Whangaimoana and the Putangirua Pinnacles, in the far south-east of New Zealand’s North Island, make a marvellous day out from Wellington.
On the way there are a couple of small attractions: the Burnside Chapel, which looks like it arrived on wheels and has a fantastic metal chimney for a spire; and the Land Girl Cafe, a very welcome stop with lovely cheerful staff, some very nice gifts and great coffee.
Then’s it’s on to Whanaimoana, where there’s almost nothing (about 6 houses) but the views of the sea take your breath away:
What we’ve really come for, though, are the Putangirua Pinnacles. These are a natural wonder which anywhere else in the world would be thronged with tourists and burger stands – but in New Zealand there’s about one visitor every half an hour. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings made the place famous, but now the excitement has worn off there don’t seem to be many extra tourists.
The idea is that this soft erodable land has been exposed for about 70,000 years and is being weathered down by the rain. This is not unusual in New Zealand, but the scale of it here is pretty impressive when you notice the trees on the top.
At the bottom you can wander freely among the pinnacles (no Kiwi would dream of defacing them or knocking them about) and you get a further impression of their size and awesomeness.