Sweet as

Paturau Beach

In his book NZ Frenzy, Scott Cook starts off his discussion of Paturau (Pah-too-rau) Beach with these words: “Oh my god, no way, oh wow, I’ll be damned.”

He says it took him seven summers of travelling to New Zealand’s South Island before he made it to Paturau. We’re almost as tardy—it’s taken us four years to showcase this “sweet as” beach, slang in New Zealand for “as good as it gets.”

Getting there in Kohanga, our rental motorhome, wasn’t easy. It’s a thirty-two kilometre drive down Whanganui Bay Dry Road, the “Dry” in the name gave us comfort on this gravel road.

Paturau Beach is on private property but freedom camping on the beach is allowed at the end of Richard’s Road. Thank you Government of New Zealand!

Although it was late in the season, almost the end of April, equivalent to October here, we shared Paturau Beach with a couple in another motorhome and two unoccupied tents. A young woman practiced her downward dog on the beach. An older woman decided “Me, too.” An older man went for a swim. Hey, that was Magellan.

The next morning, we took Scott’s advice and walked south on the beach to see low-tide gardens of Southern Hemisphere oddity. Limestone smoothed and fissured. Key-ring arches. Foil-like reflections. Tide water patterned like moired gray silk. Squiggly slot tunnels. Fossilled shells. Twinned chimneys.

Sweet as, like this fragment from a poem by Dunstan Thompson.

Seascape with Edwardian Figures
At moments when the tide goes out,
The stones, still wet and ringing with
The drained-off retrogressive sea,
Lie fresh like fish on market stalls
And, speckled, shine. Some seem to float
In crevices where wavelets froth
Forgotten by the watery
Departure towards the moon.


Cook, Scott. NZ Frenzy New Zealand South Island. Oregon: Scott Cook, 2013.

Thompson, Dunstan. Poems 1950-1974. Eccles: Erskine Press, 1984.

11 Responses

  1. Amazing rock patterns, gorgeous photos, thanks!
    What types of rock are these? Are the erosional features mainly from tidal wear?

    1. The honeycomb weathering is definitely associated with the intertidal wave splash zone. It also appears to be algae that is preferentially growing along the fractures in the rock.

      1. Algae and rock weathering too, that’s interesting. Did you get any photos of the algae at work in the fractures? Tree and other plant roots also cause breakage.
        I don’t suppose there would be any freeze-thaw action there? That causes exfoliation, fractures, and other rock weathering patterns here. And potholes, haha.

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