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The very tip of New Zealand, where the Tasman Sea meets the mighty Pacific Ocean, is a pilgrimage every kiwi should make in their life time. It’s one of those Bucket List wishes that for many, remain just that, a wish. So here’s why you should make it a reality…
Whether you’re a kiwi or a visitor to New Zealand, taking a guided tour up here has a lot of merit over self-driving. Firstly you have a local guide who makes the whole trip come to life, and secondly driving on the sands of Ninety Mile Beach should be left to the pros.
The 11-hour day starts with a pick up from hotels in Paihia and Keri Keri where you’ll meet your Fullers GreatSights bus driver and guide – who knows a lot more than just the road.
You’ll discover things that you’d otherwise have to trawl through guidebooks to learn and hear anecdotal stories of far north history and culture.
At the marae in Te Kao, for example, is a remarkable survival story from WWI in Gallipoli. Local bushman Hone Tahitahi served in the 1st Maori Contingent and was shot in the chest by a Turkish soldier.
Incredibly, his prayer book was in his breast pocket and he was only knocked unconscious. Hone was evacuated and later served in France. But he mailed the little book to the London Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and in 1985 it was returned to his family here in Te Kao, bullet fragment still embedded.
Continuing on through rural New Zealand, past sparkling seas and white sandy beaches you’ll stop at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom for morning tea and to buy lunch for a picnic later.
Handmade kauri bowls, tables and gifts are crafted from salvaged kauri uncovered from surrounding swamp land. The mighty kauri is now a protected tree, and this wood is hundreds of years old.
For Maori, Cape Reinga is a sacred place where they believe their recently passed loved ones’ spirits depart from and it’s a journey they make from all over the country to take a moment and reflect.
Some days the sea is so calm you can only just make out the currents where the two oceans meet, but some days it’s like washing machine up here, white caps fighting each other for supremacy as the mighty seas collide.
The famous lighthouse is now operated remotely but flashes every 12 seconds and can be seen for 35km and makes a wonderful photo against the rugged bluff surrounds.
After lunch on the white sand of nearby Parengarenga Harbour the drive back is via Ninety Mile Beach.
(Depending on tides, your drive north might be via the beach). Its name is a mystery as the beach is not actually 90 miles long, but it is an official New Zealand highway with a top speed limit of 100kph.
Another reason why self-driving isn’t a good idea – your insurance company won’t cover you on this “road”!
Besides, the GreatSights guides have been doing these tours for years and have helped their fair share of hapless tourists out of the sand.
But wait, there’s even more to come. After a couple of kilometres, a stop at Te Paki at the foot of the sand dunes is for more than just photos.
Hidden in the luggage compartment underneath the bus is a boogie board for everyone who wants to surf down the dunes. Be prepared for an arduous walk up though, but the 15-second thrill coming down is worth it. If only once!
Once dusted off and back on the bus, the final treat of the day is still in store. Fish and chips from the famous Mangonui Fish and Chip Shop – regarded as the best in New Zealand.
The shop and restaurant stands on stilts over the harbour and the freshest of fish is cooked within. Cleverly the driver takes orders en route and rings them through so by the time everyone arrives, your hot parcel is waiting.
Pick up a chilled beer or a wine and climb back aboard with your dinner wrapped in newspaper and enjoy the real taste of kiwiana as you head back to Paihia.
Tours to Cape Reinga operate daily from Paihia and Kerikeri with Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands. Prices start from just $121 Adult and $60.50 Child.
Journey to the top of the North Island – Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach (Te Rerenga Wairua) and uncover the wild beauty of this vast and untouched region, rich in Maori culture and legend.