5 must-stops ahead of Paihia in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Updated: Jun 18
Paihia in the Bay of Islands of New Zeland is the most touristy destination. One can go there and probably be done with it in a day. However, you need one more day for those five places you must visit after you're done with Paihia.
Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand. The State Highway 1 extends right upto it. It is indeed a beautiful drive, but then every drive in New Zealand is a beautiful drive.
We were to choose between the Bay Of Islands and The Coromandel, we chose Paihia and Cape Reinga over Coromandel, and it has been extremely satisfying. I am sure the Coromandel is lovely too but there is only so much a traveler can see. You should definitely drive up to Cape Reinga and back and here is why.
If you are staying in Paihia, and with the town being large enough for a day, it is absolute that you take yourself out for your second day. And with so many planned tours to Cape Reinga, it is kind of stupid to not go there. You can drive up yourself or book a bus tour. It is one whole day with multiple stops on your way and complete landscape fantasy from the windows of your car or bus. If you love driving then the pleasure of driving up and down is next to the best.
You will not find much to eat or get gas enroute to Cape Reinga, so plan accordingly.
1. Cape Reinga is like the edge of the world. You have to have to have to see it to believe it. But you must also believe it to enjoy the sight. The feeling of standing on the edge of land is something different. What makes your experience even more special is the fact that the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide right in front of your eyes. It is evidently visible. Cape Reinga is just over 3 hours away from Paihia provided you do not make stops while driving up.
2. The Giant Sand Dunes are about 20 Kms down from Cape Reinga. These will give you every bit of desert that you need, provided you haven’t seen any before. Of course, I hear there are more such in different parts of the world, but then- first impression is the last impression. Sandboarding was getting us all excited, and the experience was not short of any. There is proper parking available, and you can easily rent a sandboard for a few dollars.
3. Rarawa Beach is a white beach with cold waters and speedy winds. You have to stand there, stretch your arms, literally, close your eyes, and breathe. Let the water hit your feet and the wind, your chest. Let your body be blown away. Find a million seashells and a million smiles. The beach is an hour drive from Cape Reinga.
4. The Ninety-mile beach, as the name suggests is a 90 miles long beach. We are not sure what kind of rules apply, but we did read somewhere that a non-rented 4X4 drive vehicle can be taken to the beach. Unfortunately, we were driving a rented Toyota Corolla, so we could not. But trust me, I would have liked nothing more than drifting my car on the beach of New Zealand. There are multiple entries to the beach, obviously. The one we chose ended being a really long drive on a very bad road to the beach. So, be careful.
5. Rotopokaka aka The Coco-Cola Lake, will shout back at you “Yes, it is possible”, when you take the first look at it. The lake shores look exactly like Coco-Cola. As if, the lake is filled with the coco-cola drink. I guess, it is somewhere there that the makers of Coco-cola were inspired. The lake is exactly 100 Kms from Paihia, we suggest you stop there while driving to Cape Reinga. You might feel a little lost, but follow the Google map, you will find people and not just the lake.
Bonus: There are a few hike trails from Cape Reinga that seemed very interesting. Obviously, we didn’t plan to hike, in fact, we did not go to New Zealand with an idea to hike around. But we definitely recommend these ones, for the love of hiking.
Check out our video of the Road Trip.