Overview

This stunning coastal track traverses a variety of beautiful and unique landforms, and offers spectacular views of the cape region. It is 48 km long, rated easy and can be done in 3 days or comfortably in four.

The track follows the coastline from Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) on the North Eastern Coast, past Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) and Cape Maria van Dieman, and finishes at Te Paki Stream on the West Coast.

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Track sections

Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) to Pandora

Most of this walk is flat, but as you are mostly either walking on the soft silica sand and polished shell beach, or behind the sand dunes, it can be quite hard work in the heat of the day – shade is at a premium here. The tidal lagoon behind the beach is crossed by a long curving boardwalk before climbing through bush providing welcoming shade and up the hill before Pandora which provides sweeping views back over Spirits Bay. Natural rockpools in a river just outside the Pandora microcamp provide a refreshing dip at the end of the walk.

Pandora to Tapotupotu

The track initially meanders up the side of a hill shaded by bush before opening out onto an undulating ridge with stunning views over the Te Paki reserve, giant sand dunes, Cape Maria van Diemen and the Cape Reinga lighthouse. After reaching the highest point (286m), the track winds quickly down into the spectacular Tapotupotu Bay and campground.

Tapotupotu to Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua)

The track climbs steeply with wonderful views back towards the east and spirits Bay and of the lighthouse in the west. Sandy Bay en-route is ideal for swimming, fishing and relaxing with a small stream. The track then climbs up a ridge to Cape Reinga, with views of the meeting of the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea and Three Kings Islands to the north-west.

Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua) to Twilight Beach

From Cape Reinga, the track leads down alongside cliff tops to Te Werahi Beach. Access to the beach can be difficult around high tide so plan accordingly. This is now the west coast of NZ and so can be much wilder than the northern and eastern bays which are generally sheltered from prevailing winds. Te Werahi Beach is 3 km long and has a shallow river at the southern end. After crossing this river, climb up terracotta-coloured sand dunes with views over Te Werahi Beach, Cape Maria van Diemen and Motuopao Island. The turn off to the Cape is worth exploring if you have an hour or two spare.

Twilight Beach to Te Paki Stream

The last section of the track starts with an hours stroll through the scrub of Scott Point, before climbing down a long set of stairs to the northern most part of the renowned 90 Mile Beach. Follow the beach south for about 90 minutes until turning left and following the stream inland through giant sand dunes for another 90 minutes.

Campgrounds

There are four campgrounds all managed by DOC on the coastal walk way. The two paid campsites are accessible by car at Spirits Bay and Tapotupotu. These campsites have water (has to be treated), cold showers and composting toilets.

There are micro campsites with walking access only at Pandora and Twilight Beach. These supply water and composting toilets, but also have a covered wooden structure with seating and inbuilt table that provides some shelter from the sun, rain and wind.

Sights

Te Paki was once an island separate from the rest of New Zealand, and this combined with diverse and dynamic ecosystems mean a unique environment with many distinct species has evolved over time.

The wetland at Spirits Bay is largely undisturbed and significant and host to a variety of plant and bird species. Dolphins and whales can occasionally be seen in the waters of Kapo Wairua, and the fishing is excellent with kingfish, trevally, kahawai and snapper able to be caught from land.

Rare orchids and the elusive flax snail (Pupu harakeke), endangered doterill, oystercatchers, skinks, northern muttonbird (Oi) can all be discovered on the trail. Keep an eye out for the giant shell of the kauri snail which can often be found alongside tracks. Bartlett’s rata is a unique plant found only within the Te Paki Reserves. It is the most recently discovered tree in New Zealand and is one of the rarest.

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