Birdlings Flat - Te Mata Hapuku
Bearing the name of the farming family that settled here, the heritage of Birdlings Flat goes far further back, through the days of Ngai Tahu, and then millions of years of interesting Geology.
William Birdling and family settled here on the northern tip of Lake Ellesmere in the 1880s, sparking the start of the small coastal village that is here now, and sharing the name with the long peninsula (Kaitorete Spit) that encloses the tidal lake. To the north is Lake Forsyth, (Te Roto o Wairewa) which fills the valley up to Little River.
Once a year adult female eels (tuna) migrate from Forsyth (Waiwera) across the Flat to travel to by sea to Tonga. This is a special time for Ngai Tahu who still harvest the kaimoana (seafood)
In 2017 the hall 'Te Whare Tapere o Te Mata Hapuku' opened, the first ever community building for the little town.
What the long peninsula beach is famous for, is very dangerous waves, not fit for swimming, surfing or any sort of watersport, and rocks.
Walking on riverstones on a beach is a strange experience, but logical if you imagine coastal drift having brought these rounded pebbles from the riverbeds of Otago north until they got stuck here at the bottom of Banks Peninsula. The famous rocks are not the riverstones, they are amongst them. Fossils and semi-precious stones like agates are found on the beach and in good volumes, if you are in a looking mood. A musuem of gems and fossils is in the town (67 Hillview Road), so you can take your haul there to be checked over and view other superior finds.
Surfcasting does take place here, but experience and caution would be vital. This is a day (or half-day) trip for hardy, mindful rock hunters, who may also see dolphins, whales, seals, in this often cold, usually windswept peninsula.
Image Credits: Adrian Price