Sunday 3 July 2022
A perfect day for a walk by the seaside: fine, sunny, blue skies, cool with a light north-westerly breeze.
Nine trampers drove the 65 kms from Oamaru to the end of Anderson Road, off the Goodwood Road
east of Palmerston. Shortly after 9 o’clock we set off walking along the track through a replanted area
beside Andersons Lagoon. The lagoon itself was fairly high but the track remained dry.
After about half a km the track reached Stony Creek beach and we turned north, past the closed mouth
of the lagoon to the steel ladder which climbed up the cliff. It was about half tide, which meant that the
beach route would be impassable, so we climbed the ladder and the following zig-zag steps up to reach the
esplanade walking track which undulated along the clifftops for some two kms, crossing several small
streams on the way. In several places, patches of New Zealand spinach appeared and were sampled.
Eventually the track turned down an awkward bank where a fixed rope provided some support as we
dropped down to the beach. It was now 10.20 so we settled down for a leisurely morning tea in the
bright sunshine under the cliff. After half an hour or so, we packed up again and headed up the sandy
beach which would take us to our end point at the mouth of the Waihemo-Shag River. On the way we
were entertained by wildlife. There were rows of spotted shags nesting on rocky ledges like tenements
in an old European city. Some nests had two occupants but most had one; all were resplendent in their
breeding plumage with double crests and blue eye patches.
Further along, we came across half a dozen basking sea lions but none seemed energetic enough to
threaten our progress. A myriad of tracks across the sand suggested that many more were either secluded
in the sand dunes or had gone out to sea.
At a quarter to twelve, we reached the end of the beach and settled down on the Shag Estuary side of
the sand dunes for lunch in the sunshine and to take in the full view up the river with the snowy Rock
and Pillar Range just poking above the intervening hills. Half an hour later we packed up and wandered
over to the river mouth.
The river had a steady flow, which would have made crossing tricky. Then we saw a large bull sea lion
emerge from the surf and heave his way up on to the beach on the other side.
At the same time, another, smaller, sea lion could be seen splashing its way down the river from the
estuary. It, too, clambered out of the water and up on to the north-side beach. There the two sea lions
got together and demonstrated why the river and headland may not have been named after birds.
Not to seem too voyeuristic, we turned around and started the homeward leg back down the beach.
We got to the cove where we had come down from the high track. The intention had been to go back
along at beach level as far as possible but it soon became clear that, although it was only one hour after
low tide, the combination of a relatively high low tide and strong waves from the south-east made the
headlands impassable. So we all clambered up the awkward bank and walked back along the ups and
downs of the clifftop track until the steel ladder took us down again to the beach at Stony Creek. A short
walk along the beach and up the side of the lagoon took us back to the cars at 2.15. The combination of
sunshine, seascape, cliffs, beach and wildlife had made for an interesting day which was enjoyed by
Phyllis, Maurice, Lynette, Julian, Jenny, Emily, Robbie, Uwe and John.