Five cool things to do and see in Ahipara, New Zealand

The Northland region of the North Island of New Zealand is a magical place. Think ancient forests, impossibly-long beaches, ancient shipwrecks, the famous lighthouse at Cape Reinga, and an abundance of kaimoana, of food from the sea. It’s also peppered with cool wee seaside towns, one of which is Ahipara.

Ahipara has location location location. Ahipara is set at the southern end of Ninety Mile Beach (which isn’t actually 90 miles long – more on that later). Ahipara also has views, history, and gourmet-level shellfish just waiting to be steamed and dipped in butter. More on that later too.

Keen to get amongst? Here are five of the best things to do and see in and around the town of Ahipara.

One: Head for, and head out on, Ninety Mile Beach from Ahipara

Ninety Mile Beach is probably New Zealand’s most famous beach, and the town of Ahipara is one of the best places to access it.

For one, it’s very long, although not quite 90 miles. It’s actually 66 miles long – the ninety comes from a bit of bad maths on the part of the colonial settlers who came up with the name. They reckoned their horses walked about 30 miles per day, and also reckoned it took three days of horse trekking to cover the distance. Seems there horses were slow. So here we are: the 66-mile long Ninety Mile Beach.

Starting just north of Ahipara, Ninety Mile Beach is probably best known for the fact that you can drive on it. Only attempt this at low tide, if you are going to attempt it at all. Maybe take a bus tour instead (either from Ahipara or from further afield) – a lot of half-submerged tourists’ cars end up on the evening news in New Zealand. Or if you’re feeling rowdy, you can rent a four wheel drive ATV in Ahipara and do a bit of freedom quad biking on Ninety Mile Beach.

Two: Explore Ahipara Bay

Ahipara sits on Ahipara Beach in the middle of Ahipara Bay, just south of the entrance to Ninety Mile Beach. It’s a great place to wander with the family, looking for driftwood and seashells. The sunsets from the beach at Ahipara are legendary.

Apparently Ahipara Bay is also just the place to the ‘Tuatua Twist’. Stand in the ocean at low tide, do a wee twist with your feet, and you’ll soon feel the shells of the tuatua, an edible, and delicious, bivalve clam. Yum.

The Ahipara surf mecca of Shipwreck Bay

At the southern end of Ahipara Bay, surfers from around the world rate Shipwreck Bay for one of the best left hand surf breaks in the country, thanks to swells from the Tasman Sea rolling along Reef Point.

Above Shipwreck Bay, the Ahipara Gumfields Historic Reserve is worth the walk to see artefacts from the days when kauri gum diggers flocked to the area to gather the valuable kauri gum from the mighty trees that once stood in the region – the gum was then carted down to boats waiting at Shipwreck Bay.

Speaking of boats at Shipwreck Bay, how cool is this? At low tide, you can see the wrecks of some of the dozens of ships that came a cropper back in the early days of Pakeha settlement in Ahipara, New Zealand.

Three: Surfing at Ahipara, except on North Island sand

One Northland must-do is sandboarding, which is basically boogey boarding down sand dunes.

The most famous spot in New Zealand to have a sandy slide is the towering sand dunes of Te Paki past Ninety Mile Beach on the way to Cape Reinga. But Ahipara has its own sand dunes – your best bet is to explore them with a local guide, who will be able to point you to the sweetest spots in the ever-changing dune landscapes and help you avoid a long walk in. Otherwise ask around town in Ahipara, local knowledge is key.

Four: Having a wander in Herekino Forest near Ahipara

About a 10-minute drive from Ahipara on the Twin Coast Discovery Highway, the 15-kilometre Herekino Forest Track, which is part of the nationwide Te Araroa Trail, is home to some of the rarest species in the far north, if not all of New Zealand. These include the long-tailed bat, brown kiwi and the kauri snail (which, as well as being rare, is both carnivorous and cannibalistic!). Check for track closures before you head out.

Five: Go horse trekking on the beach at Ahipara!

You can go horse riding on the beach right from Ahipara (and on 90 Mile Beach too). Remember the sunsets? This is the way to watch them – chilling on a horse, on a beautiful beach, not a city in sight.