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Cape Reinga

Posted in Cape Reinga, New Zealand by folkestonejack on March 19, 2013

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga, at the point where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, is one of the iconic sights that you can’t miss in any promotion of New Zealand as a holiday destination. It is not quite the most northerly point of New Zealand but near enough for me.

Although our base at Paihia was a good part of the way it was still a considerable drive north, particularly with stops included for keen photographers! Our journey to the Cape began around 9am, partly in the hope of timing our run to avoid the coach tours.

One of many stunning views on the highway to Cape Reinga

One of many stunning views on the highway to Cape Reinga

A view of the dunes from the highway to Cape Reinga

A view of the dunes from the highway to Cape Reinga

On the way to the cape we stopped to look at ninety mile beach – an incredible stretch of beach that runs from Ahipara Bay to Scott Point. The fact that it is just 55 miles in reality is best overlooked (it relates to the number of days ride on horseback in ages past, rather than distance in the conventional sense).

The entrance to ninety mile beach

The entrance to ninety mile beach

The beach is officially classified as a highway so it’s not unusual to see cars and coaches hurtling along the sand, strange as that may seem. An unusual roadway at that, where keeping an eye on the timings for high tide is critical… many a car has come unstuck here.

The Te Paki stream

The Te Paki stream

A number of tour operators run sightseeing coaches that blast up the beach and then exit at Te Paki stream. Looking at the stream it is very hard to imagine that this could be a route for four wheeled traffic! Aside from this, the spot is remarkable for its huge sand dunes and you can usually hire boards here to surf down them (highly entertaining to watch too).

Our timing was perfect – arriving at Cape Reinga at 1.25pm just as most of the coaches were getting ready to head home, leaving the place largely deserted. The lighthouse was wonderful to see, but it was the way that the waves of the Tasman Sea crash against the Pacific Ocean at in different directions that was most fascinating to watch.

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga

All directions from the Cape!

All directions from the Cape!

In Maori this place is known as Te Rerenga Wairua. The rocky point jutting out to sea, adjacent to the lighthouse, is known as Te Reinga and is the place where the spirits enter the underworld. A single ancient kahika tree, known as Te Aroha, grows on this rock and it is here that the spirits descend to the water – on steps formed by the trees roots.

After visiting the lighthouse we took one of two walks that connect up to the path down to the lighthouse – a forty five minute walk down to the beach at Te Werahi which provides wonderful views across to Cape Maria van Diemen. Not too challenging but very rewarding. You can opt to continue walking for 8 hours to get back to Te Paki stream (tides permitting) but we choose to head back the way we came.

The view from Te Werahi to Cape Maria van Diemen

The view from Te Werahi to Cape Maria van Diemen

Our day was nearly done, but we had one final stop to make at the western end of Spirits Bay (Kapowairua). It was the most beautiful place to end the day – an incredible rocky outcrop, separated from the sand and sea by a river. Wild horses roam and the place abounds with bird life. Inevitably, it was impossible to capture the magical quality of this place in pictures – you just have to go there!

Spirits Bay

Spirits Bay

The drive back in the dark was not the most fun with winding, squiggly roads to contend with and poorly marked road signs but we made it back just after 9pm. Paihia is not a place to go hunting for food at such a late hour, but luckily one place was willing to feed three hungry souls at the end of a long day.

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