Cape Reinga – Over 120K Visitor Flock Here Yearly!
Cape Reinga is the northwesternmost edge of New Zealand’s Aupouri Peninsula, and it is one of the great holiday destinations to go camp, hike, surf and enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities!
Cape Reinga otherwise known as Te Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua in Māoriis, can be found more than one hundred kilometres north of the nearest small town of Kaitaia. The New Zealand State Highway 1 reaches all the way to the Cape, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the unsealed gravel road for the final nineteen kilometers was built up. If you have access to a 4WD vehicle, and aren’t hiring a car, you can also travel much of the way via 90 Mile Beach and Te Paki stream bed – just be aware that car rental companies do not allow people who are hiring their cars to take them along the beach.
The name of the Cape Reinga derives from the Māori word ‘Reinga’, which translates to the ‘Underworld’, and the other Māori name is ‘Te Rerenga Wairua’, in English it would translate to the leaping-off place of spirits. Both names refer to the Māori belief that the cape itself is the doorway to the underworld, the place where the spirits of the dead leap off and enter another realm.
Since January 2007, Cape Reinga is on the tentative list of UNESCO, being considered to receive World Heritage Site status. Cape Reinga is already a very popular tourist attraction, drawing in more than 120,000 visitors a year and around 1,300 cars arriving in the area per day during peak season. Visitor numbers are expanding by about five percent each year, and the increase in tourism will likely grow even greater as time goes by.
Within a thirty kilometer radius of Cape Reigna you can discover so many different things to see, and the majority of visitors to the Cape make a day trip of the cape itself, visiting Rerenga Wairua, Te Paki where the giant sand dunes are, the Oneroa a Tohe or 90 Mile Beach and also Tapotupotu.
However, there are more things to discover if you can also explore by car, such as Kapo Wairua or Spirits Bay which is situated between 2 pa, or Maori forts, Te Hapua which is on the shores of the Parengarenga Harbour and is a real treat for bird lovers. And finally Paua, where you may be able to rent a kayak and paddle over to the Kokota Sandspit – the impressive white silica sands that you will see on your way up.
If you’re looking forward to doing some hiking and camping on your Cape Reigna vacation, there are a number of great walking tracks that are great for hiking in the area.
Located roughly twenty two kilometers from Cape Reinga, Waitiki Landing is the northernmost garage, basic supplies shop and accommodation area where you aren’t required to have a tent, although you can camp there if you wish. There exist cabins featuring backpacker beds or bunks, and a communal kitchen for all to use when preparing their meals. A take away and a restaurant can also be found at the complex. Camp grounds in the region are excellent places to call home base as you and your crew are off exploring Cape Reinga and beyond. Fill up your tank at their gas station before heading any further north, it’s the last one you’ll see!
Address: Far North Road, Waitiki.
Price Rage: fairly average
Tel: 09 409-7508
Spirits Bay Campground: “The Northernmost Campground”
The Spirits Bay camping site is located at the eastern side of the beach, and is situated beside a stream that winds its way along the campground and finally reaches the ocean. It is known for being the most northern accessible camping ground in all of New Zealand. The site allows for many different options when it comes to the location for your actual camp site setup, ranging from the grounds alongside the stream to areas that are almost entirely surrounded by the bush or spots that are completely out in the open. You will have the basic amenities of running water, cold showers and toilet blocks, which are provided throughout the camp but for everything else you need to bring your own supplies.
Location: Spirits Bay, 20 kilometers south of Cape Reinga
Price Comparison: least expensive, less than US$20
Visit the Lighthouse
The famous Cape Reinga Lighthouse is owned and cared for by Maritime New Zealand, and is perhaps one of the most popular attractions in all of Cape Reinga. It’s a great place to walk, see the cape, and learn about the history of the lighthouse. It was originally constructed in 1941, and was the last manned lighthouse to have been built within New Zealand.
The Cape Reinga Lighthouse replaced the lighthouse on Motuopao Island, situated near Cape Maria Van Diemen which in its time was a difficult site to access.
