Cape Reinga, at the End of the World.
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Schedule of the Visit.
- 1A Day at the Cape Reinga.
- 2Let's Drive on the Beach!
- 3To the End of the World!
- 4There Is Something in the Air...
- 5How About a 3000 Kms Hike?
- 6Surf the Giant Dunes of Te Paki!
- 7A Wonder of the Northland.
A Day at the Cape Reinga.
Although Cape Reinga attracts more and more visitors every year, the lighthouse at the end of the world still remains unknown to most travelers who visit New Zealand
A couple who terminates their trip after two or three weeks has generally traveled more than 3000 km by car. Adding a 400 km stage to get to the northland is often beyond their strength.
All these travelers have one thing in common: they are going to miss one of the most beautiful visits in New Zealand. So to avoid doing same, I'll show you that Cape Reinga deserves a hundred time your visit.
Visits of Cape Reinga (without the 90 mile beach alas ...) and the dunes of Te pakiPresentation of FullersGreatSights.
Let's Drive on the Beach!
I recommend that you leave Aucklandby car very early in the morning in the direction of Kaitaia. The hilly landscape is wonderful, but you must resist the temptation of stopping many times along the way because there is much to be seen and done today.
Just a word to mention the splendid Kauri forest in Puketi : it is on the road, it can be done as well, but it’s a visit to be covered in detail in another article. Arrival at Kaitaia 4 h later. I must confess that it will be of little interest if you do not withdraw money or refuel (you will soon be at 100 kilometers from the first inhabited area).
After leaving the city and 5 km further, comes the first surprise of the day: a huge beach and traces of tyre on the sand.
You may have guessed, we will carve the road on the beach. Nicknamed the Ninety mile beach, it covers actually 56 miles and not 90 miles (who knows why?)
First possibility: you are in a hurry. In this case you can avoid the beach and continue by road. It's a beautiful journey, but this is no longer the same trip.
This alternative track gives you the opportunity to admire kauris, the centenary and emblematic trees of the New Zealand.
To drive on the beach, you need to have a suitable vehicle at your disposal.
Second solution, you are equipped with four driving wheels or the owner of your vehicle. You will be able to rush your car on the beach while listening music. But if you have a rental car, access may be prohibited if the insurance does not allow it (same problem for the camper vans).
You may sometimes cross junked cars three quarter-sunk in the sand; thereforeobserve the speed limit (100 km/h max) otherwise you risk damaging your vehicle! And remember to go on the beach only 2 hours before or after high tide.
The most reasonable thing to do is to follow the traces left by previous vehicles and enjoy the landscape.
Resist the urge to put a toe in water (it is cold with treacherous currents and whirlpools). If you're lucky, you'll come across wild horses.
To have tested both, I recommend that you should instead leave the car in Kaitaia, and take a seat in a special 90 mile beach bus. You will be able to enjoy the comments ofthe driver who will tell you the beautiful Maori legends of the Northland.
I must warn you, if your level of English leaves a lot to be desired, you will understand one-third of what the guide tells in his beard. However, the atmosphere is great, relaxed, and stopovers are planned to enjoy the beach. Regardless of the path you have chosen, your journey brings you closer to the ends of the world.
To the End of the World!
New Zealand is a country with a climate that can change several times in the same day. Here the sky can turn dark and threatening before becoming sunny again fifteen minutes later.
Regardless of the climate, Cape Reinga will leave you speechless. Visible at 48 km offshore, the lighthouse overhangs the ocean. Take a look straight away to watch a unique panorama.
A German report on the Cape (if you do not speak this language, look at the images).Directed by derwissensverlag.
You are in the demarcation line between a sea and an ocean!
Look closely, and you’ll notice that the Tasman Sea is colored blue/green while the Pacific Ocean is tinted blue/grey.
The ocean and the sea seem to be fighting for supremacy. The waves can reach 10 m high at the point of contact between the sea and the Ocean.
You have truly reached the end of the world, and the top limit of the North Island (to be honest, the North Cape Cliffs are a little bit more to the North, but it is a prohibited reserve). There is absolute calm and the sound of the sea gets to you stifled by the wind. Nearthe lighthouse, a signpost precise the distances to the main cities and you’ll realize that London is 18029 km from here!
Pay attention to the side of the road, in the bushes or ditches. You will have a chance to see a mokomoko.
This very cute lizard is one of the rare endemic species you may encounter at Cape Reinga. Some information panels will give you more details near the lighthouse, you just need to know that there are many rare species in the surrounding area.
If you just can't stop watching the ocean, there is a good reason...
There Is Something in the Air...
The Maori consider the Cape Reinga as the most sacred place of the New Zealand. They called it “Te Rerenga Wairua”, which means “the leaping place of spirits”. It is from here that the souls of the dead depart to the afterlife.
Observe the rocky promontory near the ocean and locate the tree that is tilted into the hollow.This sacred pohutukawa is 800 years old!
