Cape Kidnappers. Coast in New Zealand, Oceania

Cape Kidnappers

Coast in New Zealand, Oceania

Cape Kidnappers Photo © Christopher Wagner

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Cape Kidnappers

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Cape Kidnappers - Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers - Cape Kidnappers. Photo by Christopher Wagner
A rough and rugged headland jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, Cape Kidnappers is steeped in history and home to incredible birdlife.


Cape Kidnappers is a headland at the southeastern point of Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The Cape itself is made up of an eight-kilometer long peninsula, extending into the Pacific Ocean.


The towering cliffs of Cape Kidnappers are made up of sandstone, river gravel, pumice and silt, which were originally deposited between 300,000 and one million years ago. The fragmented fault and tilt lines along the cliffs are evidence of many earthquake upheavals and tectonic movements.

Cliffs near Cape Kidnappers - Cape
Cliffs near Cape Kidnappers. Photo by Richard


According to the legends of the indigenous Maori people, the fishhook shape of the Cape has special significance. Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga, a famous mythical hero, was fishing with his brothers and decided to demonstrate his supernatural powers. Chanting a prayer, he broke his own nose and smeared the blood onto a magical jawbone. With the bone he fished up the North Island, also known as “Te-Ika-a-Maui”- the fish of Maui. After Maui left, his brothers attacked the fish with their weapons, breaking it into pieces and forming the mountainous terrain of the North Island. The sacred jawbone used as the hook was left to form what is today known as Hawke’s Bay.

The name of the Cape derives from an attempted kidnapping in 1769. European explorer Captain Cook’s ship the HMS Endeavour was offshore, and one of his crewmembers was in the water when local Maori dragged him aboard a fishing boat. Maori reportedly thought the Tahitian cabin boy was being held against his will. Sailors from the Endeavour opened fire, killing two Maori and wounding a third, according to Cook’s journal. The remaining Maori fled while the crewmember escaped back to the Endeavour.

Cape Kidnappers Gannet  coloney - The
	Greeting Ceremony - Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers Gannet coloney - The Greeting Ceremony. Photo by Percita

Bird life

Cape Kidnappers
	Gannet  coloney - Adult - Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers Gannet coloney - Adult - Cape Kidnappers. Photo by Percita
The cape is home to the largest and most accessible gannet colony in the world, with over 3,000 pairs of Australasian gannets. The 13-hectare reserve is a breeding site for Saddle and Black Reef gannet colonies. Adult gannets can have a wing span of up to two meters, weighing around two kilograms. The birds are phenomenal fliers, performing spectacular high dives into the sea to catch fish. The Australasian gannet is one of three species of gannet, which belong to the booby family. They have been nesting at the Cape since the 1870s.

The gannets nest over the New Zealand summer, with the first chicks hatching in early November and the last chicks departing the colony in May. The best time to visit is from early November to late February. Public access to the colony is closed between 1 July and Labour Weekend in October, in order to prevent disturbance to the birds during their early nesting phase.

While the colonies themselves are closed to the public, you can view the Black Reef colony from the beach. You can reach the beach on foot, in a 4WD vehicle or by kayak. If walking, from Scotsmans Point at Clifton allow at least five hours for a comfortable return walk along the beach. This can only be done at low tide – the best departure times are no sooner than three hours after high tide, and leaving the Cape no later than 1.5 hours after low tide.

Gannet Safaris can take you on an overland safari through Cape Kidnappers Station to see the gannets, running individual and group tours. Tours depart from Te Awanga, Napier and Hastings in the Hawke’s Bay, and take approximately three hours. Prices start at $75 for adults and $35 for children.

Other than gannets, the Cape is also home to the white-fronted tern, various types of oystercatchers, and reef herons. The offshore reefs are also rich in marine life. While the coastal vegetation has been depleted, the Government’s Department of Conservation is progressively restoring the natural vegetation by planting native trees and shrubs.

The Farm

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is home to a luxury lodge and the famous Cape Kidnappers Golf Course. Designed by American Tom Doak, the course features breathtaking views, with the sixth hole boated to be one of the greatest golf holes of the world. The par 71 course sits 459 feet above sea level, and is ranked in the top 50 in the world by international Golf Magazine. If golfing is not your thing, the lodge can provide you with backpacks, picnics and directions to explore the beautiful surrounding area by foot.

Cape Kidnappers - Cape
Cape Kidnappers. Photo by Drea Frei

Getting there

Cape Kidnappers is close to both Hastings and Napier, which hosts a domestic airport. The Cape is a four hour drive from Wellington or 5.5 hours from Auckland.

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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Apr 07, 2016

Pictures of Cape Kidnappers

CIMG1001.JPG - Cape Kidnappers
CIMG1001.JPG - Cape Kidnappers. Photo by Simon

Cape Kidnappers - Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers - Photo by Christopher Wagner

Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers. Photo by unknown


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