The walk typically starts from the camp-site at Spirits Bay, a very remote and beautiful beach on the North Coast. The track then winds its way along the coast, past the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, and then down the West coast past several more remote beaches, before heading inland at Ninety Mile Beach and ending with a trek past the impressive sand dunes up Te Paki Stream.
Although an easy walk, track marking is not the best and the North Cape M02 N02 Topo map is essential.
Camping is permitted anywhere on the track, but fires are prohibited and only gas stoves are allowed. There are two camp-sites on the track, one at Spirits Bay at the start, and the second an approximate 8 hour walk from Spirits Bay at Tapotupotu Bay. There is running (untreated) tap-water available from both camp-sites.
Most of the walk is coastal with little shade, and so, is probably best undertaken in Autumn/Winter when it’s cooler.
Water is also limited, even in winter, and what is available is untreated, often muddy brown in colour, so it’s best to take as much as you can carry, along with sufficient supplies to render it drinkable.
To get there, head through Auckland, and then continue on SH1 for about six hours. Note that there is no cell-phone reception past Kaitaia.
We stayed at Waitiki Landing prior to embarking on the tramp. This is the last fuel-stop, superette, and accommodation point before Cape Reinga and is situated approximately 20km from the cape.
Waitiki Landing also offer an excellent pick-up and drop-off service for the walk at $40 per person. The staff there are very relaxed and friendly, and with random sheep, roosters, cats, dogs, and a cat-dog wandering throughout the premises, it’s authentically Northland.
Day 1 – Spirits Bay to Tapotupotu Bay (8hrs)
We were dropped off at the Kapowairua camp-site at Spirits (Piwhane) Bay, and embarked on the 7km wander down the beach, before heading inland to scale the mountainous cliffs-faces to get to the campsite at Tapotupotu Bay.
Spirits Bay Beach (Te Horo Beach) is beautiful, and most notably has gorgeous pink sand consisting of tiny shell fragments. With only the sound of roaring waves and your own footsteps to keep you company it’s an awesome walk.
From Spirit’s Bay the track heads inland for several hours, offering impressive views of Cape Reinga, and North Cape along the way.
The camp-site at Tapotupotu Bay is basic, but has running (untreated) water, and costs $7 per person.
Day 2 – Taupotupotu Bay to Twighlight Beach via Cape Reigna and Cape Maria van Diemen (8 hrs)
This section of the walk is mostly coastal, with the highlight being reaching the Cape Reinga Lighthouse.
Nonetheless, the murky tap water proved to be ideal for making some scrummy hot chocolates while watching bus loads of tourists take the typical lighthouse and sign post photo.
From Cape Reinga (Te Rerengawairua), the track then heads down along the west coast, taking in some more remote beaches, and rugged sand-dunes along the way.
There is a side-trip to Cape Maria Van Diemen, the North Island’s most western point, and is well worth doing, if only so you can boast you have seen New Zealand’s most boring light-house.
The light house on Cape Maria van Diemen is an unaesthetic fibreglass cheapie, replacing the historic but now derelict lighthouse on the adjacent Motuopao Island.
In times gone past the cape was an island before the wandering sand dunes connected it to the main land. The cape is named after Abel Tasman’s patron’s (Antony van Diemen) wife, and is only one of two geographic places left in NZ that have retained the original names as given by the dutch explorer.
Camping is recommended at the south end of the beach.
Day 3 – Twighlight Beach to Ninety Mile Beach and out via Te Paki Stream/Sand dunes (4 – 5 hrs)
This section boasts yet more rugged remote beaches, steep cliff-tops, and wanderings through regenerating bush, before concluding with the sand-dunes at Te Paki Stream.
The highlight of this part of the walk is wandering inland up Te Paki Stream off Ninety Mile Beach.
There, trampers are greeted with impressive towering sand dunes, excitingly squishy Te Paki quick sand, and plenty of potential for practice flying sessions and other gravity defying stunts involving charging up and down the dunes.
Although not classed as a ‘Great Walk’, the Cape Reinga Coastal Walkway is beautiful, rugged and offers a uniquely New Zealand experience.
It is easily just as dramatic as the Tongariro Crossing and doesn’t come with the 1000’s of daily visitors (we were the only ones on the entire track).
View all photos here.