It is by jumping from these Pohutukawa branches that souls dive into the sea to join “Hawaiki”, the land of the ancestors.
Some Maori will tell you that when the fog covers the Cape, one can hear souls whispering among themselves.
You're on a sacred ground that involves a few basic rules: just as Fast Food cannot be eaten in a church, one cannot have picnic in the Cape Reinga. Keep your distance from the sacred pohutukawa (hardly accessible anyway). And of course, you cannot taste the water from the sacred spring used for funeral rites only.
Once covered with kauri trees, the Cape is currently undergoing rehabilitation. New Zealanders have not done things partially by replanting 150,000 trees and plants. Like many visitors, you can make your contribution.
Plant a tree for a few dollars. Thanks to the GPS coordinates that will be communicated to you, you can find your tree in a few years.
And before leaving, do not forget to post a little card in the mailbox near the parking. It will be stamped “Cape Reinga”, and in our digital era, it’s sometime pleasant to do it the old fashioned way.
I do not know if this is because of the panorama, the religious atmosphere, or contributing to the beauty of nature by planting a tree... but I felt relaxed as ever. During other visits, I sometimes saw people with tears in their eyes while smiling. All these emotions (except if you have a heart of stone) will give you a kind of positive energy and you’ll need to go stretch your legs before you continue your journey.
How About a 3000 Kms Hike?
The starting point is naturally set at Cape Reinga. The 3000 km of “Te Arararoa” (the great walk) run through the two islands from North to South, passing through every point of interest of the country.
Special Huts for backpackers are available, and the paths are carefully marked out and maintained by volonteers.
If your muscles are made of steel and if four months of walking at the rate of 25 km per day does not frighten you, then you can go on an adventure.
Well, if you did not come for that, you however have easy hikes on-site. They are not very difficult, but you must stay on the path if you are walking along cliffs (otherwise it is a one-way ticket to the sacred pohutukawa if you see what I mean!).
In 45 minutes you can reach the beach of Te Werahi (very easy track). Another hike towards Tapotupotu will make you go through the Sandy Bay Beach where you can even swim and picnic (plan 1 h 30 to reach the beach, and the sale for the return trip).
While some people will see an opportunity to play rugby on the sand, I’d rather use my good old Frisbee instead.
The Cape Maria Van Diemen is about 2 hours by road and is worth it, but the best of the day is still to come, so think carefully before you engage further.
Surf the Giant Dunes of Te Paki!
Back on the road, we drive to Tepaki and a big surprise, completely unexpected in New Zealand. You’ll find yourself in a real desert with sand dunes peaks at 140 meters.
White sand flowing between the toes is a true wonder, and there is no risk of coming across a snake or a scorpion, because there are no dangerous species in New Zealand!
Local sports include the renting of surfboards to hurtle down the dunes. You can lie down yourself head forward on the board, (or sit on it if you feel scared), and off you go!
Guaranteed sensations and assured giggles because you are eventually going to wallow in front of everybody.
I once met a local guy who gave me two great advices. The first one is evident but do not forget to close your mouth when gliding with your head forward in order not to swallow sand! If you want to be naughty, don’t tell you friend…
The second trick is to know that some boards that are faster than others. Do not hesitate to ask for a “faster” board, and believe me, it makes all the difference. With a good board, momentum and a steep dune, you'll have great fun. If you are afraid, just watch my video and you'll see that everyone can do it.
After all these emotions it is likely that you be hungry. Fortunately, you may stop at Mangonui on the way back.
It is claimed that it is the best fish & chips in the world, but maybe because too many people say so, you may expect too much from it.
I prefer to say that if you traveled the 90 mile beach, met the souls of your ancestors at the Cape and spent the rest of the day hiking and surfing on the dunes... then this fish & chips will definitely be the best of your life.
If you prefer the more “traditional” surf in the ocean, I recommend ourNew Zealand surf guide.
A Wonder of the Northland.
Among all, it was the best memory of my first trip to New Zealand. A somehow tiring day, I must confess, but yet unforgettable. Adorable people, landscapes out of the ordinary, unusual activities. What else?
Don't let yourself be frightened by the duration of the trip.
In couple you may take turns, and with even more drivers, it becomes a pleasure cruise. The splendid landscape is a time travel machine that scrolls at high speed.
Yesterday again a Kiwipal visitor asked me when this journey should be scheduled during a New Zealand trip. At the very beginning of the journey, it is a little like eating after skipping a meal: just perfect.
At the end of a stay, the road will be a little too far. You can reach Kaitaia by plane, if you still have enough cash. Otherwise, you should motivate yourself: your holidays are almost over and this is a great opportunity to conclude the journey on a high note.
Our dear Ben (who is a better guide than me) has accepted to answer practical questions below. If you plan to go to the Cape Reinga, you should contact him to get more advices.
And if you want to make me happy, send your best photos to Kiwipal, and they will be published on the website (especially if you are on the pictures, it's nice to see our readers for real).
