The North Island’s Ninety Mile Beach runs along the west coast near Kaitaia all the way to Cape Reinga on New Zealand’s northernmost tip. This seemingly endless stretch of wave-lapped sand is rimmed by dunes and topped by the lighthouse at Cape Reinga in the Far North, a remote spot where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea.
The sand at Ninety Mile Beach is compact enough to drive on, and guided tours here do just that when tides are favorable. Sandboarding down “Quicksand Stream” at Te Paki Sand Dunes is a must-do for adrenaline seekers, while the Puketi Kauri Forest and Cape Reinga Lighthouse offer additional sightseeing. Scenic flights are a popular way to soak up the landscape, from Paihia in the Bay of Islands all the way to the cape. Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Only drive on Ninety Mile Beach in an equipped 4x4; rental cars are generally not permitted.
- Plan ahead for emergencies: Carry water, food, and layered clothing.
- The sand dunes are just a 10-minute walk from the parking lot, which has restrooms and changing rooms.
- Sandboards are available for rent on-site with informal instruction provided.
- Wear shoes, sandals, or socks at Te Paki, as the sand can get hot.
- It’s a steep climb up the dunes, suitable for physically fit people.
Ninety Mile Beach is easily reached within a few hours via state Highway 10 from Paihia or state Highway 1 from Kaitai, the main regional town. Another popular access point is Waipapakauri, just north of Kaitaia, while Ahipara is the northernmost access point. If you don’t plan to drive, guided day trips typically provide hotel pickup and drop-off.
When to Get There
Check tidal charts since beach access depends on low tide conditions; it’s easy for vehicles to get stuck in wet sand, including when it rains. There’s generally plenty of room to avoid the crowds, but try to time your visit with a spectacular sunset. Arrive early at the sand dunes, however, which heat up from midday. Decades Running
Custom-built vehicles take visitors on a rugged ride along the coastline, with opportunities to get out and explore the sand dunes, beaches, and bays. But it’s not the only way to cross one of New Zealand’s longest beaches. The Te Houtaewa Challenge marathon is run along this shoreline each year, commemorating the run by legendary Maori athlete Te Houtaewa along the stretch of sand in precolonial times.