The very first big tourism activity we did in New Zealand was a day trip up to Cape Reinga from Paihia, on the North Island. Full of Maori history, epic coastal views, and adventures in the sand dunes, a Cape Reinga day trip is a great way to experience the northernmost tip of New Zealand!
Admittedly, this wasn’t even a day trip that was on my radar. But, it was included in the Stray hop-on/hop-off bus pass we had booked for touring around the north and south islands. I am so glad it was! This day was easily one of our favorites on the north island.
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Cape Reinga Day Trip Logistics
- Cost: About $150 NZD, but you can find deals on sites like BookMe. Our tour was run by Fullers Great Sights and they did a fantastic job! By the way, if you have your own vehicle you can self-drive this trip, too! Just be extra careful about driving on Ninety Mile Beach (described below).
- Inclusions: Transportation (pick up and drop off in Paihia), narrated/guided drive up Ninety Mile Beach, sand boarding, Cape Reinga, Puketi Forest, lunch stop (food most likely own expense).
- Duration: 11 hours
Cape Reinga Day Trip Itinerary
A coach bus will pick you up or meet you at a designated point in Paihia around 7am.
Ninety Mile Beach
You will head north to the west coast of New Zealand to Ninety Mile Beach (which is actually only 55 miles long, but still quite impressive). It’s officially a public highway. You won’t find any hotels, resorts or other developments along the beachfront. Depending on the tides and weather, your bus may actually be driving through waves of water, making the ride exciting and unlike anything you’ve likely experienced on more traditional highways!
The coach will stop along the beach to give you an opportunity to get your feet wet and take photos. Just watch out for other vehicles!
After your time on the beach, the bus will head a little inland to tall sand dunes, where you will the opportunity to sand board. They provide the boards, so just grab one and carry it up the dune. This can be a strenuous climb depending on the height and slope of the dune! When you get to the top, place the board on the sand in the direction you intend to go (down), place your hips against the lower edge of the board, and push off! I was nervous when I did it at first, but it’s a lot of fun and not as scary as it looks when you get started!
After sand boarding, your driver will take you the rest of the way up to Cape Reinga. This is the northernmost point of New Zealand and is where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. You can actually see where the two bodies of water collide, which is really fascinating! The cape is also significant in Maori culture, as this this is considered to be the point from which souls of the deceased leave the earth. You’ll have an hour or so to walk around the paths of the cape and to explore the historic lighthouse at the tip.
After leaving the cape, your driver will make a stop at the Puketi Forest (if you didn’t stop there earlier), where you will see many old-growth kauri trees. These trees are thousands of years old and grow to be very large. Unfortunately they are endangered, due to disease brought over from foreign visitors and over-logging.
Mangonui Fish Shop
Lastly, our driver took us to Mangonui Fish Shop, which is arguably the best fish and chips shop in New Zealand. Depending on the tour you book, you may or may not stop here, and lunch may or may not be included. From here it’s a long drive back to Paihia. You’ll return to town around 6pm, making for a long but very rewarding day!
More New Zealand Travel Tips
Don’t miss my other New Zealand travel guides!
- Two Week New Zealand North Island Itinerary
- Tongariro Crossing Hike – Guide to NZ’s Best Day Trek
- Two Week New Zealand South Island Itinerary
- Stewart Island Itinerary – New Zealand’s Other Island
- Franz Josef Glacier Helihike – Is It Worth It?
Have you traveled to Cape Reinga from Paihia? What did you think? Any advice I missed that would be good for others to know? I always love to hear from my readers! Drop me a comment or contact me!