Cape Reinga Tour – Where Two Oceans Meet
When we first looked at doing a Cape Reinga Tour we assumed we’d just drive ourselves up there. That was before we ended up staying in Paihia in the Bay of Islands and realising the drive was close to 4 hours. Each way.
Cape Reinga and 90 Mile Beach Tour
Neither of us fancied the drive so we looked at what tour options there were. We were already planning our trip to go out on the water Dolphin watching and to see the Hole in The Rock and found a combo tour with Fuller’s that gave us both tours for a bit of a discount ($205 for both tours).
On top of having someone else drive us while we relaxed, we would get an informative tour, plus we would get to drive along 90 mile beach (not recommended for cars unless they are 4 wheel drive), see the sand dunes, & visit a kauri forest. Cramming that all in sounded fine to us since we thought we’d be relaxing and napping on the bus.
Our napping plans didn’t quite work out as planned though…
The tour was an all day one so unfortunately that meant an early start – we begrudgingly rolled out of bed and wandered down the hill to our pick up point before 7am.
After one of the last tours we did in the US (Antelope Canyon) left us frustrated, I was pretty proud of our tour here in NZ – informative, funny with classic kiwi sayings throughout, our guide Dice (unique name right!) did a great job. He did have his challenges too.
Our first stop of the day was morning tea at a beautiful little seaside spot with a bit of history behind it. Apparently we were sipping our flat whites at the spot where Kupe first landed (believed to be the first Maori settler to travel to New Zealand from his Polynesian home).
90 Mile Beach
Our next stop was 90 Mile Beach, a long stretch of beach along the remote and rugged west coast of the North Island. 90 Miles is somewhat misleading given the beach is barely 100 kilometres long. We were told that the 90 miles name comes from back when farmers were moving the cattle back along the beach and it would take them 3 full days to make the journey. They knew cattle could walk 30 miles in a day so naturally 30 miles times 3 = 90 miles.
The beach is also New Zealand’s first highway and was the first spot an airplane landed so sort of the first airport too. We were glad we didn’t take our car as we heard quite a few stories of tourists getting stuck in the sand with their 2wd rentals.
Who needs suspension on a Bus?
When we were about 20 minutes from Cape Reinga we rounded a corner (maybe going slightly too fast for a bus) and one of the springs on the rear of the bus snapped. We found this out for sure on the next downhill when we were left swaying massively to each side and crossing our fingers we wouldn’t topple over.
We limped along the last section of road but made it to the car park in one piece. We ended up making do with the bus for a while longer until it was replaced by a school bus at the next stop.
Cape Reinga and Giant Taniwha
Cape Reinga is the northernmost tip of the north island where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. I had visited the spot years ago but not with a tour so it was good to finally learn a bit more of the history and have the guide explain more about the area and its’ importance to Maori.
For example, Maori believe this is where spirits leave to go home with those that are not so lucky being eaten by the Taniwha (a mythical dragon-like water monster). The churning whirlpools that show the meeting of the two oceans shows where the Taniwha is apparently.
There are a bunch of trails all around Cape Reinga but given our tour only included an hour there we just opted for the nearby easy trails to explore and get a few different views of the area.
Ancient Swamp Kauri
Our next stop was visiting an ancient swamp kauri workshop. These guys work with the kauri that is dug up from old swamps created from tsunamis thousands of years ago. The rare wood fetches a MASSIVE price so we opted to just look rather than buy anything.
After seeing a workshop full of ancient Kauri it made sense to then move on to a forest filled with live Kauri trees. These forests used to fill the Northland area completely but now are limited to smaller protected areas where they are looked after.
The road off to the Kauri Forest we visited was a bit out of the way so I was impressed to see a sign on the side of the road for a panel beater. Not a great spot for it but hopefully the guy still manages to make a living there!
We finished the day completely wrecked after spending so long on the bus. I think I would prefer to have stayed closer to Cape Reinga somewhere like Kaitaia maybe and split up the day rather than pack it all in but it was still a great tour.
Check out our Vlog from the day below.