Walking on the sand dunes at Te Paki
PHOTO: Eli Duke | Creative Commons

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Introduction

Te Paki is home to a wide range of native plants and animals, with easy access to great campgrounds, walking tracks and many recreation opportunities.

Highlights

The area provides easy access to idyllic campgrounds, great walking tracks and picnic areas. Opportunities for outdoor recreation include enjoying the stunning views, bird watching and tramping, swimming, diving, fishing and surfing.

Place overview

Activities

  • Camping
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Scenic driving
  • Walking and tramping
  • Check clean dry
    Stop the spread of didymo and other freshwater pests.

    Remember to Check, Clean, Dry all items before entering, and when moving between, waterways.

  • Kauri dieback
    Help stop kauri dieback

    Kauri dieback disease is killing our native kauri. It spreads by soil movement, but you can help prevent it.

    • Stay away from kauri tree roots.
    • Clean your gear before and after visiting kauri forest.

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Te Paki Recreation Reserve

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About track difficulties

The area provides easy access to idyllic campgrounds, great walking tracks and picnic areas. Opportunities for outdoor recreation are endless, from enjoying the stunning views, bird watching and tramping to swimming, diving, fishing and surfing.

People fishing at Spirits Bay.
People fishing at Spirits Bay

You can explore the area on your own, or there are a good number of tourism operators offering specially designed tours.

To find out more tour information contact the i-SITE Kaitaia visitor information centre.

Coastal activities

The East Coast is generally more sheltered with sandy bays suitable for water sports and rocky headlands where fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving are popular.

The West Coast is more wild and exposed than the East, with spectacular golden sand dunes.

Surfing

Whether you enjoy the rush of riding waves of sand or the waves of the ocean, you are spoilt for choice here in Te Paki. Discover multiple surf breaks along 90 mile beach (Te Oneroa a Tohe) or try surfing the giant sand dunes of Te Paki.

Sandboarding

Te Paki sand dunes.
Te Paki sand dunes

Calling all thrill seekers! Climb to the top of Te Paki’s giant sand-dunes and feel the adrenaline rush as you surf down these golden sandy giants!

You can hire toboggans from local tourist operators – see the local Kaitaia I-site information centre for details.

Mokaikai Scenic Reserve

Money Tree, Mokaikai Scenic Reserve.
Money Tree, Mokaikai Scenic Reserve

Together with the adjoining Ohao Blocks, this area has an outstanding natural landscape and high concentration of historic and archaeological sites. The money tree is one historic site within the Mokaikai scenic reserve. It was here that gum diggers would leave coins for good luck.

Within the Mokaikai Reserve, mountain biking opportunities are available all throughout the 4WD road network.

Although some access is possible, to get to Mokaikai or North Cape, permission is necessary to cross Muriwhenua land. It must be obtained from Muriwhenua Incorporation, phone +64 9 409 7831.

The main entrance is at Waitiki Landing where at present there is visitor information, limited motel accommodation and a casual cafeteria.

The money tree is a highlight within Mokaikai Reserve.

North Cape Scientific Reserve

This reserve is an exceptionally important home to many plants and animals within the Te Paki area. A high number of these animals and plants are found only in this reserve and nowhere else in the world. For this reason, access is restricted to permit only.

'Bonsai' forest at North Cape Scientific Reserve.
'Bonsai' forest at North Cape Scientific Reserve

North Cape is of international ecological significance due to the make-up of the environment. Rocky, serpentine soil combined with a harsh climate has given rise to a unique bonsai dwarf shrub community with many peculiarities. These plants, all from different families, have adapted over time to this unique environment. Of the species found here, 17 plants are known to live only in this area, and nowhere else.

The landscape consists of steep cliffs, loose rock surfaces and steep vertical faces. Small pockets of forest are dominated by pohutukawa, combined with kawakawa, mahoe and karaka.

