Originally our plan was to skip Cape Reinga since it is at the furthest northern tip of New Zealand. It was a couple hours drive out of our way. However, the man that worked at our hostel in Pahia convinced us that it was well worth the trip and helped set us up with a hostel and bus tour for the following morning. I’m so glad that we listened to him. Cape Reinga was one of my favorite sites in New Zealand.
The next morning we left our hostel at 6:30 am in order to get to Kataia before 8:45 am. We arrived at the hostel in time to check-in and then meet the bus out front for the tour of Cape Reinga.
Our first stop was the “Ancient Kauri Kingdom.” It is a gallery of things made from buried Kauri logs and stumps. The buried Kauri logs are dug up out of the ground and are thousands of years old. Some are even estimated to be 45,000 years old. The Ancient Kauri Kingdom had some huge Kauri stumps outside. The wood from the Kauri logs felt very soft.
Then we boarded the bus again. As we drove on, the bus driver told us about the history of the Kauri tress and the Kauri tree industry. Unfortunately, the New Zealand Kauri trees are in real danger because they were over logged. Now, a fungus is killing the ones that are left. We also drove through the Aupouri Forest, which is one of the largest man-made forests in the Southern Hemisphere.
We stopped at Houhora Heads at Houhora Harbour. It is below Mount Camel, which is a tall volcanic out crop at the entrance of the harbour. It is a very calm and serene harbour. Sadly, we only stayed for ten minutes. I did get some nice photos though.
Our next stop was the Te Kao Store, which is the most northern general store in New Zealand. Almost everyone, including Cally and I, got some ice cream. We then went to the white sand beach of Rarawa Beach. I got some beautiful photos there as well. We stayed there for about ten minutes and enjoyed the scenery.
Next, we finally made it up to Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua). The Maori believe that Reinga is the “departing place of the spirits of the recently deceased.” It is also where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meet. From the cape, we could see the meeting place of the two seas by the white water and crests off the coast.
Cape Reinga is absolutely stunning! The ocean around it is such a deep dark blue. However, it was extremely windy. At some points, the wind would push me forward a step, or I would have to push against the wind to walk forward. By the lighthouse, there is a big hill which we climbed and from there we could see all around us. We were mostly surrounded by the deep blue of the ocean. Regrettably, we were only given about 35 minutes at Cape Reinga. I wish I could have sat and enjoyed the view longer.
Afterwards, we went to Tapotupotu Bay, where we had lunch. Tapotupotu Bay is on the eastern side of Cape Reinga. We were pleasantly surprised to see a pod of dolphins swimming in the bay! About 12-20 dolphins swam together back and forth across the bay. We watched them as we ate lunch. They rode and rolled through the waves. That was the only time I could really see them. Most of the time, only their fins were visible above the water as they swam back and forth. I don’t think I got any good photos but I certainly tried. I do have a few photos where their fins can be seen in the water.
When we left the bay, the dolphins were still swimming. As we drove to our next destination, we were delayed by cows being herded down the road. It was interesting to see how they were herded by the dogs and farmers. In fact, on the way to the cape, we were also delayed by sheep being herded down the road. We could really see how the dogs herded the sheep. The dog would jump over fences in order to get in front of the herd to direct it. Instead of being annoyed by the delays, I was happy to see a glimpse of farm life.
Our next location was the Te Paki Stream and the Sand Dunes. The bus driver had to drive quickly through the stream since parts of it was quick sand. If he didn’t stop in a safe place, the bus could start sinking and get stuck. We stopped right below the sand dunes. The sand dunes were huge! I think they were at least two stories tall. Cally, Karen and I were the only people on the tour to go sand toboganning. Karen is a girl who we met on the tour and our roommate for the night. At first I was uneasy about toboganning down the sand dunes since they looked very high and steep. But after I watched Cally and Karen go, I went with them the second time. It was a tiring climb up the steep dune. It was the most difficult near the top because all of the sand slid out from under me as I tried to get up. Most of the way up the hill, I walked in someone else’s footsteps that had already compacted the sand.
Once at the top, Karen went first. Then I went. I was really uneasy but eventually forced myself to push off down the hill. The ride was much smoother than I had expected. There was only one bump. It was a lot of fun and I wanted to go again. We had time, so Cally and I trudged up the hill again. The sand was blowing a lot up there. I had to wait a second to get the sand out of my eyes before going down the hill again. I wish we had had more time to go again. As I went down the hill, sand flew up and got all over my clothes. I even got some sand in my mouth. When we walked back on the bus, everyone else on the bus clapped for us since we went down the hill.
From the sand dunes, we went to the Ninety Mile Beach. The beach is not 90 miles but is actually about 55 miles. It is all white sand beach. There is no road; our bus drove straight on the beach. He even drove through the surf a bit. The waves were very choppy and the tide was coming in so we only got off the bus once to take a few pictures near the hole-in-the-rock. We then had to continue driving before the tide came in too far. We drove over 20 kilometers on the empty beach. We didn’t see any fishermen or other tours since the weather was turning. While driving down the beach, we saw a couple of wild horses grazing on the sand dunes behind the beach. The drive down the beach concluded our tour and we were dropped back off at our hostel.
This was one of my favorite days during our trip to New Zealand. The scenery was amazing! It was also nice not needing to navigate for a day!