The Cape Reinga Lighthouse is now fully automated and is a definite must see for any visitors in the region. Entry to the light is not permitted but the grounds are open and the view is phenomenal. The short hike to the lighthouse is regarded as being an easy one, a simple 10 minute walk – but it is all downhill which makes the return trip more of a challenge as it is steep going back up again. The path leads you from the visitor centre and the first photo opportunity you’ll come across will be Cape Maria Van Diemen. As you continue to walk down the path you will catch glimpses of the famous lighthouse, and beautiful views to the south east. Undoubtedly one of the best views is The Meeting of the Seas, where the Tasman Sea meets with the Pacific Ocean. The conflicting currents create a line of breakers that you’re able to see from land.
Be sure to carry water with you, however, due to the spiritual nature of the cape for the Mâori it is requested that visitors to Cape Reinga Lighthouse and many sites around the cape behave in a respectful and considerate manner, and refrain from eating while you are at the lighthouse.
Tapotupotu and Spirits Bay are so close to Cape Reinga that they are able to provide good surfing with the right conditions to anybody on holiday in the area. At Tapotupotu you can surf on the western end at the low tide, and while the tide comes in again the surf breaks move along toward the eastern end. Spirits Bay also has good surfing opportunities for anyone in the Cape Reinga region willing to take a quick drive over. You can camp while you stay and surf in these regions, as camping areas are found nearby. You find the Tapotupotu turnoff about 6 kilometers south of the cape, and the Spirits Bay turnoff is about 20 kilometers south of the cape.
Te Paki sand dunes
When you’re making your way from Cape Reinga to 90 Mile Beach, you will pass through Te Paki and it’s world famous giant sand dunes! You can find some terrific hiking paths around this area, so pack a good pair of shoes and take some water with you – but Te Paki is also famous for its adventurous form of boogie boarding! You hop aboard a typical style boogie board and you treat the underside with wax so you can control the speed, and you let yourself go – you aren’t boogie boarding on water, mind you, you’re boogie boarding down Te Paki’s giant sand dunes!
The boogie boards are supplied to visitors by the Dunerider group, and there is a variety of different boards for speeds from fast to slow. You will get a lesson before you take off down the dune – don’t put your hands out to the sides, pull up on the front of your boogie board, and use your toes as the brakes to slow and stop yourself. You’ll have a blast – the only down side is climbing up the dune again! You will get a little bit of a workout but you’ll hardly even notice.
While heading north from Kaitaia, traveling along the road to Cape Reinga you will start to notice large white sand dunes off in the distance. These large white sand dunes are the fascinating silica sands of Kokota Spit. The Kokota Spit sand is pure white, and unlike most other sand that can get very hot in the sun – sometimes too hot to even walk on without burning your feet, the silica sand will stay cool. It is a great medium for napping on in the summertime, and it is cool and refreshing to walk through on hot days. Silica sand is the material that is used in the making of glass.
The Start of Te Araroa – The Long Pathway
Te Araroa – also known as The Long Pathway – opened on the 3rd December 2011, welcoming all to this three thousand kilometer stretch of walking trail that reaches from Cape Reinga to the Bluff. You obviously do not have to commit to doing the entire Te Araroa trail, and instead opt to take on parts of it from one day walks to as many days – or even months, as some have done.
Digging for Pipis
Taking the tide into account, one of the more popular and interesting activities in the Cape Reinga region is heading to Ninety Mile Beach to go digging for pipis. What in the world are pipis, you might be asking? If you’ve never heard of the term before, Pipis are local clams, they’re edible and tasty and it’s great to go searching for them when the tide is right. You don’t use a spade to dig – you use your feet and toes! Pick a place where incoming waves are covering and then receding. Once the water covers your feet, you wiggle them down into the sand – you will feel the hard shells of the little pipis under your feet. When the next wave washes over, you wriggle your feet again – this time working under the clams and lifting them up to the surface, and as soon as the wave recedes again you collect them. It’s a fun way to spend some time, especially with the family in tow – just roll up your pant legs and away you go!
Hole in the Rock of the West
A great scenic natural attraction, the Hole In The Rock is quite literally a hole in a rock, but it’s much more majestic looking than it’s simple name implies! Found just off the west coast, breathtaking Matapia Island is a solitary island off Ninety Mile Beach, and it’s obvious number one feature is a 20 metre wide tunnel straight through the entire island, which can be easily seen from the beach. It makes for a great photo opportunity.
Visit the New Zealand destinations category to learn more about other places to visit in New Zealand!