ADVENTURE in the far north
A comfortable bus tour taking in the renowned 90 Mile Beach and Cape Reinga? Definitely. Flinging myself down a steep sand dune on a boogie board? No way! Well, those were my initial thoughts when I looked at things to do on a recent stay in New Zealand’s Far North.
Dune Rider came highly recommended by their happy customers, so I booked myself in for their 8-hour all-inclusive tour and activity day. Talk about taking the stress out of entertaining friends and family; we were picked up at our accommodation in Kaitaia by shuttle courtesy of Dune Rider and dropped off at the “Ancient Kauri Kingdom”- the starting point of the day’s activities. “Ancient” indeed; as I wandered around taking in the beauty of the unique carvings and artwork all steeped in the history of the land, I learned that Kauri has been carbon dated at more than 45,000 years of age and is known to be the oldest workable wood in the world. There is no wastage of this valuable wood at Kauri Kingdom where they craft items from as small as egg cups to large pieces of furniture. Even the off-cuts are finished and sold as souvenirs. All too soon it was time to board our coach and for the real journey to begin: we were off to 90 Mile Beach. It was a unique experience to be propelled along the spectacular seemingly never-ending stretch of sand at low tide. The sand glistened and beautifully reflected the sky. Everyone turned their heads to take in the surrounding views that were breathtaking in all directions. Our driver, Wendy was a real story-teller, and her commentary was full of New Zealand history and knowledge of local points of interest.
There was a brief stop that I appreciated as a chance to stretch my legs and take a few photos. The timing was spot-on as we caught a rare glimpse of the Te Aupouri wild horses thanks to Wendy’s local knowledge and keen eye. Back on board the coach and we were off to ride the Te Paki sand dunes! I was still of two minds as to whether I was going to have a go, but everyone else was so enthusiastic I got caught up in the moment. The boards and instruction are all part of the tour, so why not? First it was a thigh-burning workout to ascend the dunes. The reward was in the total exhilarating rush I experienced flying back down the steep slope. Once at the bottom it was time to take some memorable photos of my friends’ rapid descents! Next stop: Cape Reinga the tip top of New Zealand and a place I had always wanted to see. The Cape is the location of the iconic lighthouse and international sign post that every Kiwi is familiar with. I was soon to discover that it was a very special place. On arrival, I was eager to get out and walk along the winding track to the lighthouse. Our driver, Wendy told us that Maori believe the spirits of their loved ones (who have passed) depart from Cape Reinga. As I walked slowly along the path taking in the view of the bright blue of the Tasman Sea and the dark of the Pacific Ocean merging into one, I could feel a palpable spiritual energy. Although I did get my iconic photos of the lighthouse and signpost, the view of the sea and ocean and the feeling of something magical happening is what I took away with me. After exploring the Cape, I was ready to wind down on the coach as we headed to
lunch at Waitiki Landing. Lunch is all part of the package, and it was a treat after such a stimulating few hours to sit down and chat about what we had seen and experienced. My friends were still buzzing about the dune ride and we excitedly compared photos we had taken. After a hearty and satisfying lunch, it was time to head to our final stop of the day at Gumdiggers Park. The historic Gumdiggers Park is an authentic gum field over 100 years old. I took the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the early settlers of New Zealand; it was plain to see how tough life would have been for them as they prospected Kauri gum. What a hardy people they must have been to survive and thrive! The highlight for me was seeing and touching Kauri trees over 100,000 years old. The trees were likely felled by some pre-historic cataclysmic event and remained buried at the Gumdiggers site until they were unearthed by the gum prospectors. At the end of the day, I was very satisfied and pleasantly tired, so it was great just to sit back and be transported to our starting point. The winterless Far North is an optimal holiday destination, and there is no better way to explore it than on an air-conditioned and super comfortable Dune Rider Kaitaia coach. The tour was an opportunity to take in sandy beaches, native flora and fauna, see local attractions and experience firsthand some iconic landmarks while being looked after all day by the Petricevich team who took the stress out of planning a group outing. When can we go again?
Dune riding at 90 Mile Beach, Northland
Northland Kauri forest
Ancient Kauri, Gumdiggers Park