The North of the North

Kaitaia and Cape Rianga


Spirits Bay

Known as the Aupouri Peninsula, this is one of the most remote districts of New Zealand. Kaitaia, the only town is near the base of the peninsula and about 160 km northwest of Whangarei. The main industries are agriculture, forestry and tourism. The population is 4,887 (2013 census), which makes it second largest town in the Far North District, after Kerikeri.

You can get there by air or bus from Auckland or Whangarei, and when you get there, there are many small tourist operators who will take you out to see the sights but the best way is self driving. But when you drive north of Kaitaia, you need to make sure you have enough fuel to get back.

The most popular tourist destination is the lighthouse at Cape Rianga where in addition to the picturesque lighthouse one can observe the merging of the Tasman Sea into the Pacific Ocean. Although a bit winding in places, the drive to Cape Rianga is easy that one has to avoid logging trucks and the many tourist buses that frequent the road.

But there is more than just the lighthouse, there are many walkways and beaches were where people can swim, fish and camp. For those who have a reliable vehicle, drive down to Taputaputa Bay gives easy access to the ocean, but if you intend camping here the local mosquitoes have a reputation for their size and tenacity to bite through your clothing.

There is another good camping area at Spirits Bay which is also a popular fishing spot. To the right off Spirits Bay Road is the most northerly village in New Zealand: Te Hapua is a community on the shores of the Parengarenga Harbour which is really a large estuary that can be explored by boat.

For those who like to have a little fun, one of the most popular activities is sliding down sand dunes at Te Paki. You can do it alone but there is usually an operator leasing surfboards which might help to prevent you getting sand absolutely everywhere on your person. For those people who drive the 90 mile beach, this is actually the best exit because the route follows the streambed for about 3 km. This will wash most of the salt sand from your vehicle.

90 mile beach

For people who have a reliable four-wheel-drive vehicle, this is the preferred route from Kaitaia to Cape Rianga and one of the most popular activities. However, many people have lost their vehicles to the ocean so before driving on the beach, you have to ensure the tide will remain far enough out for the duration of your planned time on the beach.

The main beach access road is just past Waipapakauri and while it is possible to drive onto the beach in almost any vehicle, it's advisable not to and should you be on holiday in your rental car, you are best advised to take a tour along the beach which would normally also include other activities such as dune surfing. There are many popular fishing spots along the beach and there is an annual surf fishing competition. The beach was once renowned for its shellfish, however they are becoming another endangered species and its not worth the trouble looking for them.

This is an area of many contrasts, the West Coast is a big long beach flanked with pine forest but for those who like more sheltered beaches for swimming and fishing, the East Coast of the peninsula has a lot to offer. Rarawa Beach has pure white sand that squeak under your toes and it also has a campground. If you need something to do besides relaxing, one can always walk along the 20km beach to Parengarenga Harbour. Slightly to the south is Henderson's Bay with almost 5 km of sandy beach flanked by headlands.

I must remind you, that aside from the general store at Houhora and a few roadside fruit stalls, there is nothing to buy and more importantly no petrol north of Kaitaia.


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