Cape Reinga is one of New Zealand’s most popular destinations and home to one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. It is, however, much more than just a popular tourist destination.

Cape Reinga is a Māori sacred site. At the northernmost tip of the Cape is a Pohutukawa tree that is believed to be over 800 years old. It is from this tree, according to Māori legend, that spirits of deceased Māori leap into the ocean and return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki.

A trip to Cape Reinga is a “must-do” for Kiwis and international visitors alike for many reasons, not least an opportunity to learn more about the history of New Zealand.

Cape Reinga is also a special place for another reason. It’s one of the few places in the world where two seas collide, meeting in a spectacular swirl of currents, especially on a stormy day.

There are many reasons to visit Cape Reinga and lots of things to do once you get there, however, the journey is also part of the adventure. Cape Reinga is not quite New Zealand’s most northern point, but it’s the furthest point north you can reach (North Cape is further north but it is a scientific reserve to off-limits to the general public). This does mean that it is a bit of a mission to get there.

From Paihia – one of the most popular places to base yourself in the Bay of Islands – it’s approximately a 2-hour 40-minute drive to Cape Reinga and from Auckland, it’s almost 6 hours to drive there.

Thankfully, there are plenty of things to do along the way and lots of amazing stop-off points before you even get to Cape Reinga.

Things to see and do on the way to Cape Reinga

The drive to Cape Reinga is a spectacular one, no matter which route you take to get there. If you are heading up from Auckland, or even further south, make sure you check out our road trip itineraries from Auckland to the Bay of Islands that will give you plenty of ideas for things to see and do along the way.

Heading up to Cape Reinga is a popular day trip from Paihia in the Bay of Islands and there are daily bus tours that leave Paihia that will take you all the way to the Cape and leave you free from driving to enjoy the day.

We, however, prefer to self-drive as that way, you get to control your own itinerary and decide where you want to stop off along the way and how long you want to spend in some of the amazing places along the way.

Northern Beaches

If you are setting off from Paihia, we recommend taking SH10 and hugging the northeast coastline. Here, you will find some of New Zealand’s most spectacular bays and beaches and we definitely recommend allowing a couple of hours on the way up or way back down to enjoy the stunning waters and white sandy beaches.

Popular beaches along the way include:

  • Matauri Bay
  • Taupo Bay
  • Coopers Beach
  • Taipa
  • Cable Bay Beach

Fish and chips

If you are looking for somewhere to eat on your drive up or on your way home, we highly recommend stopping in at Mangonui where you will find some of the best fish and chips in New Zealand.


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This famous fish and chip shop features at #3 in our list of the best fish and chips in New Zealand and not only do they serve up some tasty and fresh fish, but it’s also a truly stunning location to enjoy one of New Zealand’s favourite dishes.

90 Mile Beach

Perhaps the most popular stop-off point on the drive north to Cape Reinga in 90 Mile Beach (which is not actually 90 miles!). Whilst 90 Mile Beach is officially classed as a highway, none of our vehicles are insured to drive on the beach so if you are looking to do some beach driving, you will need to be part of a tour or in your own private vehicle.

There are, of course, lots of other things to get stuck into at 90 Mile Beach. From surfing the waves to riding the sand dunes, there are plenty of activities on land or in the water and a stop off at 90 Mile Beach can easily take up 2 or 3 hours so plan a stop-off into your itinerary.


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Our favourite thing to do up there is definitely sandboarding down the massive sand dunes. Grab yourself a bodyboard (you can rent one up there if you don’t have your own) and haul yourself to the top of the dunes. From there, lay down on your front and away you go! It’s pretty knackering running to the top every time but the thrill of the downhill is always worth it!

Things to do at Cape Reinga

Whether you plan your stop-offs for the way up or the way home, make sure you allow plenty of time to explore Cape Reinga itself.

As it is a sacred site, no eating is permitted at Cape Reinga so make sure you plan your day in advance and avoid arriving there at lunchtime in hope of enjoying a picnic there. There are plenty of great picnic spots on the route up, including the beautiful Tapotupotu Bay which is around 5kms before you hit Cape Reinga.



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The lighthouse at Cape Reinga is one of the most photographed in New Zealand. The lighthouse is just a short (but steep) walk from the main carpark and offers up stunning views of the colliding oceans (more of that shortly).

The lighthouse was completed in 1941, replacing the lighthouse that was previously located on Motuopao Island and was the last watched lighthouse to be built in New Zealand. The lighthouse was one of the least accessible in New Zealand at the time it was built, however, by the mid-1960s, keepers were hosting up to 200 visitors a day. The lighthouse was manned until 1987 and is now remotely monitored from Maritime New Zealand’s Wellington office.

World Destinations Sign


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Whilst the lighthouse may take centre stage when it comes to Instagramable moments, a close runner up is the world destinations sign. You may have seen these signs in other popular tourist destinations in the world – a sign that tells you how far it is to some of the world’s biggest cities like London (18,029 km), Los Angeles (10,479 km) South Pole (6,211 km) and Bluff (1,452 km). Bluff is New Zealand’s southernmost point, and you will find a corresponding sign located there.

Walking Trails


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If you are looking for a leg stretch that will take you away from the big crowds and the popular lighthouse track, there are plenty of day hikes and multi-day hiking trails in and around Cape Reinga.

These tracks will give you the opportunity to explore the stunning Cape Reinga coastline where you will discover stunning bays and amazing views. Two of the most popular tracks include:

  • Te Paki Coast Track
  • Te Werahi Loop Track

There are various starting and entry points for these walks so make sure you check out the DOC website where you will find more information.

What are the two oceans that meet at the top of New Zealand?

We’ve already touched on it, however, one of the coolest things to do at Cape Reinga is to watch two oceans collide. The northern tip of New Zealand is where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet, and this leads to pretty spectacular results as the currents all merge, especially on a stormy day.

The exact meeting point of the two oceans is up for debate. Whilst most articles, including this one, will tell you that it’s at Cape Reinga, according to the Limits of Oceans and Seas – a document that helps to ensure consistency when people are describing ocean currents and maritime weather – the actual point at which the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet is at North Cape, around 2kms east of Cape Reinga.

Still, it’s not as if there is a line in the water to split the two oceans and the results, no matter where they collide, can be observed from Cape Reinga and that’s all that matters to us – it’s very cool!


Cape Reinga is a place every Kiwi should visit at least once and it’s a wonderful place to visit during the summer months where you can enjoy the beaches on the way, explore the sand dunes at 90 Mile Beach and really admire the spectacular views on a sunny day.

If you are heading into Auckland and you need to rent a car, make sure you check out our great deals on car rental at Auckland Airport or from our Auckland City Centre branch – we have added some exciting new cars to our fleet ready for the summer and we’ve got the perfect rental car for your Kiwi road trip.