Cape Reinga is recognised as the northern-most tip of New Zealand and is so much more than just a rocky and windy outcrop that protrudes out into the Pacific Ocean (although of course it is also that). Cape Reinga is the top of the region referred to as “Northland” which encompasses pretty much anything north of Auckland. It has extreme cultural significance to the Maori people of New Zealand, making it more than just another piece of rock to stare at.
As with every spot on the New Zealand “places to see” map, Cape Reinga is a little hard to get to. The roads in New Zealand are so unbelievably windy they have been said to have even set seasoned sailors stomachs on edge. Cape Reinga is also very isolated so it is important to come prepared; if you get stuck in a situation it will be a good few hours until assistance can arrive. However, being such a popular tourist destination, the roads are well maintained, albeit very windy. We headed up from Mangonui and from there you can follow the clearly marked signs all the way to the top. Allow at least two and a half hours to reach the Cape (more if you are in a caravan or camper) and if you are in this latter category be prepared to cop some flack from impatient car drivers as there are little places to overtake with such tight corners and cliff like precipices.
Along The Way
Despite there being a lack of amenities along the way, there is no shortage of incredible natural scenery. Of course there are the quintessential rolling green hills dotted with sheep aplenty, but there are some special spots along the way that are worth pulling over. Along the main highway there are several points where you can turn off west to the nearby coast and spot New Zealand’s famous 90 mile beach. Be careful swimming as none of the strip is monitored by lifeguards and be careful taking your car onto the sand if you don’t want it to become bogged and up to its mirrors in sea water by high tide. About 45 minutes from the Cape is Te Paki sand dunes, the most immense sand dunes I have ever seen. They are located very close to the main highway but again be careful taking your caravan or camper as the road is unsealed and quite steep. Sandboards are available for hire and dragging it up and down the enormous hills are sure to keep those extra kgs from the NZ fish and chips at bay.
Once arriving at Cape Reinaa, the area is set up well for tourists. Avoid the main lower carpark as it is usually chock full of tourist buses. Head instead to the smaller one up the hill, it is a little further to walk, but again those fish and chips won’t work themselves off. There are a couple of rules the Maori people of this land ask you to abide by including no eating on the site and no littering. It is important to not insult the cultural importance of such a place – culture is part of the strong identity of New Zealanders and is something that must be carefully observed if you are a visitor to their lands. Starting the walk to Cape, you follow a well constructed path down the cliff and then up again to the very last peninsula. Along the way are plaques and memorials to acknowledge and inform visitors about the traditions and legends of these lands. At the very end of the Cape sits the famous Cape Reinga lighthouse, a sturdy structure that has battled the gale force sea winds for many a decade. It is now of course automatically operated but is a nod to the Pakeha, (or “white” people of New Zealand” and how they have made their contribution to this historical place.
So don’t forget to look North on your next New Zealand trip!