The Top of the North is a destination for memorable experiences and unexpected beauty.
Spiritual Te Rerenga Wairua Cape Reinga with its colliding oceans and breath-taking views is a must for every visitor to Aotearoa New Zealand. This sacred site is the northern-most accessible point of Aotearoa New Zealand but what many discover is that the journey here is just as intriguing as the destination itself. Discover the huge Te Paki Sand Dunes and the endless sands of Te Oneroa a Tōhē Ninety Mile Beach on the west coast of Te Hiku o te Ika-a-Māui (the tail of the fish of Māui) and experience the squeaky white sands of Rarawa Beach on the east. Explore the beach paradise of Doubtless Bay and the Karikari Peninsula, and venture into the untouched landscapes of the Whangaroa Harbour.
Te Rerenga Wairua is a sacred and culturally significant place for Māori. It is believed that the spirits of the departed make their way here to begin the voyage back to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki. Sliding down the roots of the lonely and ancient pohutukawa tree, they descend into the underworld, surfacing at the Three Kings Islands to bid their last farewell before continuing their journey.
Hidden gems in the Top of the North
- The visually spectacular atrium in Te Ahu Centre in Kaitaia
- The views of the Whangaroa Harbour from Kaiaraara Rocks (The Duke’s Nose)
- The white sand beaches of Karikari Peninsula and Te Hiku o te Ika-a-Māui (the tail of the fish of Māui)
- The gift shops, boutiques, and art galleries around Doubtless Bay
Towns and Villages
Discover the Top of The North
Te Hiku o te Ika-a-Māui
Te Hiku o te Ika-a-Māui or the tail of the fish of Maui is the northern-most peninsula of Aotearoa New Zealand, also sometimes known as the Aupouri Peninsula. Facilities can be limited in this isolated part of the country so plan your journey before you head off. This is where you will find spiritual Te Rerenga Wairua Cape Reinga, the giant sand dunes of Te Paki and the famous Te Oneroa a Tōhē Ninety Mile Beach (actually only 55 miles / 88km long). There’s a general store at Te Kao (don’t miss the ice-creams), paua pies and fresh fruit ice cream near Pukenui, and picture-perfect sandy beaches along the east coast of the peninsula.
Once an island, the stunning Karikari Peninsula connects to the mainland at historic Lake Ohia. 18km long Tokerau Beach which is a surf casters dream and beach settlement Whatuwhiwhi frame the western edge of Doubtless Bay. On the other side of the peninsula, the white sand beaches of Karikari, Puwheke and Rangiputa mark the eastern shores of Rangaunu Bay. Quirky Rotopotaka Lake, also known as Coca-Cola Lake for its unique peat-stained colour, is a popular swimming spot and just up the road, a 3000-acre estate awaits, complete with a championship golf course and winery.
Doubtless Bay is a beach paradise encompassing the settlements of Mangōnui, Coopers Beach, Cable Bay, and Taipā to name a few, with safe sandy beaches that are popular with families and spectacular beachfront accommodation. You’ll be enchanted by Mangōnui, a colonial fishing village faithfully depicting yesteryear - it has some wonderful historic buildings to be discovered when walking the Heritage Trail. Waterfront dining is almost guaranteed here, with restaurants, art galleries, gift shops, and accommodation lining the aptly named Waterfront Rd.
Whangaroa Harbour and Matauri Bay
Whangaroa is known as the Marlin Capital of Aotearoa New Zealand and fishing, in general, is popular here. A harbour tour will give you an insight into the history of the towering volcanic rock outcrops, formed as water eroded the volcanic debris of 20 million years ago. A water taxi and shuttle service is available for pick up/drop off to the Wairakau Stream Track and Lane Cove Hut. This is also the start of the popular Kaiaraara Rocks (Duke’s Nose) Track. Several other walking tracks can be found around the area including the Mahinepua Peninsula Track, and great beaches line the coastline, including the popular holiday spot Matauri Bay. World-class golf course and luxury lodge Kauri Cliffs overlooks the sea here.
Kaitaia and Ahipara
Kaitaia is the main service centre of the top of the north, from where many tours to Te Rerenga Wairua Cape Reinga and Te Oneroa a Tōhē Ninety Mile Beach depart. The Te Ahu Centre reflects the rich and diverse local cultures of Māori and Dalmatian ancestry and hosts an i-SITE, museum, cinema, and a stunning atrium with a grand entrance of pou (wood carvings) outside. Lake Ngatu is a recreation reserve north-west of Kaitaia, with a freshwater dune lake, and family-friendly 4km loop track which is popular with both locals and visitors. Just 14km to the southwest of Kaitaia is the seaside town of Ahiparapara, at the south end of Te Oneroa a Tōhē Ninety Mile Beach. During the late 19th century, the area was known for kauri gum digging. Te Kōhanga Shipwreck Bay at the southern point of Ahiparapara contains a number of wrecks visible at low tide and is a popular surfing spot.