Day 1,830 of Traveling the World | Cape Reinga, New Zealand | February 5, 2023

The tippy-top of New Zealand! The day was overcast and cloudy, but it never rained. We made it to Cape Reinga and its famous, albeit tiny, lighthouse. When you look straight out, there is endless ocean – Pacific, to be exact. The nearest land, looking out in the second and third photos, is New Caledonia, at about 900 miles, followed by Fiji, at 1,200 miles or so. So – quite remote.

When we arrived at Cape Reinga, the parking lot was full, and a tour bus pulled in right after us. There were lots of people wanting to claim that they had been to the northernmost spot in NZ! We were reminded of our 82 days of driving around the UK, when we went to John o’Groats and Dunnet in Scotland – the most northerly points in mainland UK.

There is only one major road, SH 1, available to the top of the country, so we traveled the same highway in each direction, but when heading south, we made two stops: Tapotupotu Bay and the Giant Tepaki Sand Dunes, both short distances off SH 1, but on unpaved roads! We have encountered unpaved roads 5-6 times in the Northland. It seems unbelievable to us that these are advertised, government-promoted attractions, yet you must drive on unpaved roads, about five miles each way, in and out, to reach them. As we bumped along, zigzagging to avoid potholes, we were glad we had a rental car! And we were even happier that the car was SUV-ish rather than Sports Car-ish, so we didn’t bottom out. We probably wouldn’t have gone down some of those roads if we had a car like our beloved Mazda Miata.

The dunes were most interesting. The only other similar experience we had was at White Sands National Park in New Mexico. Here, near Cape Reinga, the sand came from volcanoes that erupted in the center of New Zealand’s North Island about 2 million years ago. It is all over the region. A vendor there was renting small body boards for children to coast down the dunes on their tummies. And we saw people hiking, way up on top of the dunes. We are guessing that for every step forward, they took two backward!

Oh, and we did have one more stop – as we returned to Cable Bay, we saw an incredible sight: more than a dozen kite surfers out in the bay. The wind was pretty vigorous, and they were passing each other as well as seagulls. We watched, charmed, for about 30 minutes. There is a video of them at the end of our photos.

A view to the west, showing Spirits Bay. “Reinga” means “the leaping-off place of spirits” in Māori.
Don’t miss it! – See how tiny the lighthouse is??
Still tiny.
On the side opposite the lighthouse, you can use the staircase to take a pretty coastal walk.
These are the choices! We were there about 1:00 pm, and considered doing the 11 hour-30 minute walk, but we didn’t want to show off.
The deserted beach at Tapotupotu Bay. However, near the parking lot, there was a group of 10-20 people having a picnic. We are guessing that food won out over swimming.
No Freedom Campers? We found out that this prohibits people from camping on public land that isn’t a recognized camping ground. (Notice that the first language is Māori.)
Not yet at the Giant Sand Dunes (this is many miles north, in fact), we were already seeing sand!
Here they are! Can you see the two people nearing the top?
The place to rent a body board. Notice that the tires have sunk into the ground – we are guessing that this truck is permanent. From what we saw in the back and on the side, the owners likely live here.
A pretty scene along Great Exhibition Bay.
Some of what you see in the air are seagulls, some are kite surfers.
A close-up, as they surfed back and forth in front of us.
This video shows the surfers moving in both directions, criss-crossing each other. You will see why we watched for a while!

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