Open coastal land makes up part of North Cape, with eight species of native plants being characteristically low- growing or stunted in form such as kanuka, Coprosma sp., and Hebe sp.

Lizards and land snails are found throughout the North Cape. Many populations are in gradual decline; Matapia gecko, Ornate skink, North Cape Pacific gecko, while other animal populations are nationally critical such as the pupuharakeke (Giant flax snail).

Te Paki Recreation Reserves

Sand patterns, Twilight Dunes, Te Paki.
Sand patterns, Twilight Dunes, Te Paki

The area covered by Te Paki Recreation Reserves has communities of plants and animals that are distinct from anywhere else in New Zealand.

The reserves combine most of the accessible recreational beaches, dune lands, Cape Reinga, Te Paki stream, wetlands, rocky-coasts, shrub covered hills, forest remnants and farmland.

Look out for and enjoy its many treasures from kauri trees to orchids, geckos and skinks to the nationally threatened pupuharakeke (flax snails).

The unique natural values of this area also include the endangered plant Bartlett’s rata, which was not discovered until 1975, when only 27 trees remained.

Simmonds Islands

Simmonds Islands are home to many rare plants, skinks, and a variety of sea and shore birds including breeding Bullers shearwaters. The islands are pest free and strictly 'no landing zones'.

Find out more about Simmonds Islands

Otangawhiti (Sandy Bay).
 Otangawhiti (Sandy Bay)

Otangawhiti (Sandy Bay)

This bay is known for the frequent visits of whales. They have been known to enter the bay and scratch themselves against the rock that protrudes from the far point. They probably use the rock to rub off animals like barnacles that attach themselves to the whales’ skin.

Ngatongawhiti, the prominent point at the bay’s south end, is the name of a very old Maori settlement.

Archaeological sites

Mokaikai Pa.
Mokaikai Pa

Within the boundaries of Te Paki Recreation Reserves are close to 1,000 recorded archaeological sites in the form of agriculture sites, fortified pa, storage sites, and shell midden. Sub fossil remains of snails, and many kinds of birds, some extinct, are also located within the Te Paki area.

These sites assist in telling the story of a long and complex pattern of land use in the Far North.

Care is taken to keep the sites intact and to preserve and respect the spiritual and cultural heritage of Maori.

If you come upon these sites, help to protect and preserve them by not disturbing them.

Note that all archaeological sites are protected by the Historic Places Act 1993 and it is an offence to damage or interfere with them in any way.

Four wheel driving

The 4WD standard road to Pandora is suitable for walking or mountain biking.

Scenic driving

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    Straddling the northernmost tip of the North Island, Te Paki is one of the most intact and diverse ecosystems in New Zealand.

    Spotless crake.
    Spotless crake

    The northernmost section of the North Island comprises a diverse area of hill country, steep coastal cliffs, continually changing dunelands and expansive wetlands, with many endemic and threatened plants and animals and unique vegetation associations.

    Its features include the extensive estuary, eelgrass, saltmarsh and mangroves of Parengarenga Harbour, and the gleaming white sands of Kokota Spit.

    Birds

    Large numbers of migrant wading birds congregate on the harbour together with variable oystercatchers, New Zealand dotterels and caspian terns.

    Wetland and duneland birds include New Zealand dabchicks, New Zealand fernbirds, scaup, bittern and spotless crake.

    Whahatinana te tangi o te oi – to strengthen the cry of the oi

    At Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) a small population of oi (Grey-faced petrel) are being safe-guarded thanks to the establishment of a trapping network funded by United Civil Construction Limited and coordinated by the Ngati Kuri Trust Board, with support from the Department. The trap network installed covers 60 hectares in order to protect a five-hectare Oi breeding colony.

    Grey-faced petrel.
    Grey-faced petrel

    Oi (Pterodroma macroptera gouldi) are a native ground nesting seabird whose populations have been disappearing from the northern coast of New Zealand.

