Te Paki Coastal Track

Te Paki Coastal Track - Kapowairua to Pandora

Te Paki Coastal Track

Kapowairua to Pandora


6 Rankers Reviews

6 Face-to-Face

15 Kaitaia

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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9 km one-way | 3 hours one-way

A large number of human bones have been unearthed around Spirits Bay, suggesting the area may have been a battleground or burial site. There’s a palpable sense of other worlds here.

Spirits Bay is a stunning sweep of smooth sand and multi-coloured shells, and pristine turquoise water. This area holds a very spiritual meaning for Maori. It is a place where departed spirits are set free. Respect and enjoy!

Behind the dunes is the characteristic windswept scrub of the Te Paki region, and large marshlands with captivating native bird and plant life.


To reach Pandora requires a crossing of the Waitahora Stream. This can only be made at low tide. The stream is deep and may involve getting wet to your waist.


Kapowairua is at the end of Spirits Bay Road. Follow signs to Spirits Bay along Te Hapua Road, 21km before Cape Reinga. After 6km turn left into Spirits Bay Road.

The track behind the dunes is signposted on the left just before the road ends.


The Te Paki Coastal Track is a 48 km, 3 day tramp traversing New Zealand’s northernmost tip.

The descriptions here have broken the tramp into bite size chunks, with Cape Reinga at the fulcrum.

This is the first in a trio of walks ending at Cape Reinga.
1. Kapowairua to Pandora
2. Pandora to Tapotupotu
3. Tapotupotu to Cape Reinga

If starting your walk along the beach, the sand is soft, making progress arduous.

Behind the dunes, follow orange marker posts along the vehicle track, which remains even.

To reach Pandora requires a crossing of the Waitahora Stream. This can only be made at low tide. The stream is deep and may involve getting wet to your waist. Check with DoC on stream levels before attempting the walk.


Around 5 million years ago, the Aupori Peninsula, including Te Paki, was a series of islets, an archipelago separated by shallow seas. With the onset and waning of Ice Ages, sea levels fluctuated and large sandspits formed, sculpted by the prevailing south-westerly winds. Te Paki thus became joined to the greater North Island landmass, but still retains an island character. It feels like a different land.


The vast wetland behind the dunes harbours a thriving community of bitterns, rails, Paradise ducks and mosquitoes.

Polynesian History

The great Aupori Tribe chief, Tohe, dreamed his daughter, who lived beyond Hokianga, was ill and resolved to visit her. He journeyed down Ninety Mile Beach, naming landmarks along the way. He vowed his spirit would return if he failed in the completion of his dangerous journey. News of his death was relayed by the servant who accompanied him and the promise of his return was fulfilled by his spirit. Spirits Bay thus received its name and is also referred to as Piwhane Bay.

European History

A 9lb. cannon on the hill above the parking area at the campground was owned by Hongi Keepa, who acquired it from a whaler in the early 1800s. A plaque beneath describes its convoluted history.

When Captain Cook passed in 1769, he noted a village on the western hills overlooking the bay. Evidence of terraces and hangi pits are still visible from near the Waitahora Stream.

In 1772, Marion du Fresne and his French expedition anchored off Spirits Bay and sent parties ashore for water. One ship lost two anchors in a severe storm.

The camp which occupied the grass clearing at Pandora was run by Captain Hector McQuarrie in the 1920s. The bush huts were made from local materials and there were colourful canvas roofs. The wreck of the steamer Kahu provided timber for the ‘excellent floor’ of the dancehall and the salvaged sail gave shelter.

The camp was advertised as being ‘Away up where New Zealand Ends’ and was frequented by the well-heeled of the ‘carriage trade’ needing an escape. It was an arduous journey up Ninety Mile Beach and over the steep hills to the camp, but rewarded with scenic beauty and solitude.

Pandora is named after HMS Pandora, a survey ship which visited the coast in 1849.


Feature Value Info


DOC Northland

Central government organisation


North IslandNorthlandKaitaia


  • Walking
  • Free


Vic Baughen's avatar

Vic Baughen

New Zealand

Ranking: 9/10

Superb scenery, always worth the effort.

Reviewed almost 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

Maximilian Seitz's avatar

Maximilian Seitz


Ranking: 10/10

If you can get up to the North you might as well go all the way up. Here you have magical breathtaking views that will give you a sense of fresh air and sense of location of where in the world you are!

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in March 2016

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Sara Kuenzi's avatar

Sara Kuenzi

United States

Ranking: 8/10

Beautiful area! The trail was varied and fun. I would have appreciated an easier way to access the track without a personal car. Also, the track was incredibly muddy.

Reviewed over 5 years ago and experienced in January 2016

Johannes's avatar



Ranking: 7/10

Beautiful surrounding, breathtaking beach with many shells and gorgeous blue water.

Reviewed about 6 years ago and experienced in February 2016

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Stevie's avatar


United Kingdom

Ranking: 8/10

There are a few tracks up at Cape Reinga. Some long, some shorted. Each reward you with beautiful views out to sea, feels like the end of the earth!

Reviewed over 9 years ago

Judy's avatar



Ranking: 10/10

Brilliant scenery, great information at Cape Reinga.

Reviewed over 9 years ago

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick