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Home » Adventures » New Zealand Extended Holiday » Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga

Bus Tour

May 16, 2013

In Northland I took the 90 Mile Beach and Cape Reinga bus tour. Vehicles can drive almost the entire length of the beach (which is in fact part of the state highway system and much less than ninety miles), and I was tempted to take my own van but was a bit too leery of getting stuck. Plus, the tours were about the only thing in New Zealand that was reasonably priced, and cost little more than what my van would drink in petrol. (Although since I did not plan logistics well, in order to tramp the Coastal Walkway I drove most of the way back up anyway.) The bus trip across the beach was fun. The sand was very smooth and firm, and the bus barreled along the beach mostly like it was a normal road. The Tasman Sea crashed on our left, endless sand stretched out front, and sand dunes rose to our right. The only downside was we had to hurry along the beach in order to beat the incoming tide.

All too soon we turned off the beach and up Te Paki Stream, driving down the middle of the shallow river. Alongside though were large sand dunes, where we stopped for tobogganing, just like on a snow hill. Boogie boards were provided and after a trudge up the loose sand, it was a fast slide down. The sledding was a lot of fun, and I went several times. Once when I hit the bottom my board lodged in the sand, stopping abruptly, but I kept going, continuing several more meters until I landed in the river wet, but unharmed.

Afterwards we took lunch at Tapotupotu Bay before heading to Cape Reinga Lighthouse — the furthest point (readily accessible) in New Zealand. It is a sight sacred to Maori, as this spot is where departed spirits leave to join the spirit world. After the required photos at the lighthouse we drove back south, stopping at a few sites and lookouts along the way while our driver expertly explained the area and its history, as well as performing several traditional Maori songs. Eventually we arrived back in Kaitaia, completing our loop of the top part of New Zealand.

Riding in the bus along the beach. This “road” is in fact part of the state highway system
Cape Maria van Diemen
Myself at Cape Reinga Lighthouse, the northern most (readily accessible) point in New Zealand

Coastal Walkway

Route I Walked56 km

Route I Walked
56 km

May 17 – 19, 2013

Since I did not plan logistics well, after taking a bus tour I found myself driving up the northern most part of New Zealand anyway to walk the Cape Reinga Coastal Track. To self shuttle, I parked at Waitiki Landing and hitched and hoofed it down to Spirits Bay. A walk along the soft sand and shells of the beach led me to the picturesque Pandora Bay. Unfortunately since my tent pole broke in Te Urewera, I was using a spare tent that came with my van, which I discovered the hard way did not keep rain out. At least the campground had a sheltered picnic area that kept me mostly dry. The rest of the eastern part of the walk was along undulating ridgelines, with sheer cliffs plunging steeply into the ocean. Rounding Cape Reinga Lighthouse (the start/end of the Te Araroa Track), the landscape turned to beaches and large sand dunes. The hills rose large beside me as I enjoyed some barefoot backpacking along the coast. All too soon I turned away from the ocean up Te Paki stream, where at the carpark I hid my backpack in the bush and jogged back to Waitiki Landing — boy am I out of shape.

Afterwards, with slightly misplaced confidence after my bus tour I pointed my trusty minivan towards 90 Mile Beach. Unfortunately the rain left the texture of the sand dunes inhospitable to repeat tobogganing, but I did take my vehicle down the many kilometers of packed sand — racing high tide the whole way. I mostly made it down the beach without a hitch, but did get stuck on the soft sand three meters form the tarmac at Waipapakauri. People with vehicles more appropriate for the beach were nearby though and pulled me out.

Spirit Bay
Looking down on Tapotupotu Bay
Twilight Beach