February 17 Aramoana Spit (Day 143)

Today our explorations take us up the opposite side of Otago Harbour from yesterday, the mainland side, to the Aramoana Spit, the other side of the harbour entrance from the lighthouse. ‘Aramoana’ in Maori means ‘pathway to the sea’. From the 1880’s the site was used as a pilot station for navigation around the mouth of Otago Harbour and eventually a long sea wall was built out towards the sea to inhibit the spread of tidal sands that would block the harbour mouth.

As we drove along the harbour edge we saw this container ship navigating in towards Port Chalmers, the main port. It looks so close to land! The navigable waterway is narrow and well marked in the wide harbour!

We reached the end of the road in Aramoana, a small beach resort village with no services, but lots of small holiday houses, and parked the car at the end of the ‘mole’ or seawall.

We walked out onto the ‘mole’ amongst the gulls and terns (“The Birds” vibes again!) and occasional sea lions.

This sealion had a view of the lighthouse, the Royal Albatross Centre (the square building at the top of the hill) and the blue penguin beach across the harbour mouth.

From the mole the Aramoana Spit Beach extends north and we ended up driving to a spot to access the north end of the beach to avoid walking the length of the beach in the sun!

A landmark of this beach is the ‘keyhole’ rock formation.

Past the keyhole the beach was covered with small seashells, tons of them!

In some places they were several inches deep!

Our next stop was further north at Long Beach where there are some sea caves. A short walk through a forest and along a cliff face brought us to the beach where there were a few beachgoers and some sealions. We walked along the dunes close to the rockwalls and saw some rock climbers, then heard someone up in the rocks yell a profanity as a sealion barked, apparently upset that the rock climber stumbled upon it resting in the dunes! We found the sea caves and did a little exploring.

The first cave looks almost fake, like a set from an Indiana Jones movie, the rocks looking like hewn boulders carefully fitted together like something from Machu Picchu.

The much larger ‘Ballroom Cave” extended further back into the darkness, but we had no flashlights. The little blue penguins also use this beach to haul out of the water at sundown, and even nest and rear young in the back recesses of the caves. We saw lots of bird footprints in the sand and assume they are of penguins leaving and returning to their nest sites!

We finished our day of exploration with a walk in the surf as we watched a cruise ship out at sea turning to make a run into the harbour.

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