Akitio Bay Campground

A beach in the east Route 52, from the tiny town of Tinui to the tiny town of Pongaroa, twists through tunnels of exotic trees and then opens up to billowing hills.  In Pongaroa, we turned toward the coast on the road that traces the impressive gorge of the Owahanga River. We called into a delightful freedom camping area slung between high kahikatea trees at Four Mile Reserve but our destination was the campground at Akitio 40km away. I hadn’t expected much of Akitio Beach but I was wrong. This slight indent in Wairarapa’s long east coast with its swinging moods and rough edges has plenty of character. Remote, covered in strangely striated rock or dull grey sand it borders the open ocean and, although the sea was calm that day, I bet the wind can whip it into a frenzy. We walked the stone-scattered beach past a lone seal lying groggily on the sand. Away to the north was Cape Turnagain. To the south, we could easily locate Castle Point. It was low tide and in the rock pools, tiny sea creatures found security among coloured seaweeds. In deeper water, plentiful paua cling to the rocks. Hard against the beach’s banks driftwood is piled up like giant bones and naked hills crash into each other as they rise straight up from the bay. The campground at Akitio also has character, even if it’s a flat featureless area of grass. It’s right next to the beach and rumbles with the sound of the sea. Half of it is crammed with the caravans of local fishing fanatics but there was plenty of space for ring-ins like us. The amenities were clean and neat. In a small rustic store fish and chips can sometimes appear but their production depends on the cook. A notice on the wall reads: “Service varies according to my mood and your attitude”. Driving back to Dannevirke next day, we followed the spectacular Akitio River, which winds past several magnificent homesteads and the high, ribbed hills of the great sheep and cattle stations that make up this part of the country.
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