Where the spirits head home
Beginning at Spirits Bay on the north-eastern coast, the 48km Te Paki Coastal Track passes through Tapotupotu Bay and leads on around Cape Reinga to finish at the giant Te Paki sand dunes along 90 Mile Beach.
The section from Cape Reinga to Tapotupotu Bay is a stunning day walk which can be hiked in either direction or as a return walk if you are staying at the DOC campsite at Tapotupoto.
The Coastal Track descends sharply from the well-maintained Cape Reinga Lighthouse pathway and cuts around the edge of a bush-clad slope where the views along the coast are spectacular. Then it’s straight down an exposed spur to tiny Sandy Bay, a beautiful jade-green cove tucked into the cliffs and surrounded by gnarly old pohutukawa trees hanging off the rock face.
The climb out of Sandy Bay is steep, with several flights of stairs to somewhat ease the effort. From the top, the track leads across a wide plateau through scrubby manuka and flax. Occasionally there are glimpses of the golden sand dunes to the west, Cape Reinga lighthouse behind and the long white sandy crescent of Spirits Bay out in front and to the east.
The track re-joins the sea cliffs and drops steadily towards spectacular Tapotupotu Bay. The descent is surprisingly long and follows the sharp edge of the cliffs all the way to a point just above the beach. Then it’s a short clamber down a narrow track and onto the sand. Mission accomplished.
– Shellie Evans