Day 4: Cape Reinga, Giant Sand Dunes, Rarawa Beach, Henderson Bay
Cape Reinga is about 70km North of Pukenui. The one hour drive takes you through farmland with only a couple of places you can stop to buy ice-creams and drinks.
We saw several farmers with their stock coming down the road toward us which was a highlight for me.
Unfortunately for us, on the drive to the Cape there was low cloud completely obscuring the view. The low cloud had settled in quickly as we drove North so for much of the drive we couldn’t see anything to the left or the right which gave an eerie feeling of travelling along a mountain cliff top with sheer drops on either side (which wasn’t the case).
We left early so we could get to Cape Reinga before the tourist buses began arriving around 11am. We found a park easily (when we left an hour later the carpark was packed and cars had to wait down the road before they could come and find a park. There are public toilets at Cape Reinga but nowhere to purchase food, nor are you allowed to eat food there as the parking is at such a minimum they need people to keep moving) and walked the pathway down to the lighthouse. At this point the cloud was so low and thick we could barely see more than a few metres ahead.
Eventually we saw the lighthouse up ahead. We waited at the lighthouse lookout and were rewarded as the cloud began to lift and the stunning views out into the meeting place of the Tasman sea and Pacific ocean and the beautiful coastline came into view.
From Cape Reinga we drove a short distance south to the Giant Sand Dunes which are simply gargantuan sand dunes! You can hire boogie boards for $15 and purchase cold drinks from a truck and there is a public toilet here too.
We ate our picnic lunch, hired a board and headed onto the dunes.
The sand dunes are huge and it is quite a trek to get up them. The heat was oppressive. It was about 29 degrees and out on the sand it was like being in a desert. The sand was too hot for bare feet.
You can choose to boogie board down any of the dunes but of course the bigger ones take longer to trek up each time!
Kris and our nephew went up the highest dune and did two runs down each (too much of a hike in the heat to do more than that) and the rest of us found some smaller dunes (still big though!) which were closer and had some rides down them.
Because of the heat we didn’t spend long on the dunes.
We stopped at Te Kao for an icecream on our drive back to Pukenui. If you expect to find cafes and eateries along the road to Cape Reinga you will be disappointed so packing your own picnic lunch is a must.
Just before we got back to Pukenui we turned off the main road and drove out to Rarawa Beach. This is a long wide beach with white sand rich in silica. The surf was good for boogie boarding and there was a river which had created a lagoon and was warm so the little kids enjoyed lazing about in there.
The earth way up North is red like you’d expect to see in Australia and unlike anything you see elsewhere in New Zealand. The river which created the lagoon the kids played in was stained an orange colour due to the red earth.
Back at Pukenui we enjoyed the pool once more and went to the only restaurant (next to the Four Square supermarket) for dinner where we had a bistro style fish and chips meal, possibly slightly overpriced, before heading to Henderson beach to explore the rock pools which were full of fish and crabs.