The Area

Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauwae-a-Māui is situated at the eastern tip of the province of Hawke’s Bay – famous for its Mediterranean-like climate of long hot summers and mild sunny winters, outstanding natural environment and some of New Zealand’s best food & wine.

In Māori mythology, Te Kauwae-a-Māui is the tip of the fishing hook that Māui used to pull up the North Island/Te Ika-a-Māui (‘the fish of Māui’) from the sea.

In 1769 it was named “Cape Kidnappers” by Captain James Cook, the famous English explorer, when local Maori attempted to kidnap his ships interpreters’ son, a young Tahitian boy.

Gannet Beach Adventures
Gannet Beach Adventures
Gannet Beach Adventures

The Geology

Four million years in four hours …

The stretch of coastline from Clifton to Cape Kidnappers is an area of fascinating geological history, dating back around 300,000 years at Clifton to approx. 4.5 million years at the Cape, which is visible in the dramatic cliff faces that line the beach along which we travel. In places the cliffs tower above us, and the different layers of sedimentary material is easy to see – looking back along the beach as we travel shows how the land has slumped from tectonic movement.

View ancient earthquake faultlines, fossils, gullies formed by wind & water – you don’t have to be a geologist to enjoy this!

NB:  You will be amazed by the incredible cliffs and the stories they hold, but be aware they are often on the move with this seismic country of ours – the area can be subject to slips and rockfalls and is also in a tsunami risk zone.


Department of Conservation Reserve

The Department of Conservation (DOC) Reserve encompasses 13 hectares and is situated at the far end of the beach.

NB:  This area is currently closed but DOC have recently announced that it will re-open, and their aim is to have it accessible prior to the gannet season.  The track will be downgraded and reclassified, and we await DOC’s clarification of what this means for the current amenities that are available onsite.

The rest shelter is well equipped with toilets, drinking water and picnic tables located under shady trees. Also provided are interpretation boards on the area and gannets. We are the only DOC Concessionaire operating in the area, and a percentage of each fare is paid to DOC for the preservation of New Zealand’s natural assets.

DOC have awarded Cape Kidnappers its prestigious “Icon destination” status – one of only two sites in Hawke’s Bay to be given this accolade. This proves what we already knew, that the area is a true treasure and one of significant scenic and natural beauty – which makes it a must-see on anyone’s destination list!

NB:  There are no bins at the Reserve so all rubbish needs to be taken home with you.

Cape Sanctuary

The Cape Sanctuary is located on the Cape Kidnappers peninsula.

It runs over several working farm stations and includes the famous Cape Kidnappers Golf Course.  It was established in 2006 and covers an area of 2,500 hectares.  The predator fence (the end of which can be seen from the beach) travels down to Ocean Beach to the south of Cape Kidnappers, covering a distance of 10.5km.  Along with bait stations & traps, this fence helps keep predators to a minimum within the Sanctuary.

The staff and volunteers are doing an amazing job of successfully reintroducing both forest & sea birdlife here – including kiwi and tuatara – which once would have roamed the area in abundance.