Questions & Answers.
What can I do for you? The key to a perfect trip is to plan your itinerary carefully. The classic combo is to follow the 90 mile beach, admire the lighthouse and surf the sand dunes. You may even travel by bus from Kaitaia.
- All topics ... 19 answers in total
- How to Reach the Cape 7 answers
- Cape History 3 answers
- Best Season to Come 2 answers
- Kaitaia City 2 answers
- The Ninety Mile Beach 2 answers
- Attendance 1 answer
- Te Paki Sand Dunes 1 answer
- Excursion to Cape Maria Van Diemen 1 answer
How to Reach the Cape
- Where is the Cape Reinga?
It is part of the Te Paki reserve which covers 23,000 hectares. You are at the northwest tip of the Aupouri Peninsula in the Northland region. Maori use the term "Te Hiku o Te Hika" (fish head) in reference to the name of the northern island which is "Te Ika a Maui" (Maui fish).
- Who discovered the Cape Reinga?
The Maori first, of course, and the famous Kupe navigator who was chasing a whale when he discovered it.
- Is there a car park on site?
Yes, a new parking lot of 45 places replaced the old one whose location did not respect the Maori sacred land. From the parking it's just a small walk up to the lighthouse.
- What is the last place to refuel on the road?
There is a pump a few miles before Houhora Heads which is easy to miss if one is not vigilant. Be careful because the station can be closed (do not bet too much on it).
- Are there any Kauris trees on the way?
Yes, the east-west route goes through the old gum plantations of Kerikeri. There used to be immense forests of Kauris throughout the region. The accumulation of dead trees created sorts of pockets of gum and triggered a rush of gum in 1880 (one gets varnish of this substance).
- How long to get to Cape Reinga from Bay of Islands?
You can go to the Cape Reinga from Bay of Islands, this is just a two-hour drive. It's a very good circuit idea.
- Can we stop at Whangarei?
It's a very good idea ! Whangarei is the capital of Northland. The Whangarei Falls are recommended, and it's halfway between Auckland and Cape Reinga.
- Why did people build a lighthouse here?
The lighthouse dates from 1941 and was built to replace the lighthouse on Motuopao Island, built in 1879. Solar panels were added and automated in 1987. Its light is visible 48 km offshore (some says only 35 km).
- What are the three offshore islands?
These are the Three King Islands. The souls of the deceased join these islands where they stop for a moment at their summit. Before leaving to join the land of ancestors Hawaiiki-A-Nui.
- Why are there so manyoriginal city names in the area?
Following the arrival of Croatian settlers in the 19th century, some towns have a name with a "ich" suffix.
Best Season to Come
- What weather can we expect?
About weather, you can expect everything, but the cape retains its charm even when it rains. I would even say that it is better to have a climate agitated and a little misty to fully enjoy the atmosphere. As for temperatures, they vary little according to the season. With only 6 or 7 degrees of difference between summer and winter (22 ° in summer, 14 ° in winter).
- Can we see a sunset?
If you spend the night on site because you are traveling in a camper-van, this is a must-see that will mark you forever. Otherwise, console yourself with this video.Sunset in Cape Reinga
- Can you tell me more about Kaitaia?
It is the most northerly city in the country and the most important business center of the Northland. The city has hotels, supermarkets, a hospital ... The starting point of the 90-mile beach is 5 km away from downtown. An airport served by Air New Zealand is 9 km north of Awanui. Small detail, Kaitaia to the highest average temperature of the whole country.
- Can we reach Kaitaia by bus?
Auckland - Kaitaia by bus, it is from 8:30 AM to 03:00 PM. To reach the Cape Reinga, it will be the next day only if you plan a stopover.
The Ninety Mile Beach
- When do the buses for the 90-mile beach leave?
They leave every day around 9 am. Some offer additional services and stopovers. To check on the spot.
- Why does the 90-mile beach does not really cover 90 miles?
James Cook called it "desert coast". It actually measures 90 km, and speaking of miles instead of kilometers is just a mistake of notation. Every year a run is held here.
- Is Cape Reinga crowded?
With 5% more visit every year, the cape is gaining popularity despite its isolation. There are 120,000 visitors per year, with an average of 400 visitors per day. In summer, the attendance increases and a ballet of 1,300 cars scrolls every day. Come as early as possible, or as late as possible to enjoy the sunset.
Te Paki Sand Dunes
- Are the dunes of Te Paki dangerous?
In this desert one must take into account the sign posts that indicate the quicksand zones (there are a few). The danger is the same as at the beach, you might twist yourself an ankle if you are not careful. Please note that there are no dangerous species.
Excursion to Cape Maria Van Diemen
- Can we reach the Cape Maria Van Dienem on foot?
It is a beautiful walk. Starting from Te Werahi Beach you can expect a 5-hour walk.
On the Country Map
Cape Reinga is practically at the tip of the North Island in the Northland region.
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