Cape Reinga: A Trip to the Top of New Zealand
The main reason for our recent North Island trip was to finally explore the beaches and coastlines of Northland. Cape Reinga is as far north as you can go in New Zealand and it’s a popular spot for that reason. Well, not only that reason – it’s a beautiful place featuring some of the best coastal views in New Zealand. There is also quite a bit to see in the surrounding area, including a really long beach, wild horses and sand dunes. Keep reading to find out how to make the most of your trip to Cape Reinga!
In blogging there’s generally a tactic of drip-feeding information and leaving the most important stuff for last so people will keep reading. That’s not usually how I roll (although I probably should), so I’ll start with the highlight of this trip, which was obviously Cape Reinga. We had stayed the night in Kaitaia the night before and got on the road early for the 90-minute drive. We arrived just before the tour buses and late risers and had the place (almost) to ourselves. From the car park it’s a short walk down to the lighthouse. There are great views along the way, especially to the left (Te Werahi Beach). There’s a small hill with some tracks on it which you can climb for the best views – most people just kept to the track and missed it!
The lighthouse itself is cool and there are some nice views from the end of the track, but the view down towards Te Werahi Beach / Twilight Beach is the best by far. There’s a track which goes down there (it takes 30 minutes or so to reach Te Werahi Beach) and also a longer loop track. We didn’t have time and the view from the top would be hard to beat anyway. If you’ve done this walk, let me know what it’s like in the comments below. And that’s about it. There isn’t a lot to see at Cape Reinga if you’re not willing to hike, but what you do see is pretty special. I’ve seen a lot of coastal views in New Zealand and these ones are right up there.
A short distance from the end of the road you’ll see a turnoff to Spirits Bay. It was drizzling when we visited but it still looked good – I imagine in full sunshine this place would be amazing. If you’re thinking of camping near Cape Reinga this is your best bet – it’s the closest camping ground and it’s a lovely spot.
Te Paki Sand Dunes
After visiting Cape Reinga, we headed back down south towards Kai Iwi Lakes, stopping off at a few places along the way, including 90 Mile Beach. We also visited the Te Paki Sand Dunes (before Cape Reinga), which is a common stop for people road tripping around this area. It’s a short detour from the main road and is an interesting spot. We parked up and walked up a few of the dunes, but if you’re more adventurous you can do some sand boarding..
I’d heard that there’s a chance of seeing wild horses on the forestry road leading towards 90 Mile Beach, but I was still shocked when we actually saw some. They crossed the road right in front of us and then strolled into the trees. I’ve seen plenty of horses in my time but seeing wild ones was far more exciting than I thought it’d be!
90 Mile Beach
“Long Beach” is a name given to many beaches around the world, but chances are they’ve got nothing on 90 Mile Beach. Ok, it’s not actually 90 miles long (it clocks in at around 55 miles) but you get to picture – it’s long! You probably won’t see the whole thing (although it is technically a road which you can drive down) but it’s worth stopping off to see a section. It’s not the most interesting beach I’ve seen but it’s iconic enough to warrant a visit (and you might see wild horses!).
Getting to Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga sits at the end of State Highway 1 (the main road in New Zealand). If you’re driving from Kaitaia it’ll take around 90 minutes (three hours from Paihia, 5.5 hours from Auckland).
Where to Stay
There isn’t much in the way of civilization north of Kaitaia so for most people it’s a day trip rather than somewhere you’ll spend the night at. Of course, you can camp at Spirits Bay and there are some accommodation options along the road towards Cape Reinga. We stayed in Kaitaia the night before we visited Cape Reinga and then drove all the way down to Kai Iwi Lakes. There are so many options in Northland though and you’ll have to pick and choose if you only have a few days. I highly recommend spending some time in the Bay of Islands, Matapouri (where one of my favourite New Zealand beaches is located) and Kai Iwi Lakes.
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out my posts (I have over 30 NZ posts now!).
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