Birdlings Flat Te Mata hapuku

Birdlings Flat (unless you are a member of the Birdling family) is such an uninspiring name for such an amazing place. Thousands of cars, and hundreds of bikes (on the rail trail), every week drive and ride across a small corner of it on the way to Little River and the Peninsula or back again.

Few ever stop or take time to experience what lies just a few minutes off the main drag.

The fact that, as you look out into the ever changing blue ocean, the next lump of land is Antartica, has such an impact on this place. There is such a variation of geology, scenery and vegetation in such a small area.

The physical state of the sign tells far more, than the just the message written on it. On the rare occasions that it appears to be calm, it is never really flat calm .

.....and when it is angry, it is so amazingly angry.

On so many levels this place is unique, wild, rugged, interesting and stunningly beautiful.


The letting out of the lake is such a momentary exercise in man versus nature.

Not only is the beach wild but there is a brutal ruggedness to the land shaped by extremes of weather.

Some days, the colour of the sea and the heat radiating off the stones, leads you to think you are visiting a tropical paradise.

and some days, it is like the outer Isles of Scotland

Not only is this place physically stunningly beautiful and ever changing, but it is the people that make it really special.

Maori have been harvesting Tuna (Eels) the traditional way for many, many generations. Years ago George Skipper who lived down at Birdlings Flat gave me one of his "special dried Eels". Sadly George is no longer with us, but it is great to see that the younger generations of not only his whanau, but other whanau as well, continue the traditional Tuna practices.

The beach is also popular with surf casters and over the years, as well as using rods, people have used various forms of Contiki rafts to catch fish.

Paul is one of the regular fishermen down at the beach. Always armed with a beer, a smile and a rod.

I remember the first time I went to Birdlings Flat as a small child. It was Little River Show day and we went to have a picnic lunch and to look for gem stones. Many people still go fossicking at Birdlings Flat looking for semi precious gem stones. After each big storm there is always a fresh batch.

This gentleman was a brickie and couldn't work during the storm, so he was down at Birdlings Flat looking for Agates.

John and John

These ladies were collecting "Healing Stones". They have tried stones from the Lakes and Rivers, but find the stones from Birdlings Flat to be the most powerful.

On a foggy June morning this lady was collecting perfectly shaped stones for her art projects and for making stone mats.

There is always a chance of meeting someone interesting.

In the late 1950's a group of fishing huts or baches were built at Birdlings Flat. In 1993 the Birdlings Flat Land Titles Act was passed to sort out and give individual title to 57 of the baches. One of the things that first attracted me to this place was the simple unpretentious real kiwi baches, made out of what ever materials could be scavenged or afforded at the time. These dwellings are so honest and fit for purpose. As these beach communities all over New Zealand fell victim to gentrification, Birdlings Flat was one of the last bastions of the real kiwi bach.

Initially there was a feeling of disappointment as new buildings started popping up at Birdlings Flat and while the character is changing, so is the community. There is no greater symbol of positive change than the building of a community centre and the conversion of the old letter box rack into a community book and vege share stand.

Over the years we have visited Birdlings Flat as kids to go fossicking, have been privileged to watch the ancient and traditional Tuna practices. We have visited as a family when the Easterly was so strong you could hardly stand up. Have been there when the sea was so rough and loud you could not hear what the person next to you was saying. It is always fantastic if you are lucky enough to visit when the Lake has been opened to the sea. We have visited friends who now live there for a cup of tea and chatted to friends and strangers you meet on the beach.I take all visitors there and visit at least once each time I come home because you know that there will always be something or someone interesting to see or experience. I used to think that this was "my special place", but this place is special to many people for many different reasons and I now realise that I am just a lucky visitor.

For all the amazing things about Birdlings Flat, it is part of our kiwi psyche, that the favourite time to visit is in the middle of winter, when there is not another soul to be seen and you have the whole place all to yourself. Thank goodness all those thousands of people who drive past, just keep on driving.