© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Kayaking Taranaki Style: Exploring Sugar Loaf Islands

© NZPocketGuide.com

43 Days on the Road

We’ve seen New Plymouth by coast, now it’s time to see it by sea. Peter from Canoe & Kayak Taranaki is going to take us out on the water today to the Sugar Loaf Islands!

The drive to Canoe & Kayak Taranaki’s shop takes about 10 minutes from our hostel, Ducks & Drakes, but maybe a bit longer since Robin wants to stop in the op shops to have a look for more board or video games. He picks up a Cranium card game for $1 and we move on with our day.

Paddle preparation

At Canoe & Kayak Taranaki, Peter is loading up a trail with our kayaks and getting some extra layers for us to wear. It is forecast to have a bit of wind coming in later in the afternoon, plus there is a bit of a swell out on the water. (Laura has taken her seasickness tablets). We have all the right kayaking attire, complete with sealed arms, ankles and neck so that putting everything on feels like a rebirth. Next, we need to follow Peter in the van down to Ngamotu Beach sheltered by Port Taranaki. He gives us a quick recap on sea kayaking, including how to effectively paddle and steer. Again, Robin is steering in the back of the kayak, so he can relax when Laura is not looking.

A quick push off the shore and we are off on the calm port-sheltered waters. We can see the big swell up ahead, though, so this should be interesting! Not before Peter lets a fishing line out to try his luck at catching fish, although he doesn’t hope for much at this quiet time of year.

Seal o’clock

Robin’s excuse not to paddle, well, that becomes void as he is far too uneasy to stop paddling among the rolling swell. We get a nice little rhythm going with our kayak as we chat with Peter. Within 30 minutes we have travelled more than 2km and we are sitting right under Sugar Loaf Island (Moturoa Island). The island is dotted with seals taking a nap on the rocks! Most days in summer, the seals swim right up to the kayaks and curiously swim around tour groups, Peter tells us, but the seals look a bit lazy today.

“Can you see the moa bones up there?” Peter points onto the island. Gullible Laura is looking around until she a lawn “mower”. What a psyche!

A tiny island with a lot of history

The Taranaki region has a rich Maori history, which Peter tells us all about, including how this small but steep island used to have 300 Maori living on it. 300?! That must have been one crowded island, even on the flat section where they had lived, it seems impossible to fit a whole seal colony on there, let alone humans.

The island has also taken a battering from European settlers too when they tried to use the rock of the island for construction. Only a big hole is left in the side of the island where it had been blasted.

To the side of the Sugar Loaf Island is Lions Rock, named because it looks like a Lion lying down, which we paddle through avoiding the waves crashing on either side of us. We must be going super slowly because Peter gets the time to weave in and out of other tiny islands and meet us again before we arrive on the other side of Sugar Loaf Island.

From ocean to mountain

Mt Taranaki and Paritutu Rock cannot be ignored the whole time on this trip. The views are amazing giving you a great perspective from the sea. If you take the tall pine tree skyline and the snowy peak of Taranaki, you would think you are in the European Alps rather than a beach in New Zealand!

Usually on this tour, we would land at Back Beach next to Paritutu Rock, a huge volcanic outcrop which you can climb (and we plan to!) But the waves would be better for surfing that kayaking right now, so we give it a miss and head back along the coast taking in the views.

We’re on the radio!

Now that we have peeled out of our kayaking gear, we thank and say bye to Peter so that we can head back to Ducks & Drakes where we are going with Brett, the hostel’s owner, to record an advert at a local radio station for a pop-up gig happening on June 15 at the hostel! Awesome!

Cruize FM’s base had a 70’s vibe with long rounded sofas and a vintage stereo systems decorating the place. They have a little recording studio where local artists often come to record tracks, but today we’re recording an advert, adding our French and English “flair” to the ad. It’s a lot of fun! Brett has prepared a script to follow, ending the speech with “Boom!”. If the microphone’s were not attached to poles, we would drop the mic right now!

Hanging out at Cruize FM is just an example of how artsy the city of New Plymouth really is! The fact that Ducks & Drakes hosts pop-up gigs, there’s murals painted on many of the building’s walls around the city, we spent time marveling at the Coastal Walkway’s kinetic art, and we have already picked out two museums/art galleries we really want to visit, it’s clear that New Plymouth is more than just a beach-front city with a pretty volcano.

This has been too much excitement and exercise for one day. How about we visit some of those museums tomorrow, more specifically, the renowned Puke Ariki Museum. See you then!

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