrived, we parked in the top car park which would be our home for the night, as we could freedom camp there (4 nights per calendar month). It was a bit tight as we are a little long for the parking spaces, but we managed to squeeze into an end spot. It helped in some ways that the carpark was half engulfed in sand so no one could see if we were over the lines ☺

    Castlepoint and Castle Rock were named by Captain Cook, who thought that the kilometre long reef looked like the ramparts of a castle. You can definitely see where he was coming from, unlike some other places he’s named where you really need to use your imagination.

    The views as you head around the track to Castle Rock are stunning

    After getting set up we couldn’t wait to explore, so we set off on the track to Castle Rock. The walk out around the headland is just stunning, with a different, breath-taking view with every step that you take. It’s actually quite an easy walk too, as the track is in good condition and rises slowly until it reaches Castle Rock.

    This walk has to be in the top 5 walks that we’ve ever done, it’s that good. It’s so amazing that we did it again the next day as the batteries on our gimbal, which we use to steady the footage on our GoPro, ran out the first time.

    Truly breathtaking

    Once we reached Castle Rock, we paused for a moment to take in the magnificent views back along the coast to lighthouse, which are truly stunning. From the base of the rock, the track winds down to the shoreline, and then along the beach to the car park and lighthouse.

    We’d seen a seal on the beach when we were at the top of the track, but unfortunately he headed off to catch some fish before we got down so we never got to say hello.

    This has to be in the Top 5 of walks that we’ve ever done

    It’s a lovely stroll back along the beach, with the ever-present lighthouse in the distance getting slowly bigger as we approached. It may pay to check the tides though if you are walking the beach, as the tide mark seemed quite high.

    On the way back we passed the fishing boats parked up on the beach, and the fabulous home-made tractors and trailers that they use to launch the boats off of the beach and into the often tumultuous seas. The tractors are really cool and look like they’ve come straight out of a Mad Max movie.

    The fishing boats glow as night falls across the sands

    The Lighthouse

    The following day was another beauty so we headed up to the lighthouse, passing a few sleeping seals on the way. There’s 360 degree views from the top and the view back down towards Castle Rock is nothing short of spectacular.

    Castle Point Lighthouse

    Stunning views back from the lighthouse to Castle Rock in the distance

    From the top of the track, you can either walk back down the main path, or take the walkway which continues down from the lookout to the rock shelf below. You can then follow this right round and past the lighthouse. We chose to come back this way and it’s well worth it for some alternative views of the rocks and the lighthouse.

    Castlepoint Lighthouse

    Take the back path down from the lighthouse for stunning alternative vistas

    The Shaky Isles

    We spent our second night free camping in the car park and grabbed some fish and chips (and a vege burger for Justine) from the local chippy, which was a bit of a treat for us as we tend to avoid eating out to keep our costs down. Around 6:30 the whole motorhome shook for a couple of seconds. It felt like someone had climbed up the ladder on the back so I went out to investigate, but there was no one there. It turned out that there was an 4.9 earthquake, centered just up the coast from us. They don’t call NZ the shaky isles for nothing!

    Freedom camping in the Castle Point car park – Not a bad spot for a night or two

    Castlepoint Holiday Park

    The following morning we rather reluctantly headed off to the Castlepoint Holiday Park. There were gale force winds forecast and we were quite exposed up in the top car park. We tend to avoid staying at campgrounds unless we really need to charge our batteries, as we prefer to free camp and keep our costs down. A must when you live full time on the road.

    Parked up at the Castle Point Holiday Park

    It was a really nice campground though, right on the beach front with heaps of space, good facilities and great people running it. Unfortunately, the only hard stand available was right on the sea front, which we weren’t keen on due to the wind, but there wasn’t much choice as we’d get stuck if we went on the wet grass.

    We survived a wild night getting battered by the wind, and apparently that was nothing as the winds often reach 170kph out this way! It didn’t put us off though and we’ll definitely be heading back out this way again soon as it really is an incredible place to spend a few days.

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