Escape to the Cape
The road to Cape Reinga is dynamically quite interesting and features plenty of stunning scenery along the way. It’s completely sealed now too – the last of the metal disappeared in 2010. During peak season the road is plagued with buses, and poorly driven rental cars, so good luck getting a clean run to the top. The end of En Zed is 111km north of Kaitaia, around an hour forty-five one-way. Fuel stations are rare the further north you go, so check the tank before leaving. Options for filling human tanks are also few and far between. There’s no grub at the Cape, but the café at Pukenui does a mean steak sanga. There’s also NZ’s northernmost pub, the Houhora tavern to consider.
Parking at the Cape can be tricky, depending on the time of day. The majority of the tour buses visit around lunchtime so there’s likely to be fewer pesky tourists around in the afternoon wielding selfie sticks.
Got a four-wheel drive? The best way to head back to Kaitaia is via Ninety Mile Beach. The most northerly beach access is through a stream which runs between the giant Te Paki dunes. These are worth a gander and we recommend hiring a boogie board for a bit of sand sledding.
Don’t forget to check the tides before hitting the beach; Te Paki stream can be treacherous at times and impassable at others, as can many parts of the beach. The best time to be on the sand is within three hours of low tide. Driving along the beach is the easy part – stick to the hard sand and keep an eye out for wildlife, dead and alive, along with fisher-people, other beach users and the odd hoon. There are only a handful of places to exit the beach, none of them is marked and they are not all easy to spot. The access points are probably the most challenging part of the beach to navigate, most of them require crossing soft, choppy sand so good ground clearance is a must. Rental cars bogged up to their headlights are a common sight here. If exiting the beach at Waipapakauri Ramp there is a vehicle wash at nearby Kauri Kingdom to hose off sand and salt. If you’ve an interest in old wood, take a few minutes to explore the Kingdom, and be sure to clamber through the giant log staircase. The place has gone downhill in the past few years, but it does have clean dunnies.
Cape Reinga lighthouse was automated in 1987. During WWI, keepers spotted a German warship anchored nearby. LEFT - Bonnet the perfect perch for a feed. BELOW - Provision for five baby seats on board. BELOW - Views from the top are tops.