During my visit to New Zealand I had the opportunity to go to Cape Reinga at the very tip of North Island.
After spending a few days in Auckland I was looking forward to a scenic drive up to Paihia at the Bay of Islands which would be our base for the next four days. However, we set off in pouring rain and gale force winds. We had been hit by the tail end of a cyclone. Streams had turned into raging torrents and some of the fields were flooded. It looked just like the Lake District last January. We arrived at our beachfront hotel at the Bay of Islands to find the beach covered in debris and water had come into some of the rooms. The Pacific Ocean looked muddy with the churned up sand. A bit like the Mersey on a bad day. Instead of relaxing on the beach all we could do was sit on our covered patio and watch the rain beat on the windows. It’s a good job that I had stopped off to but a bottle of Merlot.
We had an early start the next morning for our cruise round the Bay of Islands. It had finally stopped raining but it was still dull and overcast. The sea was quite choppy and I wondered if we would get out to the hole in the rock.
After picking up passengers at Paihia and Russell we sailed past Moturoa Island, the second largest island in the bay and then past Black Rocks, an extensive chain of unusual volcanic rocks home to seabird colonies and interesting fauna. Out of the shelter of the bay and into the Pacific it got very rough and some of the passengers were seasick. We managed to get out to Cape Brett and the lighthouse on Piercy Island but as we approached the famous ‘Hole in the rock’ the captain decided it was too dangerous to attempt to sail through it in the rough sea. We had to be content with taking a few photos.
On our return journey we called in at Russell to explore the old town. At the turn of the 19th century, Russell served as a shore base for whalers and was a lawless town known as the Hell hole of the Pacific. Today it is a beautiful old town. Christchurch, built in 1836 is the oldest church in New Zealand.
The next morning we set off in our specially adapted coach to visit Cape Reinga. The coach with its wide, soft tyres may be good on sand but it really swayed on the main roads. We had an interesting drive along the east coast with lovely views over Whangaroa Bay and Doubtless Bay before arriving at Cape Reinga.
Cape Reinga where the Tasman sea meets the Pacific Ocean is an important place in Maori culture. Reinga means “underworld” and it is the Maori belief that this is where the spirits of the dead leave on their journey to Hawaiki.
After lunch at a secluded bay we set off for 90 mile beach. First we had to negotiate the Te Paki quicksand stream. This stream is the only access to the 90 mile beach from the north and is often a trap for private motorists. Close to the shore there are massive sand dunes and tobogganing down the dunes is a popular pastime. Coming down looked great but I would not fancy the trudge to the top.
We arrived at 90 mile beach just after high tide and we had to wait a short time until Murray, our driver deemed it safe to proceed along the beach. The beach is in fact only 90 km long and we drove along the sand and occasionally in the surf. We stopped a couple of times to view the breakers rolling in and to see what we could find in the sand.
In the evening we caught the bus into Paihia where we ate at Simply Seafood, one of the best seafood restaurants in the area. I had green lipped mussels in a tomato based sauce for starters then yellow fin tuna for my main course. We had to try a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc to help it go down.
We now had a rest day before our journey south. Next stop Rotorua.