Te Paki sand dunes in New Zealand's Far North. © Nigel Killeen

Te Paki sand dunes: seriously steep, seriously fun

As if the breathtaking glory of Ninety Mile Beach wasn’t enough, right at the northern end, near the Te Paki Stream, are some seriously steep and seriously fun sand dunes.

Just a short drive off the main road north to Cape Reinga, they are a small detour that delivers a big reward.

You’ll need a sandboard for the adrenaline-pumping ride down, and you can just rent one onsite, real simple. In the busy season you might want to pre-book, and you’ll need ID. Yep, even for a sandboard, and they’re not even motorised. Though by the time you get to the bottom, you might start to wonder. What, gravity did that?

Te Paki is basically a 10km long by 1km wide coastal strip of 150m high sand dunes. How high? Yep. So it’s a steep climb, but no pain, no gain, right?

And if you want to clock the view — and the view from the top is amazing — then you gotta scale the heights. Right, again? And, seriously, grandmas do it. They do! So, what are you waiting for?

You might want to ditch the shoes — there’s the Te Paki Stream to cross — and you might also want to take a scarf (or something that doubles as one) to cover your mouth. You’ll get some serious speed up going down, and you won’t want a mouth full of sand. Just sayin’.

Here’s a thought for the less energetic — a roam around the dunes is an experience in itself. You certainly don’t feel like you’re just a stone’s throw from Northland sheep pasture land. It’s a desert out there — the landscape is outstanding. This is one of those experiences you just don’t see coming, where an innocuous yellow signpost leads to something spectacular and unexpected. ‘‘I was just cruising up to the Cape’,’ you’ll say. Next thing you’re flying down the dunes.

Yep, this is just a great surprise after the wonders of Cape Reinga — or a rewarding and addictive sideshow prior. Go forth: show your true grit!


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