Throughout the time we’ve been planning our trip to New Zealand, there’s been something pretty special about telling people we were going to work our way up to the very top, right down to the bottom, and then back up the country. Unfortunately, it turns out that Cape Reinga is not the the most northern tip of New Zealand but it was close enough (we could see the tip from where we were), especially after an almost 500km round day trip.
The first stop of the trip was to Manginangina to see the ancient Kauri trees. The trees are native to New Zealand and grow incredibly tall and straight. For this reason they are now under threat as so many were chopped down to make ships masts and furniture. The trees are now protected but are threatened by a disease called Kauri Dieback. They are really impressive to see in a group so I was pleased we got to walk around them and hope that New Zealand manages to keep its Kauri trees.
The next highlight was driving along 90 mile beach, which apparently isn’t 90 miles but is a registered highway, although I’d only attempt it in a four wheel drive! It was quite spectacular seeing the beach spread out ahead of you. It was also our first glimpse of the Tasman Sea which you could instantly see was much wilder than the Pacific, however it wasn’t as much colder as I had been expecting.
Sandboarding was next on the agenda which I was a little nervous about, particularly when I saw the size of the dunes we’d be boarding down. However, I managed it twice, each time from partway down the dune. It looked much too scary from the top, although James managed it twice. I’d possibly do it again if it was on a smaller dune, and I’m proud of myself for trying it but I’m not sure I’d rush to do it again…
Eventually we made it to Cape Reinga which I found really spectacular. You could see quite clearly where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean met, and the peninsula was surrounded by wild and rugged scenery. It is certainly one of the many great spots in New Zealand for geographers. Cape Reinga is also the most spiritually significant place in New Zealand for Maori as it is to here that after death all Maori spirits travel up the coast and then descend into the underworld. The path down to the lighthouse was lined with interesting facts like this about the area. There was also a great signpost at the lighthouse which showed you just show far away from everywhere else in the world you were.
On the way back we stopped off at a Kauri showroom, but rather than living Kauri, the wood that has been used to make various items is swamp Kauri which has been preserved for over 30,000 years following a tsunami. The trees are now being taken back out of the earth and turned into stunning woodwork products for a rather high price. One especially wide tree has been turned into the centrepiece of the showroom with a short spiral staircase going up inside it.
The final stop on the way home was for some fish and chips which was very welcome after the long day. I’d recommend taking snacks for the coach! If you are going up to Northland then it’s worth going all the way up to Cape Reinga. We did spend a lot of time sitting in a coach, but as part of the tour there were regular stops and a really interesting driver commentary on the way so the day didn’t feel as long as it was. It was interesting to hear stories about the landscape mixed with history, culture and facts. It’s also a pretty interesting way to travel as the whole journey was done in a truck bus which is necessary for the beach and stream that are driven down.