It's all about timing to visit the Three Sisters and the Elephant. Only accessible at low tide you'll also have to navigate mud, sinking sand and scorching black sand. But we reckon it's all worth it...
The Three Sisters have been on my list of places to visit since the first time we visited New Plymouth in 2017. The first time we had 3 still quite young children and the second time James and I were playing shopkeepers in New Plymouth for the weekend so were short on time. But procrastination has its cost. What once was four sisters, became three sisters and is now only two 25 metre rock formations. Locals call her the drowning sister. The nearby Elephant Rock has also lost its trunk to erosion.
The Three Sisters is all about timing. To walk to see these amazing rock formations you need to go at low tide. And so it happened in a moment of serendipity as we came in to New Plymouth on our third trip with my now teenage daughters that we had arrived without any planning exactly at low tide.
What was not perhaps as perfect was that in the afternoon of a 28 degree summer day the black sand had heated up to near scorching so it was definitely a good call to take jandals!
Not so good for jandals though is the first part of the trip where you’ll find yourself slipping around in mud and sinking in to the sand. For me that’s all part of the adventure. Amazing spots like this should be a bit tough to get to right.
I always find the West Coast so vast. Living on the North Shore in Auckland I am so used to a sea view that includes many islands, volcanoes and the distant smudge of the Coromandel Peninsula. The vastness, combined with the black sand and swirling seas adds to the rugged beauty of this place. Once out there it was so much fun to play with angles and perspectives and to walk right up close to these massive rock formations.
It did make me rethink my plan years ago of tracking out here solo to capture a sunrise or sunset. If you are planning on doing this my advise is..
- Take a torch - there are a lot of things you can fall into or over (heaps of drift wood around) and a lot of mud to slip around on
- Take a buddy - the west coast of NZ is pretty unforgiving and there are rips and lets not forget that two sisters have already fallen in to the sea so there’s a chance something could fall on you too
- Plan your times - low tide is really the only time to go - it’s just not worth chancing it and having the tide come in
- Expect a crowd - I was amazed at how many people were there and it was pretty hard to take a picture without getting someone in it (but then I’m not the most patient of photographers!). But as a up side to this - it does allow you to give a bit of scale to everything when compared to a person!
There are caves everywhere. In Elephant Rock and as you walk out to the Three Sisters. I overhear people talking about rocks falling and I remember the Three Sisters themselves so I cautiously explore a few. It’s definitely a moment I wish James was with us - he would have charged right in - and I would have been made much more brave by his bravery.
It’s a rugged, beautiful spot with some wonderful rock formations that time has shown will not be here forever, so if you get the chance and the timing is right it is so worth going for an explore (especially if you can grab a fearless type like James to be your wingman!)