Paihia to Cape Reinga

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Cape Reinga

You really need to leave a few days to explore Cape Reinga and the beautiful Far North. Journey north to the Aupouri peninsula (which starts at Awanui) and drive to the tip of New Zealand at Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua) which has great spiritual significance for Maori.

Paihia to Awanui

Matai BayMatai Bay

There are some beautiful beaches along the Northland coast as you head north to Cape Reinga from Paihia via Doubtless Bay and the Karikari peninsula before heading inland to Awanui. Take time out to leave the main road and take the road east to Matauri Bay and follow the coast around to Whangaroa harbour.

For a little hidden gem, take the road to Totara North, which is on the western shore of the Whangaroa harbour. Follow the road around and spend time in Tauranga and Taupo bays.

Once you return to SH1, head north to Mongonui and Cooper's beach and then onto Taipa. Shortly after Taipa, take the road out to the Karikari peninsula and view the beautiful white sand dunes. We stayed at the DOC site at Matai bay at the end of the peninsula - we highly recommend it. You camp on the cliffs above the beach which is only a short walk away

Back on the main highway, head to Awanui, and then onto Cape Reinga.

See and Do

  • Sit on an east coast beach and watch the sun rise
  • Sail on the Sea Eagle from the Whangaroa Harbour - visit the Cavalli Islands - go diving in the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior (a former Greenpeace vessel that was bombed by the French and has been relocated to this spectacular diving spot)
  • Play golf at the famous Kauri Cliffs golf course on the Karikari peninsula

Eat and Drink

  • Have fish and chips at the Mongonui Fish shop - the fish is fresh and delicious and the chips are pretty good too
  • Visit the Karikari Estate on the Karikari peninsula - New Zealand's northernmost winery. If you take the time to get there you will be rewarded with fine wine and food and fabulous vistas across the white sand dunes to the Pacific

Stop Awhile

  • Matai Bay DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite - we strongly recommend this as a place to stay. There are only basic facilities but that didn't bother us in our well-equipped OCV (overland camping vehicle)
  • Tokerau Beach Motor Camp in Doubtless Bay - this beachside camp has excellent access for boating and other water activities, including fishing


Awanui to Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga LighthouseCape Reinga Lighthouse

Awanui is the gateway to the Aupouri peninsula. There is only one road in and out heading to the very tip of Aotearoa/New Zealand, Cape Reinga (or Te Rerenga Wairua as it is known by Maori). Cape Reinga is a very spiritual place for Maori as it is where the spirits leave the land to return to Hawaiiki.

Make sure you are fueled and stocked before you head up the Aupouri peninsula - although there is fuel at Waitiki Landing, the tanks were empty the day we travelled.

See and Do

  • Visit the Cape Reinga lighthouse and watch as the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea
  • Take one of the many walks around Cape Reinga

Eat and Drink

  • Stock up in Awanui - we bought the best sausages ever in the general store in Awanui - they had just been brought in by the farmer!

Stop Awhile

  • Wagener Holiday Park at Houhoura Heads - you can choose seaview or secluded sites here
  • Taipotupotu Bay - this is a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite just over the hill from Cape Reinga - we stayed here and it was magical


Ninety Mile Beach to Ahipara

Ahipara 90mile BeachAhipara 90mile Beach

If you have a 4WD vehicle you can drive down Ninety Mile beach from Waitiki Landing (just 20 km south of Cape Reinga) - if you have a rental vehicle, you will be prohibited from taking it on Ninety Mile beach, so if you want to experience the ninety mile beach drive, we would advise taking a 4WD or coach safari from Waitiki Landing or from Kaitaia (south of Awanui).

Take care if swimming on Ninety Mile Beach - there are serious rips and many people have lost their lives swimming there.

Alternatively, drive south from Awanui to Ahipara via Kaitaia where you can stop to restock and refuel, do your banking or just enjoy the atmosphere of the town.

See and Do

  • Take a 4WD safari on Ninely Mile Beach - you can do this from Kaitaia
  • Rent a quad bike in Ahipara at the southern end of Ninety Mile beach and have fun on the beach
  • Keen fishermen will want to try surfcasting at Ahipara's Reef Point and Shipwreck Bay)

Eat and Drink

  • Stop at a cafe in Kaitaia
  • Get a pie from Ahipara cafe just as the road forks at the coast - these are very good

Stop Awhile

  • Ahipara Backpackers and Motor Camp