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The cape escape: flying free in Cape Reinga

Thursday, September 9, 2010
Jason Dundas is always the first one to put his hand up when there's a Getaway trip to New Zealand coming up. He loves the beauty and action on offer there — and the flight is just a couple of hours from Australia's eastern side.

His latest venture took him to Cape Reinga on the north-western tip of the Aupourui Peninsula of New Zealand's North Island. It's not quite the most northerly point — Surville Cliffs 30km to the east has that title.

Cape Reinga can be reached by a 12-hour bus trip, but Jason took a Salt Air Cape Reinga Fly/Drive tour in a 12-seater Cessna Grand Caravan.

The trip goes up the west coast and returns down the east coast so you see both sides of Northland. It's incredibly scenic. Highlights are viewing Parengarenga Harbour, Great Exhibition Bay, Whangaroa and Rangaunu harbours and the Bay of Islands. You will be taken by the beauty of beaches along the way — Ninety Mile, Coopers and Doubtless Bay stretch out in all their glory.

From Ninety Mile Beach the flight veers inland and you land on their airstrip, 20km from the Cape Reinga lighthouse. You are then taken in an air-conditioned vehicle for a 2.5 hour tour around the top of New Zealand where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean crash together.

The tour includes the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, Tapotupotu Bay and the Te Paki stream with its giant sand dunes. They have sleds available for those who wish to slide down the dunes.

During the ground tour you will learn about the myths and legends of this spiritual area. In the Maori language, Reinga means "underworld". They believe their spirits make a journey there where they spend three days under an 800-year-old sacred pohutukawa tree before jumping off to enter the underworld. Tourists prefer to jump off the Te Paki sand dunes on a toboggan.

The lighthouse was built in 1941 and replaced the one on nearby Motuopao Island which had been there since 1879. It was difficult to reach in rough seas so was replaced for safety reasons. It was fully automated in 1987 and its beacon, which flashes every 12 seconds, can be seen for 19 nautical miles.

On the flight back it's a case of the best saved until last. You fly over the Bay of Islands and there are 144 of them to ogle. There are untouched harbours and pure silicon beaches and no buildings. The flight also passes across Houhora Harbour, Cavalli Islands and Kauri Cliffs. Many of the places you fly over are unreachable by road.

On the tour home the pilot will ask you to be on "shark lookout" as he flies low over the northern harbours. Quite often they spot a few.

Related: Wellington by helicopter


The tip of New Zealand's North Island.


Salt Air tours depart twice daily during summer and once during winter from Kerikeri Airport. They cost $340 per person for a spectacular half-day flight and ground tour of the Northland coast. Transfers and morning and afternoon tea are included. They operate every day except Christmas Day.

Prices correct at September 9, 2010.

For further information

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476

Salt Air
PO Box 293
Paihia, Bay of Islands
New Zealand
Ph: +64 9 402 8338

Air New Zealand launched four new seating categories for trans-Tasman and Pacific Islands on September 7, 2010. The categories are:

  • Seat Only: Includes carry-on baggage of 7kg only, complimentary coffee, tea or water and basic seat-back entertainment.
  • Seat & Bag: Seat Only plus a checked bag of 23kg.
  • The Works: Meal, alcoholic refreshments, full seat-back entertainment and 23kg checked bag.
  • Works Deluxe: Meal, alcoholic refreshments, full seat-back entertainment, premium check-in, extra checked bag of 23kg, lounge access and more personal space in-flight.

One-way seat only fares Auckland run from:

  • Melbourne $169
  • Sydney $189
  • Gold Coast $199
  • Brisbane $239
  • Cairns $249
  • Adelaide $289

One-way The Works fare:

  • Perth $549

For travel from November 17, 2010. Conditions apply.

Visas: Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter New Zealand.

Electricity: 230V at 50Hz using the same plugs as in Australia.

Time zone: GMT +12.

Currency: The New Zealand dollar.

Telephone code: +64.

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