What to Expect: Cape Reinga Day Trip from Paihia

The very first big tourism activity we did in New Zealand was a day trip up to Cape Reinga from Paihia. Admittedly, this wasn’t even a day trip that was on my radar, but it was included in the 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.


  • 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! You can also book this tour via Chase Ultimate Rewards for about 9,000 points (see more information 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

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What to Expect:

A coach bus will pick you up or meet you at a designated point in Paihia around 7am. You will then 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, and 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!


Ninety Mile Beach, one of the most unique highways in the world

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. Boards are provided, so you just grab one and carry it up the dune (note that this can be a strenuous climb depending on the height and slope of the dune!). When you get to the top, you simply 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 yourself 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!


Sand boarding! So fun!

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.


Stunning views from Cape Reinga


Cape Reinga Lighthouse

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.


Kauri tree

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!

Read more: Unexpected Adventures on New Zealand’s North Island

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!

Read more: New Zealand North Island Two Week Itinerary

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