Cape Reinga-Where Spirits Soar

I am often without words to describe Northland, NZ, so let’s take it from the top.

The Aupouri Peninsula caps Far Far North with glorious east/west beaches, and Cape Reinga at the tip. Bay after bay is a picture-book spot for a swim, walk or picnic.

Squeaking Silica

Halfway, on the east side, you’ll need sunglasses to offset the brilliance of Rarawa Beach with its near-pure white silica beach that squeaks with each step. Push on…because you want to get to THE TOP.

Sqeaking Silica

First Glimpse at the Top

Near the road’s end, a view to Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes, the spit, and the sea. The lighthouse awaits.

Where the Seas Collide

Far below, the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean swirl and slam together.

Drawn to the Lighthouse, a NZ Icon

First used in 1941, Cape Reinga Lighthouse (Te Rerenga Wairua) towers above the swirling seas.

Cape Reinga and The Spirit Tree

The Māori word Reinga, means ‘underworld’, and Te Rerenga Wairua’, means ‘the leaping-off place of spirits’. Both refer to the Māori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld. For Māori, Cape Reinga is the most spiritually significant place in New Zealand.

Below the lighthouse on a rocky point survives a lone weather-beaten 800 year-old pōhutukawa tree (barely visible in the first photo). The tree is the jumping point for the spirits departing Aotearoa (NZ), descending to the watery underworld (reinga), and ultimately their spiritual ancestral home.

Te Araroa “The Long Path“, 3000 km walk

Below the lighthouse is Te Araroa “The Long Path”, the terminus of a 3000 km (1864 mi) track from Bluff, South Island to Cape Reinga, North Island. Some stretches are rough and undeveloped; I reckon it’s a challenge – it takes 4 to 6 months to tramp, end to end.

A fun book about Te Araroa is The Pants of Perspective (link) by Annie McNuff who RAN it. I traced her steps on the stunning Te Werahi trail leg below the lighthouse. WOO HOO! (ok…it was less than 4 km, I would have continued…but high tide rushed in.)

Te-Paki (The Sun) Giant Sand Dunes 

Desolate, gorgeous 400ft high dunes span 6 miles of coast and hill country. We watched people laboriously pull boogie boards up the dunes, teeter over the top and zoom down. (The down part looked fun. The climb? Well, it started to rain….)

Drivable 90 Mile Beach

Along the west side of the cape is 90 Mile Beach – a beach AND State Road (at low tide). Actual distance, 55 miles. Named by settlers who thought horses could travel 30 miles/day over 3 days, not accounting for slow travel on sand.

Rental car companies prefer you not to drive the motorway. We gave it a go at sundown.

“Fun but dangerous….Beware of

  • High tide
  • Quicksand
  • Sand holes (hitting one can flip your car)
  • Tidal sweeps (waves can advance quickly and catch your car)
  • Run-off channels (appear after rain, hitting one can unexpectedly break an axle)
  • Slippery plankton build-up (causes loss of control)

Trip details – We spent two nights in Kaitaia (Air BnB), and we still felt rushed.

Outstanding Wineries along the way: Karikari Estate, Dancing Petral.

NEXT POSTS – More Winterless North

Ancient kauri forests, unbelievable trees, hundreds of islands, waterfalls, beaches, and wine…and of course, sheep.

Click HERE to read the previous post: Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Far North

6 thoughts on “Cape Reinga-Where Spirits Soar

  1. Stunning photos – eye candy for the soul. Not sure that even makes sense, but who cares??? Lovely!

  2. Love all these pictures!!! Keep enjoying and sharing with us all!!!

  3. You’re so lucky to have been “stuck” in NZ for all these wonderful days and months. Many, MANY people would love to relocate there. The Kiwi’s are very protective of their immigration rules and regs but apparently not during a Pandemic. It is a MOST glorious place. I loved the time I spent there and still have many good friends living there. I MUST pay them a visit when we can travel…Your pictures and copy are spectacular! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Glennie. The borders here have been closed since March 2020. We were lucky to be allowed to stay within. And we are contributing to the tourism gap with gusto. So beautiful, as you know. Going to have Green lipped mussles in Havelock next.

  4. Oh how I love seeing these gorgeous images! I’m reading The Pants of Perspective and she’s almost at the lighthouse. Now I see it all better! Love that you witnessed all of this beauty AND drove on the beach. Just wow. xo

  5. The beauty of NZ is almost otherworldly. A true Middle-earth. 😍

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