The Far North – or: how to beach your car
The Far North of New Zealand – by cynics described as the less North: winterless, jobless, roadless and penniless. And while some of it might be true it is also immensely beautiful.
Probably best known are the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga, both are well worth a trip.
Also noteworthy is the Waipoua Forest, home to both the Father and the Lord of the Forest – two of the biggest and oldest living Kauri trees.
A personal highlight of mine was one of the countless gorgeous bays along the east coast: Matauri Bay – stunning sunrises, crystal clear (super cold) water, no phone reception and pitch black nights (perfect for astrophotography).
While reveling in the splendid nature of the Northland in early spring, the biggest adventure awaited in the very north: the so-called 90 Mile Beach (actually, it is around 90 km or 55 miles long). Since there are not many roads up north this beach also functions as a highway at low tide. And while rental cars are not allowed on the sandy shore we enjoyed the ride a lot – until we had to exit the ‘never-ending’ beach at the very northern tip. Via Te Paki. Not a road – a stream. To be honest, I am not so sure if our car is truly a 4WD as we managed to get stuck and properly beached our car with exhaust on the ground and all that jazz. With no one passing and the tide creeping back in we spent almost an hour in the middle of nowhere (obviously without reception) before we were rescued by some friendly Kiwis in a proper 4×4.
Note to self: Sandy highways in an Estima: no-no.
This minor incident aside (cough) the trip was really worth it. Cape Reinga is strangely breathtaking. The Māori name Te Rerenga Wairua means the leaping-off place of spirits. They believe that the spirits of the deceased climb down the roots of an 800-years old pohutukawa tree to return to their homeland Hawaiki. At the Three Kings Islands they briefly turn for a last look back before continuing their journey.
I am not a spiritual person but the presence and significance of this place did not leave me untouched.
The cape is also home to the iconic Cape Reinga Lighthouse as well as the meeting point of two seas: the Tasman Sea (west) and the Pacific Ocean (east).