At the very tip top of New Zealand, on the Western coast of the Aupouri Peninsula, lies an uninterrupted stretch of sand called 90 Mile Beach. The fact that it’s actually 90 kilometers, a.k.a., 55 miles, long does little to diminish its reputation. During the three short days we spent in Ahipara, a small town of 1,065 at the southern end of the beach, we awoke each morning to a spectacular view.
Despite its small size, Ahipara is one of the most significant settlements along the beach. There’s not much in the way of groceries beyond an extremely overpriced superette, so I highly recommend stocking up in Kaitai before you drive any further north. Ahipara is, however, home to a surprisingly good fish ‘n’ chips shop — Bidz Takeaways. We sat on a picnic bench outside to enjoy our indulgently greasy meal.
There’s very little to do in Ahipara apart from enjoying the beach! So that is precisely what we did.
We set out in the early afternoon on an especially beautiful day. You could chalk this up to our general laissez-faire travel attitude, but this time we had a legitimate reason for our delayed start: we had to wait for the tide to recede.
Tides in New Zealand are the most dramatic I’ve ever seen, with the lengths of beaches changing tens of meters between the high and low points. During low tide on 90 Mile Beach, everyone breaks out their 4WD jeeps and trucks and drives along the sand. Oh, and the rocks. And tidepools. At first we didn’t believe it was possible, but we were soon overtaken by too many SUVs to count.
It was Sunday afternoon, and we passed horseback riders, surfers, and several families having picnics and BBQs on the beach. It’s easy to see why 90 Mile Beach is a prime holiday destination and tourist hotspot. I even spotted my ideal Bach House, the name New Zealanders give to the simple, casual structures that they occupy for weeks at a time during the warmer seasons. Some are more flash than others, but I think this one is perfect. It’s located just inside the bay, meaning it’s protected from the wind, has a spacious front porch, a rainwater tank, and a set of stairs down to the beach! All you need, really.
The topography kept changing — one minute dark volcanic rocks; another, a deep green pine forest adjacent to a field with grazing cows.
And then we stumbled upon the famous giant sand dunes, one of which I decided, rather naively, to climb.
It turned out to be a very difficult undertaking, though I did eventually make it to the top after about 20 minutes of huffing, puffing, and crawling on my hands and knees.
We turned around shortly thereafter and managed to spot the shipwreck that we hadn’t been able to identify earlier when the tide was higher.
When we returned several hours later, sunkissed and quite tired, we were were treated to an absolutely delicious Sunday dinner of roast lamb by our Airbnb hosts.
Overall, it was a quiet and relaxing three days. I think that if you are planning to see 90 Mile Beach, you can either make it a short one-or-two day trip (like we did), or go all-out, rent a Bach house, kick back, relax, and enjoy the beach life for a few weeks — or months! During the summer, of course.
Photo credits: #1, 3, 6, 8, and 9 by G. Remainder by me.