Cape Reinga – Where the Spirits of the Dead Meet the Underworld.

The pinnacle of the North Island, crashing waves of the Tasman and Pacific Sea clamor for attention against the jagged rocks protruding from the cliff’s precipice.

Cape Reinga. | Where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea.… | Flickr
Tasman Sea and Pacific ocean meet. Image by Adam Campbell from

Cape Reinga originates from the Maori language ‘the point where the spirits of the dead meet the underworld’.

Cape Reinga is a favorite tourist destination standing upon the abyss of two worlds. Looking upon the fiery waves vying for space on either side of the Cape. 

A place where two oceans collide. The Tasman Sea to the west, and the Pacific Ocean to the east.

The Tidal Race.

A lighthouse perched at the edge of the cliff allows for a unique viewing experience of the tidal race that rages past. Fast-moving tides scurries through a narrowing of watery pathways, eddies, waves and hazardous currents, sweeping past each other in violent defiance against one another.

The Maori view this tidal of nature as an important meeting of ‘the sea of Rehua’ and ‘the sea of Whitirea’, the representatives of male and female tempting together. 

The Lighthouse.

Cape Reinga. NZ | Cape Reinga, official name Cape Reinga/Te … | Flickr
Lighthouse on Cape Reinga. Image from Bernard Spragg from

The famous lighthouse of Cape Reinga was built in 1941, ceremoniously lit during May 1941, replacing the old 1879 lighthouse on Motuopao Island.

Fully automated in 1987, no lighthouse keepers remain; instead, replaced with a 50 watt flashing beacon.

Historical Significance.

Although the cape is generally considered the northernmost point of the North Island, North Cape’s Surville Cliffs are actually just 3km further north.

The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman named the headland just west of Cape Reinga – Cape Maria van Dieman. Believed by Abel to be the northernmost point to the new land he originally named ‘Staten Landt’.


Cape Reinga is a rather important location for Maori, as they believe the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga to leap of the headland, which takes them to the 800-year-old Pohutukawa tree.

The 800-year-old Pohutukawa tree.

Back door South Pacific: Cape Reinga
The Pohutukawa tree that leads to the underworld. Image from

At the northernmost point of the cape, a gnarled pohutukawa tree stands against

time. This tree plays a pivotal role in the journey to the underworld. The spirits of the dead leap from this tree into the ocean, making their journey to their ancestral homeland of Hawaki.

Is the Journey worth it?

Absolutely. If watching the unique race of nature between two seas vying for space beneath the rocky cliffs doesn’t convince you, just the trip up there with gorgeous sights along the way is well worth the 1.5 hour drive from Kaitaia. 

Cape Reinga is considered a cultural and sacred site, so if you are wanting to picnic somewhere, Tapotupotu Bay is a great spot to take a break. 

Tours from Kaitaia take you along 90-mile beach, with tourist guides giving humorous anecdotes and relevant info along the way, taking you all the way to Cape Reinga.

Check out this site for recommended tours –

Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach Day Tour | GreatSights Tours
Tours that take you along 90-mile beach right up to Cape Reinga. Image from

There is nothing quite like reaching the top of a country, and looking down upon the naturalistic chaos that rages below. Cape Reinga offers a glimpse to not only the marvel of nature, also to potentially a whole other world that may linger below the watery depths…

If you like this article, I have an on-going series on locations in New Zealand. From the more well known spots, to some places perhaps even New Zealanders do not know too much about. 

Published by sharlene25

Sharlene Almond is the author of the genre-bending Annabella Cordova series, and a New Zealand travel book Journey in little Paradise. She has written a range of health, writing and body language articles; contributing as a guest writer on other blogs. Over the last ten years, Sharlene has attained qualifications in Body Language, Criminology, Journalism, Editing, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Pet Care, and Animal Behaviour. While setting up an online nutritional business, she is studying to specialize in Medicinal Cannabis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sharlene is also currently editing her second Annabella Cordova novel, with two others in the works. To support her online business, Sharlene sends out a trimonthly newsletter covering health, body language, writing, and even articles centered on health topics for your pet.

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