January 4th 2019.
It’s the last week of our family summer holidays and with only a few days left before going back to work, we decided to go on a day trip to Tumbledown Bay.
We packed plenty of liquids, snacks, fruit, a beach tent, wetsuits and surfboards and the dog. With the boards strapped to the roof of the car we set off before lunch and hopefully before the wind picks up, as it tends to do in Canterbury.
To get to Tumbledown Bay you drive out towards Akaroa and Little River on State Highway 75. Just as you enter Little River, you turn right at the sign that says “Southern Bays”. The road winds up the hill through some trees and bush and then up to a more exposed hill side with impressive views out to Birdlings Flat and down to Little River. When you get to the summit, the road turns into gravel. Turn right onto Bossu road and then you will see the sign post to Te Oka Bay and Tumbledown Bay. It’s all downhill from here.
Heading down the hill on the gravel road, go past the farm house and when you get to the bottom, the first bay is Tumbledown Bay. If you carry on you will get to Te Oka Bay. Te Oka Bay is a great surf beach but it tends to be a bit rocky on the beach at high tide. Tumbledown Bay is much nicer and safer for kids. You can park in the grassy carpark and then it’s a bit of a walk down to the beach. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the beach but it can be hard going if you are carrying 2 surf boards, a couple of bags of food, drinks and gear and a beach tent. Still, you want to make sure you have enough stuff with you to make the day comfortable and enjoyable as it is a real mission to get to this beach so you really want to make a full day of it.
We found a nice little spot on the beach amongst the grass and out of the wind. We set up the beach tent which was a great buy from Kathmandu years ago and has come in very handy in many occasions. Despite Tumbledown Bay being a long way from Christchurch and the road being rough and windy, there were actually quite a few people here. There were a lot of people set up in the nooks between the rocks on the south side of the bay and in the private inlets between the sand dunes and grasses. There was also a nice little fresh water creek that ran down into the bay which was warm and a perfect little spot for toddlers to paddle in.
Hero and I squeezed into our wetsuits and I put Hero’s zinc war paint on his face. The waves looked amazing and we couldn’t wait to get in there. The sand was really hot so Hero had to wear his jandals down the water. The tide was coming in so I put his jandals down the front of my wetsuit, along with my sunglasses. My wetsuit is like a storage compartment but my bust must have looked a very peculiar shape.
The first thing I noticed was how clear the water was. It reminded me of the time we went to Matauri Bay in Northland. I haven’t seen water so clear since then and compared to the murky waters of Sumner Beach, this was paradise. There were lots of small fish darting about and you could see your toes in chest deep water.
Hero jumped on his board and paddled hard for the first wave. He was off. Straight up on the first wave and a long ride in too. He caught wave after wave and said that he thought today was his best ever day surfing.
Hero surfed for a couple of hours and then we ditched the board and played duck diving under the waves. We were watching this big wave come towards us when we saw a dark shadow in behind the wall of water. It was a seal and it was surfing the waves too. There were a few seals darting through the waves and some playing with one another. It was really cool. They came really close to us. Hero was a bit scared but they were more interested in having fun in the surf to worry about us.
It was now late afternoon and we had spent a good 3 hours in the surf. It was time to dry off and start thinking about heading home. We peeled off our wetsuits and snuggled into our towelies.
We took Pug for a walk up the creek and spotted heaps of whitebait. I taught Hero how to catch them in glass bottle. It took me right back to when I was a kid at South Brighton Domain catching Cockabullies in the creeks in glass jars. We positioned our glass bottle in a downstream current and chased the whitebait down the creek. Eventually one would have to swim into the bottle. It didn’t take long before we caught our first one. We let it go and then packed up all our gear and start the trek back to the car. It couldn’t be better timing as the wind had just come up and the ocean turned choppy and full of white caps.
The drive home took about an hour and I had a car full of sleeping passengers, including the dog. That is the sign of a good day’s adventure.
Well, Tumbledown Bay, you were awesome and we will be back again soon.