Fur Seals, Limestone Arches, and… Bagpipes?

There are a few cool things to see in the Westport, NZ area.  One of those attractions is a fur seal colony just down the road at Cape Foulwind.  From the parking lot, it’s a short walk to a small viewing platform above the rocky area where the seals were lounging.  The rocks weren’t exactly crowded with seals, at least, not like we’ve seen them in other places on our trip.  But the fur seals that were around were interesting to watch.  There were several pups nursing from their mothers and a couple pups that were alone.  We were hoping their moms were just out in the ocean hunting and would return soon.  We took a lot of photos and a few videos, the best of which we’ll include below.

Adult and young seals

Adult and young seals

Sun soaking seal

Sun soaking seal

Big male seal

Big male seal

Mom and baby seal

Mom and baby seal

After the fur seals we fueled up the car and headed north past the town of Karamea.  The road dead ends more than 100 km north of Westport at Kahurangi National Park.  Just shy of the park we turned off towards the Oparara cave system.  Reaching the trailhead required a long, slow drive up a winding dirt road.  This is definitely an area we never would have seen if we were traveling on bikes.  We started by hiking to Oparara Arch, which is the largest limestone arch in the area.  I was expecting something similar to the bridge-like sandstone arches in Utah, but this was more of a long tunnel than a narrow arch.  It had a stream running through the length of it and it was pretty cool.

Stream along trail to Oparara Arch

Stream along trail to Oparara Arch

Fern and fungi

Fern and fungi


See the opening of the arch above Caroline?

See the opening of the arch above Caroline?

Oparara Arch

Oparara Arch


It's really more of a tunnel than an arch

It’s really more of a tunnel than an arch

Oparara Arch stalactites

Oparara Arch stalactites


Next we hiked to another nearby limestone arch, this one called Moria Arch.  It has no relation to the Lord of the Rings movies, it was just named after Moria.  This arch was also a tunnel with a stream running through it, but it was smaller and so a little more intimate and interesting.  As I was checking out a short side tunnel off the main arch I was thinking I might like to get into caving when I get back to Colorado.  I wonder if there are any cool caves near Durango.

Caroline in Moria Arch

Caroline in Moria Arch

Moria Arch Stalactites

Moria Arch Stalactites


Sculpted rock in Moria Arch

Sculpted rock in Moria Arch

Moria Arch

Moria Arch

Moria Arch Panorama

Moria Arch Panorama

Side tunnel in Moria Arch

Side tunnel in Moria Arch

Caroline in Moria Arch

Caroline in Moria Arch


A vertical shaft at Moria Arch

A vertical shaft at Moria Arch

A forest for ants

A forest for ants


Tall tree ferns!

Tall tree ferns!

A weka near the trailhead

A weka near the trailhead

When we finally got back to camp the offshore wind was blowing really hard.  I guess that’s why this area is called Cape Foulwind, because it was very windy.  But then again, it’s been pretty windy almost everywhere we’ve been so far in New Zealand.  For dinner we cooked up some homemade pizza (using store bought crusts) in the camp kitchen.  I don’t know if we’ve mentioned how cool the campgrounds (or “holiday parks”) are here.  They usually have a large kitchen or two with stoves, ovens, refrigerators, sinks, and tables with chairs.  It really makes it much easier to camp or stay in a basic cabin when there is a full kitchen nearby.  In all our travels in the U.S. I think we only stayed in one KOA Campground in California with a similar shared kitchen setup.

New Year’s Eve day started out rainy.  Thank goodness we anticipated rain and reserved a cabin.  It’s just a small motel room with beds and a sink, but it kept the rain off us.  We dashed through the rain to the kitchen to make breakfast and then back to our room to lay around all day.  I played some Minecraft while Caroline read and we worked on photos and our blog.  After the rain and wind finally eased up we took showers and did laundry.  At one point I heard the unmistakable sound of a bunch of bagpipes warming up.  We followed the sound to find the local bagpipe band playing in the campground.  They played a few songs for the campers and then proceeded to march down the road.  I assume it was a special thing for New Year’s Eve.  We ended the night watching TV on our laptop and falling asleep before midnight.  A pretty uneventful night, but we’re hitting the road again tomorrow so we need our rest.

Keeping the beat

Keeping the beat

Drummers in the band

Drummers in the band

NYE Rainbow

NYE Rainbow

Pipers on NYE

Pipers on NYE

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4 thoughts on “Fur Seals, Limestone Arches, and… Bagpipes?

    • There have been a lot of good napping rocks! We may have to consider a second book in our series…NZ National Parks, A Bargain!

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