With sum­mer com­ing, the Far North of­fers some stun­ning op­por­tu­ni­ties for 4WD-based ex­plor­ing. Reg­u­lar NZ4WD con­trib­u­tor Gary Cooper ex­plains.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by Gary Cooper

Our end-of-sum­mer-2018 4WD beach hol­i­day seems like a long time ago now as I sit here lis­ten­ing to the rain on yet an­other wet and windy Auck­land week­end! Re­gard­less, days like this are good for plan­ning your next 4WD trip or rem­i­nisc­ing about past ones, so here is one of ours from last sum­mer that I rec­om­mend.

Day 1. Head­ing North

We blasted the trusty FJ some 330km up State High­way 1 to the Karikari Penin­sula for five days of ex­plor­ing the re­gion with our dou­ble kayak on the roof. This penin­sula has about 80km of coast­line with lots of beaches. All of them are beau­ti­ful and ba­si­cally empty plus some are al­most pure white sil­ica sand. We based our­selves in a rus­tic bach at Rangiputa ( 44km north­east of Kaitaia).


If you drive to the end of Ko­hanga Bay, in Rangiputa past the free DOC camp­ing area at the end of the short shin­gle road, at mid or low tide you can drop down onto an­other small beach. The start is a short boul­der hop but once you get past this it’s a ba­sic beach drive to the other end which has some nice trees for shel­ter and shade cre­at­ing a great place to re­lax, swim, en­joy a BBQ and vino or three. Need­less to say we spent a few re­lax­ing evenings here.

Day 2. Puheke Surf Beach

Puheke beach looks great due to the curve of the bay, ex­tremely white sand, backed of course by sand dunes and the bonus of no baches. From Rangiputa Road fol­low the signs to Puheke and con­tinue on the gravel road for about five kms. This takes you to a small carpark be­hind the sand dunes with the best ac­cess to the beach via a soft sandy nar­row track on the right. Once we aired down and ne­go­ti­ated the ac­cess track we drove to the far end of the beach as this is a very nice place to set up a com­fort­able day camp; which for us means putting up our Fox wing awning and walls so we have shel­ter from the sun and any wind to pro­vide a com­fort­able place to have a BBQ and a few G&Ts ( we make the most of our dual bat­tery sys­tem and the 50L Waeco per­ma­nently mounted in the back), have a swim/ sleep and con­tinue our never end­ing 500 card bat­tles.

Tip B

For one of the best views of white sand beaches on the Karikari Penin­sula or even North­land, head to­wards the ex­tinct vol­cano known as Puheke Hill, then, just be­fore you reach Puheke Beach turn right and en­gage 4WD to drive up to the base of the vol­cano. It’s well worth do­ing the 30 minute walk to the top.

Day 3. Karikari Beach, Matai and Waikato Bay

This was the day we ex­plored the Penin­sula by do­ing a loop drive. Our first stop was Karikari Beach. Un­for­tu­nately you can­not get a ve­hi­cle onto the beach but it is worth the walk down to a un­spoilt long white sand beach. We also checked out the Karikari es­tate win­ery for

a re­lax­ing lunch and tasted some lo­cal vino, which I must say was a great drop ac­com­pa­nied by a freshly baked pizza straight from the wood fire pizza oven. The win­ery has el­e­vated views across the bay and is well worth the stop. Fur­ther north is Matai Bay with its very nice DOC camp­ground which has pri­vate and shel­tered camp­ing spots. The ad­join­ing Waikato Bay is just as nice and has a cou­ple of small walks, the head­land walk tak­ing around an hour and a-half and gives of­fers ma­jes­tic views. Both beaches have good swim­ming but again the only 4WDing per­mit­ted is for beach launch­ing your boat or kayak.

Day 4. Doubt­less Bay and Tok­erau Beach

You can drive the en­tire length of Tok­erau Beach but not at high tide. You will have a cou­ple of small creek cross­ings to ne­go­ti­ate, these also pro­vide the best spots for beach fish­ing. We dropped onto the beach at the far north­ern end by Waita­matau Creek and ex­ited at the far bot­tom end by Aurere Stream af­ter our stan­dard lazy beach day. This area is the most pop­u­lated and also has the Tok­erau mo­tor camp right on the beach.

Day 5. East Beach (or Ran­gaunu Bay ad­ven­ture)

We found this fun 20km beach drive in our old SpotX off-road­ing guide­book. We drove around the Ran­gaunu Har­bour and ac­cessed the south­ern end of the beach from the carpark off Kaimau­mau Road and drove along the soft sandy track. NB. If you start at the bot­tom this can only be done at low tide as the track gets cut off at high tide. It’s a fun drive with lots of places to stop, pic­nic, swim and fish, and some in­land tracks to ex­plore. At the north­ern end of East Beach, you need to cross a small es­tu­ary to exit onto Hau­rora Road which ba­si­cally brings you to Hau­rora Heads at the front of Houhora Har­bour. We en­joyed this side of the bay and beach a lot and kayaked across the har­bour a cou­ple of times for a quick swim and sun bake.

Tip C

Stay on the harder sand be­tween the wa­ter­line and the high tide mark. Al­ways use es­tab­lished ve­hi­cle ac­cess points onto the beach. Drop your tyre pres­sures to suit the con­di­tions. Avoid mak­ing sharp turns at speed. Know the lo­cal ac­cess rules and tides

Tip A. Driv­ing onto small beach North of Ko­hanga Bay.

FJ in beach mode.

An­other per­fect beach stop in the Far North.

Driv­ing along an­other de­serted beach.

View East from Puheke Hill.

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