Farewell Spit

Guide image

Gannet colony. Photo: Nelson Tasman Tourism

Curving into Cook Strait like a Haast eagle’s talon, Farewell Spit is home to over 90 species of native and migratory birds, who wander among shifting dunes and indigenous grasses. Join an off-road tour of Farewell Spit with an approved eco-guide, or enter this fragile ecosystem on foot.

Farewell Spit is a site of international ecological importance. In fact it’s so special that it’s number 1 on New Zealand’s list of locations proposed to be developed for nomination as world heritage sites.

Known by Maori as Onetahua, meaning ‘heaped up sand’, Farewell Spit Nature Reserve is a bird sanctuary and wetland with incredible rolling sand dunes. Around 35km long, public access is restricted to the first 4km. Farewell Spit is more strictly protected than a National Park, with vehicle access granted only to supervised tours. You can take a walking track to Pillar Point Lighthouse.  At Wharariki Beach there are caves, arches and islands, where seals breed.

If you don’t feel like walking, mountain biking is allowed from Wharariki Road to Pillar Point Lighthouse, and also on the Wharariki Farm Park track, or visitors can go horse riding with Cape Farewell Horse Treks.

Where to stay

Golden Bay

What to do

  • Take an off-road tour with an eco operator
  • Count the many species of native and migratory birds nesting here
  • Mountain bike to Pillar Point Lighthouse

More info


Subscribe to Travel Ideas


Getting there

  • From Nelson by road: 135km
Piwa perched