Es­cape to the Cape

NZ Autocar - - In The Field -

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.

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