An endless summer on 90-mile beach–surfing too!

If you are looking for a peaceful weekend, a great surfing destination or perhaps even a long summer holiday, I can recommend the Endless Summer Lodge,  Ahipara right at the start of 90 mile beach.

This beautiful 1880 wooden villa is at Shipwreck Bay, the end of 90-Mile Beach – a ten minute drive from Kaitaia. Owners Anna & Blaine Whelan have created a delightful place with solar-heated shower water, indoor and outdoor dining and everything spotless. ( Free use of body boards here and surfing lesson are available too)

Two things I particularly liked where – no TV; and the wonderful kauri floors: please take off your shoes to protect them. The restoration of this 130+ year-old homestead is wonderful and it’s great that such history has been bought alive.

Shipwreck Bay was, not surprisingly, the site of the sinking of many ships. Evidently the wrecks of some of them are visible at low tide but I never saw any. This area was once home to some 2000 people working the huge gum-fields.

All over Northland you are never more than 40ks from the sea, but here you just wander across the road with your body, or surf, board under your arm. I just had my towel and loved playing in the warm water.

I’d been told Ahipara boasts one of the world’s best left hand surf breaks – I had to ask what this means!

It seems “A wave is either a left or a right, depending on which direction the wave breaks from the point of view of a surfer paddling and riding the wave. If a surfer is paddling to catch the wave and it is breaking from right to left (the surfer will have to turn left to get on the wave) then this wave is a left.”

And, just to make it more confusing for us non-surfers – these breaks are from the view of the surfer, so left looks right from the beach! Shipwreck Bay is home to one of the best point-breaks in NZ – a world-class left-hander that offers rides of up to 3 minutes on a good day.

The water is usually warm, the breaks not crowded, the bottom sand, and there are different spots available for both beginners and advanced surfers – no wonder people would consider such a place be perfect for what seems in the ‘winterless north’ an endless summer just as this accommodation is called.

If you are taking a road trip, when you leave this little retreat, follow SH10 through the towns of Herekino, Broadwood, and the Victorian village of Kohukohu which has charming old villas and buildings  and the Village Arts gallery on the main street.

The “Narrows” car ferry is on your left hand side about 5 minutes the other side of Kohukohu. (About an hour’s drive from Awanui). This ferry departs on the hour and takes about 15 minutes to cross. Drive off the ferry at Rawene, which has an art gallery, and an excellent café (The Boatshed), and historic Clendon House  Drive through town to SH12 and turn right, follow road into Opononi on the Hokianga Harbour.

I took some back roads and visited my husband’s grave before finally checking in at The Copthorne Hotel & Resort Hokianga right  on the edge of the Hokianga Harbour, yet another beautiful  kauri villa that has stunning views of the massive sand dunes across the bay – dunes that I will explore tomorrow.

copthorne hokianga

Of course my trip around Northland was taken in my favourite car rental company NZ Rent A Car!

90 Mile Beach, sand toboggans & native trees

Sand Safaris take me for a full day trip to Cape Reinga – driving along  90 Mile Beach, sand-tobogganing  and I plant a native tree at the cape.

Classified as a main highway, 90-mile beach is not really ninety miles long and this is just one of the interesting facts given by our engaging driver, Senny, as we race against the incoming tide. These tours go up or down the beach one way, and the usual road route on the other.

We hear stories of cattle rustling; peat-land,large forests on sand dunes, lots of freshwater lakes; and the ultra-marathon and fishing competitions held on the this well known beach. we also see numerous birds, a cow, wild horses, and shellfish beds which the bus carefully avoids.

With no big river emptying into the Tasman the beach is free of the debris usually seen on beaches and it’s not long before we stop for photos before we head up a stream to the sand dunes and tobogganing.

we are given tips for the descent

.. and put them into action.

Lunch stop at Tapotupotu Bay … time for a very quick dip too

The top of New Zealand is Cape Reinga, and Te Ara, New Zealand’s online history encyclopaedia  says "according to ancient lore, this was final departure point for the spirit of the Maori. It was said that the spirit, after travelling up the west coast to a spot a few miles south of Cape Maria van Diemen, continued overland to the western end of Spirits Bay and eventually reached the pohutukawa tree. There it descended the roots and entered the sea. (This tree is reputed to have been in position for about 800 years and is said never to have blossomed.) "



I take the 1km walk down to the lighthouse and the views are spectacular as I watch the waves of  the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific Ocean currents.

While here I’m given the opportunity to  plant a native tree to help assuage my travel-writer frequent-flyer carbon guilt.

If you too are ecologically minded, see the Seed for the Future website for more information about this local tribe (Ngati Kuri) initiative as part of their role of guardians of the sacred places around the cape … $NZ20 well spent and a living legacy of your trip there.

Leaving here we head south again, via the sealed  road this time, we head home with the bus dropping us off at our accommodation … I get off at Mainstreet, pick up my rental car and head a little further south to Shipwreck Bay and Endless Summer Lodge.

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