The bottom section of the steps has been washed away, I believe by a large storm late last year. I was going to walk to South Cape Bay that day, however the rain was so heavy and the wind so blustery at Franklin that I abandoned the plan before wasting any extra fuel. No doubt however, the waves would have been awesome. I don't think a walk on the beach would have been possible that day.
There is a sign at the top of the steps sort of sunk into the gravel, telling you that there is a diversion. The diversion seems to be close to the bottom of the steps and has trampled out along the dunes a few metres before descending to the beach.
|South Cape Bay beach, showing storm-carved sand spit towards western end - 11th March 2012|
The beach itself shows strong signs of big seas, with a spit of sand in the middle of the beach and a large bank of pebbles at the western end. The spit always appears after a big storm. The sand, pebbles and boulders move around a lot on this beach when the seas are large. Even in moderate seas, at high tide the waves can wash around the little outcrop of rock about a third of the way along. It is sensible to be wary of rogue waves.
|Steep storm-driven pebble/boulder bank at western end of South Cape Bay beach - 11th March 2012|
I was very surprised to see this small dog, straining at the leash, leading its mistress out onto the headland. Apparently it's an Assistance Dog. The lady is from Victoria, and apparently has a card showing the dog is required for health reasons. She showed it to the ranger, I discovered, and even noted the dog in the logbook. Therefore, she is allowed to take it into National Parks. I'm still trying to locate information about how you can get a dog certified as an "Assistance Dog", and for what reasons, it's not very clear. This wasn't a nice quiet labrador, gently padding along at his master's heel, this dog was leading the lady about.
|The so-called "Assistance Dog" at South Cape Bay - 11th March 2012|
My further investigations reveal the following so far. The Parks and Wildlife Service webpages say that "Assistance Dogs" are OK. The actual regulations from 2009 say that only guide dogs and hearing dogs as defined in the Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs Act can be exempted from the requirement to not bring non-native animals into national parks. My reading at this point is that the regulations only exempt guide dogs and hearing dogs. This must have been a hearing dog... although I'm dubious. The ranger had to ring someone, on a Sunday, to get advice on whether the lady should be allowed in with the dog. I bet they didn't have time for a search of Austlii!