    Oi, known also as the Northern Muttonbird breed in burrows on offshore islands, coastal headlands, and cliffs of northern North Island of New Zealand.

    Thanks to the trapping efforts of local iwi and DOC, the oi population at Te Rerenga Wairua has increased for the first time in many years.

    Lizards and snails

    Nine species of lizard and numerous species and subspecies of land snails inhabit the typically windswept vegetation.

    There are three species of pupuharakeke/flax snail. One species is found only on Three Kings Islands (Placostylus bollonsi), another in Te Paki Placostylus bollonsi, and Placostylus hongii is found in eastern areas of Northland.

    Pupuharakeke (Giant flax snail).
    Pupuharakeke (Giant flax snail)

    These giants were once widespread in Northland before human settlement. Many of them are now endangered or threatened, and inhabit a more restricted area of Northland and the islands offshore.

    Pupuharakeke usually live in broadleaf forest and scrub. They reside in pockets of broadleaf litter, or under ground cover vegetation.

    The causes of decline for flax snails include habitat destruction - caused by humans, habitat modification - caused by domestic and feral grazers, and predation - by introduced animals and birds.

    Plants

    Rata Moehau (Bartlett's rata). 
    Rata Moehau (Bartlett's rata)

    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.

    Bartlett's rata (Metrosideros bartletii), also known as Rata Moehau, is a white flowering tall forest tree, with pale, papery bark, which makes it unique among New Zealand rata. This species was discovered in a forest remnant near Cape Reinga in 1975 and is listed as endangered.

    DOC carries out intensive possum control to protect the remaining naturally occurring Rata Moehau, which are highly palatable to posums. Over 300 trees have been planted into sites where possum numbers are kept very low.

    Rata Moehau start life as an epiphyte where seeds land on other trees, grow, and eventually send roots to the ground. In winter 2010, around 50 trees were planted on other trees as epiphytes to mimic this natural process. So far the programme is showing promising results and the future is looking good for Rata Moehau being around for many generations to come.

    History and culture

    Te Paki Recreational Reserve.
    Te Paki Recreational Reserve

    Plant and animal communities here have been shaped by the unusual geology and distinctive climate of the Far North.

    There is also a long history of human habitation in the area. In combination, these physical, ecological, social and cultural attributes have moulded Te Paki into a unique and dynamic ecosystem.

    Te Paki was once an island separated from the rest of New Zealand long enough for its living things to become different from their mainland relatives.

    Many sites in this reserve are very important for their natural life. It’s notable that these are also places of great cultural significance for Maori.

    They include major wetlands at Te Ketekete and Kapo Wairua (Spirits Bay) and the Island sanctuaries of Motuopao, near Cape Maria van Diemen, and Manawatawhi (Three Kings Islands).

    Getting there

    Cape Reinga and Te Paki Recreational Reserves are located at the northernmost area of New Zealand on the small, narrow Aupouri Peninsula. It is the neck of land between Rangaunu Harbour on the east and the southern sweep of the Ninety Mile Beach on the west. Follow State Highway 1 north.

    Travellers not wishing to take their cars up to the Cape and/or wish a drop-off/pick-up service, this is available at the Waitiki Landing Complex, RD 4, Kaitaia.

    To find out more tour information, contact the Kaitaia i-SITE visitor information centre.

    Tour buses also go up and back to Cape Reinga daily from Kaitaia, Mangonui, Kerikeri and Paihia.

    Know before you go

    You must get permission to cross Maori land to get to Mokaikai. Contact Muriwhenua Incorporation, phone +64 9 409 7831.

    Respect other users of the reserve and for your own safety beware that 4WD vehicles and logging trucks may be in the area.

    Contacts

    Kaitaia Office
    Phone:   +64 9 408 6014
    Address:   25 Matthews Ave
    Kaitaia 0441
    Email:   kaitaia@doc.govt.nz
    Full office details
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