Kiwis and visitors have been duped. The co-ordinates don't lie, Surville Cliffs are further north than Cape Reinga, as well as being 30 kilometres east.
Maybe the Cape could rename it's fame as 'the northernmost place in the North Island that can be easily reached by vehicle'. Because it is a rough 4WD ride and jolly stiff walk to reach the Surville Cliffs, past Spirits Bay and Tom Bowling Bay then overland to the cliffs. Like Cape Maria van Diemen to the west, this spot is a point on the triangular tip of Northland, and rather inaccessible, requiring a special permit.
It was named for the French navigator and explorer Jean Francois Marie de Surville, who made his way around the coastline here only weeks after James Cook in 1769.
Though there may seem to be very little to be seen, the geological formations that make these cliffs have been classified 'Ultrabasic Cliffs', the only other location they are found is on D'Urville Island in Marlborough. Clinging to the rare rock types here are rare plants, the nationally critical Surville Cliffs hook grass, nationally endangered Surville Cliffs kohuhu and several others including a rare North Cape Jasmine.
A plaque about De Surville is in a memorial reserve at Whatuwhiwhi on the south side of the Karikari peninsula, and one of two anchors from his ship the St Jean Baptiste, which were lost in a storm then recovered by Kelly Tarlton in 1974, are at Te Ahu in Kaitaia.
Surville won the cliff naming competition and correctly discovered this most northern point, but Cook bagged Doubtless Bay a week before de Surville tried to name it Lauriston. Doubtless, all these places already had Maori names, with pre-European history running deep here.
If you visit Surville Cliffs, please let NZPlaces know, we would love to publish your impressions and images.
Image Credit: LawrieM