Although Cape Reinga is regarded as the northern most point in New Zealand in actual fact that honour goes to North Cape’s Surville Cliffs, 30 km east of Cape Reinga, are slightly further north. Another headland just to the west of Cape Reinga is Cape Maria van Diemen, which was discovered and named by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman during his journey in 1642 and thought of by him to be the northernmost point of the newly-discovered country he named ‘Staten Landt’. Cape Reinga (Te Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua in Maori) is the northwesternmost tip of the Aupouri Peninsula, at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand. Cape Reinga is located over 100 km north of the nearest small town of Kaitaia and 420 kilometres north of Auckland city. State Highway 1 extends all the way to the Cape, but until 2010 was unsealed gravel road for the last 19 kilometres. Suitable vehicles can also travel much of the way via Ninety Mile Beach and Te Paki stream bed. The name of the cape comes from the Maori word ‘Reinga’, meaning the ‘Underworld’. Another Maori name is ‘Te Rerenga Wairua’, meaning the leaping-off place of spirits. Both refer to the Maori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld. The cape is a favourite tourist attraction, with over 120,000 visitors a year and around 1,300 cars arriving per day during peak season. Visitor numbers are growing by about 5% a year, and the increase is likely to become even more now that the road to the cape is fully sealed. Cape Reinga is generally considered the separation marker between the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. From the lighthouse it is possible to watch the tidal race, as the two seas clash to create unsettled waters just off the coast. The Maori refer to this as the meeting of Te Moana-a-Rehua, ‘the sea of Rehua’ with Te Tai-o-Whitirea, ‘the sea of Whitirea’, Rehua and Whitirea being a male and a female respectively.
Photograph of Aupouri Peninsula was taken on 5th September 2009 as I was walking to Cape Reinga, which is 200 metres to the north.