Do you operate all year round?
No, we are seasonal. We run from late September/early October through to the end of April. Tours operate most days, although we there are some days we cannot run due to tide times (these occur more often at the beginning and end of the season), and we are closed on Christmas Day.
When is the best time to visit?
Any time! The adult gannets are all back in full-force by the time we open, however the chicks start appearing from mid to late November, and they will leave the colonies at around 15-16 weeks of age. As the adults start to leave once their chick has fledged, bird numbers do get low during the latter part of our season (late March/April).
What time do the tours depart?
As we travel along the beach and rely on the tides, our departure times are different each day, and we only run one tour per day. Please refer to our departure schedule. You will need to arrive at Clifton approximately 20 minutes prior to departure time for check-in.
Where do the tours depart from?
Our departure area is located at 475 Clifton Road, Clifton, Te Awanga (opposite Hygge at Clifton Bay) – this is approximately 25 minutes’ drive from Napier, Hastings or Havelock North. Our ticket office is located on the left-hand side of the road and there is plenty of free parking on the roadside. Public toilets are also available here.
Is it necessary to book or can I just turn up?
Bookings are essential – we need to know our numbers in advance so that we can organize our drivers for the day. If you just turn up we may not be able to fit you on, and you may be disappointed!
How do I make a booking?
The easiest way is to just hit the “Book Now” button (credit/debit card required)! This is our preferred booking method, as we know by booking this way you receive the relevant safety information before you come along. However, if you prefer to talk to someone or do need to discuss anything with us please phone or email. Please note payment details will be taken at the time of booking.
Do you operate a pick-up service from town?
As there is no public transport to or from Clifton, we do operate a transport service – there is a charge of $45.00 for one person, or $30.00 each for 2+ passengers. Prices quoted are for the return trip.
This service needs to be pre-booked. Pickup is one hour prior to departure time, generally from one of the local I-Sites.
How many people can you take?
With our fleet of 6 tractors, our capacity is approximately 200 people. Obviously each day is different with regards to visitor numbers, so please contact us directly if you are concerned about how busy it might be. A tip: our early morning tours tend to be quieter!
Please be aware that the beach track is classified as a public road and there may be other beach users present (eg. other vehicles / walkers).
What happens if the weather is unfavourable?
We tend to go whatever the weather (unless it becomes a safety issue) so we ask that people come prepared for the weather on the day – and yes, it does rain sometimes in Hawke’s Bay! We advise you to check the forecast and if the conditions appear that they may change during the course of the tour, please come with the necessary gear – it can be exposed on the beach and at the upper colony.
There are times that we will cancel due to weather or sea conditions – please appreciate that cancellations can be made at the last minute so it is essential you provide accurate contact details with your booking. Cancellation notifications are generally made by text message.
If the weather is doubtful and we decide to still go but you would rather not, that is fine – all we ask is that you give us a quick call and we can cancel your booking. We still have to organise our drivers so as much notice as possible is appreciated in these circumstances.
Are the trailers covered?
The trailers are not covered; however we do have tarpaulins we can bring out if there are showers or rain. On other days please come prepared with hats & sunscreen and cover up with loose, cool clothing if necessary.
Tip: You will be out in the open for the four hour period, apart from some shelter available at the DOC rest area – so for your own comfort please come prepared whatever the weather!
Is there a chance I could get wet (from sea-water)?
As we travel along the beach, and sometimes in the water, this is always a possibility! Please be especially aware of this if you are bringing cameras, cellphones or other items of an electronic nature – you may wish to place these in a plastic bag while we are in transit.
What happens if the tour is cancelled?
As mentioned above we do sometimes have to cancel due to weather or sea/beach conditions and we will contact you as soon as possible if this is the case. We can either transfer you to another day, or cancel your booking (please refer to our cancellation policy). Occasionally we start a trip only to have to turn-around – in this case refunds are provided as per our Refund Policy.
Please refer to our Wellbeing Policy if you have any concerns because you are:-
- bringing young children
As the safety of our passengers is our top priority, please let us know when booking if you or any of your group has any physical or medical conditions that we need to be aware of.
Is there any walking involved, and how fit do I need to be?
The walk to the lighthouse & upper colonies is optional – however the views are spectacular! This walk is approximately 25 minutes, 1.3km and you travel up to 100m elevation from beach level (moderate fitness is required). Don’t be daunted by the walk, but know your own limits as it is steep in places.
If you cannot make the walk, you can still see the gannets at Black Reef – this colony is located on the beach itself. The Department of Conservation rest shelter is approx. 5mins walk from the beach, there are toilets, picnic tables and drinking water here.
NB: The walk to the top colony is maintained by DOC – check their website for specific details if necessary www.doc.govt.nz.
How long is the tour?
The tour is approximately 4 hours duration, however there are the occasional days when we may run a little behind schedule due to slow beach conditions. The time is broken down as follows (approximate only!):-
1.5hrs – from Clifton to Cape Kidnappers, with stops on the way to talk about the geology of the area;
1.5hrs – time spent at Cape Kidnappers itself;
1hr – from Cape Kidnappers to Clifton, with a stop at the Black Reef colony.
On certain days – due to late tides and daylight issues – we run shorter tours to Black Reef, where the first colony of gannets is located. These are around 2.5-3hrs duration and are discounted accordingly.
How comfortable is the tour?
As we travel along the beach the condition of the track can change with each tide – and although the beach is classed as a public road in NZ it is not maintained to those standards! If you are at all concerned about comfort please contact us a day or two prior to your tour and we can let you know what is happening out there. The beach track can be quite bumpy at times, so if you have back, neck or any other physical or medical ailments, we strongly suggest you contact us to discuss before you book. Cushions are provided on the trailers.
How long is spent with the Gannets, and how close do we get?
The stop at Cape Kidnappers is approximately 1.5hrs but please bear in mind that the walk up to the top Plateau colony takes approx. 25 minutes.
You will get to within a few metres of the gannets, and there is a barrier at the top colony so please ensure you stay behind this. Gannets are not endangered, but they are a protected seabird.
Are there toilets en-route?
No, but there are toilets at our departure area, and at the Department of Conservation Rest Shelter at Cape Kidnappers.
What should I bring along?
- Warm clothing (jacket or windbreaker, sweatshirt etc) – it can get cool on the beach, even on a hot day;
- Sunhat, sunscreen & sunglasses & swimming gear (if conditions are appropriate);
- Sturdy covered shoes suitable for walking over uneven ground – underfoot conditions are a hazard, especially on the walking track in the DOC Reserve and on the beach itself;
- Food & drink (depending on the time of your trip, there is plenty of room on the trailers for a picnic lunch or dinner, or morning/afternoon tea – some people have even been known to bring breakfast on our early morning runs!)
- Wet weather gear, if necessary.
It is advised to check the forecast prior to your tour and come prepared for the duration of the tour.
Water bottles can be re-filled at the DOC Reserve at Cape Kidnappers as there is access to treated drinking water there.
We sell bottled water & juice, and a few pre-packaged snacks at our ticket office. Hygge at Clifton Bay is located across the road from our departure point, and is generally open for most of our departure times and returns (but please check their website or Facebook page!). For coffee addicts, there is also a coffee cart (Brown Dog Espresso) located at the local Four Square.
Complimentary rubbish bags and sunscreen are provided at our ticket office (sunscreen is also available on-board the tractors). Rain ponchos are also available for purchase.