88. A truly unique family trip to Northland
From whale-watching and go-karting to spending the day as a sea postie and the night in a haunted castle, there’s no shortage of family fun to be found here: here is No. 88 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
The promise of a truly unique New Zealand experience should be motivation enough to journey to Northland/Te Tai Tokerau, the northernmost region of the North Island/Te Ika-a-Māui. Head to Cape Rēinga, homeland of the Ngāti Kuri tribe, to enter the spiritual home of the country, a place known as Te Rerengawairua. For Māori, it is here that the spirits of the dead descend into the underworld and take their final journey home to Hawaiki, the land of their ancestors. Gaze out at the wild, unpredictable feel of Cape Rēinga’s headland, watching the currents of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean clash and collide nearby, and check out the Cape Rēinga lighthouse, a landmark dating back to the 1940s.
There are a number of tours you can sign up for to experience the wonders of it all. Sand Safaris picks up from the townships of Ahipara, Kaitaia and Awanui, and the tour takes in Northland/Te Tai Tokerau’s rugged Ninety Mile Beach and includes sandboarding the giant sand dunes of Te Paki, lunching at picturesque Tapotupotu Bay and touring the cape. The Fullers Cape Rēinga and Ninety Mile Beach Day Tour is another great option, featuring an off-road adventure on Ninety Mile Beach, sand surfing at Te Paki stream, visits to Cape Rēinga and Puketi Kauri Forest, and a crowd-pleasing lunch.
You can drive yourself to Cape Rēinga, about 100 kilometres north of Kaitaia, by following State Highway 1. Keep in mind the road to the cape is busy over summer, so take it slowly. Once there, if you’re feeling adventurous (and energetic), you may want to walk some or all of Te Araroa, New Zealand’s long-distance hiking trail. Starting at Cape Rēinga, Te Araroa is a 3000-kilometre walking track extending the length of the country and finishing at Bluff, at the bottom of the South Island/Te Waipounamu. Stay in marae (Māori meeting ground), with local families or in conservation huts along the way as you explore the country’s beaches, volcanoes, mountains and rivers. Only a handful of families (Aussies among them) have completed the extraordinary walk so far, but they say it’s a life-changing family experience. Has your family got what it takes to join them?