Monro Beach is a beautiful secluded beach on New Zealand’s West Coast, about 30 km north of Haast. A small carpark off SH6 marks the start of the Monro Beach Walk. The return trip takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes along terrain that is mostly flat. The Fiordland penguin (tawaki) lives in this area and you might just see one in the surf or on the beach.
The rainforest walk
As soon as you leave the carpark, a rainforest full of various types of ferns appears. The track is narrow at points, but maintained well. The forest is rather dense which makes it feel quite cool.
After only a few minutes of tramping, the landscape opens up for a small river that passes through the landscape. The bridge that spans the river is one of many here in NZ, but these suspension bridges are always fun to cross.
Arriving at Monro Beach
The walk continues for another twenty to thirty minutes through the same kind of forest as we saw before. Quite suddenly, sand appears, and we’ve reached Monro Beach. Most beaches are sand beaches, but this one has a thick layer of multicoloured rocks strewn about. I could spend hours sifting through them to find the nice ones, like we do at Birdlings Flat near Christchurch. The unfortunate part is that most of them turn dull after they dry!
As I mentioned before, Fiordland penguins live on this beach. They are quite rare and endangered, so don’t disturb these birds. You’ll get the best odds of spotting one during spring. I visited in early summer and still had enough luck to see one appear from the surf to proceed waddling towards the brush.
I found myself waiting the better part of an hour for that penguin to appear. The south part of the beach is off-limits so as to not disturb the penguins, but I thought it’d be quite alright to climb and sit atop the big rock that marks the start of this restricted beach area. It’s a few meters high and gives a very good overview of the entire beach, so it’s the perfect lookout for penguin spotting.
Like most other places on the West Coast, sandflies are a major annoyance here. I had a full-time job fending them off, so be prepared and bring DEET or some other bug spray.
Once done sorting stones and spotting penguins, return to the carpark along the same track. This part is not too exciting, but the different perspective always makes me notice something that I didn’t see the first time.
In summary, this is a great walk and I would recommend anyone to take a few hours to visit Monro Beach. If you’re interested in other great locations to spot penguins in the wild in New Zealand, check out this post.