In New Zealand, “From Cape Reinga to The Bluff” is a frequently used phrase to describe a trip from the country’s northernmost point to the country’s southernmost point. It’s a bit incorrect though.
While Cape Reinga is the northernmost point you can reach on State Highway 1 (SH1), and Bluff is the southernmost point you can reach on SH1, both locations are, from a geographical point of view, no extreme points of New Zealand (points that lie farther north or south than any other location in the country).
Therefore, I’d like to show you how the northern and southern extreme points of New Zealand’s two biggest islands look like. Please expect a few surprising differences given that the length of New Zealand — measured as a gentle curve from the northern tip of the North Island to the southern tip of the South Island — is around 1,500 km. (I’m sorry that I have to turn a blind eye on Stewart Island here; I sadly never made it there. Wrong! Never say never!).
Join me on my photo series from the North Island’s northern tip — the North Cape — to the North Island’s Southern tip — Cape Palliser, before we continue on the South Island’s Northern tip — Cape Farewell — heading all the way down to the South Island’s Southern tip — Slope Point.
Make sure to click on the photos for detailed captions and insights.
1. N/N: North Cape
The lighthouse at Cape Reinga is often mistaken as New Zealand’s northernmost point. Ok, it’s off the beaten track: Cape Reinga is more than 100 km north of the nearest small town of Kaitaia. Still, it’s NOT the northern tip of New Zealand’s island…
…This is the view towards the northern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. The Surville Cliffs on the North Cape are 30 km East of Cape Reinga. While they are not very accessible, you can at least spot that northernmost point of the country from the lighthouse at Cape Reinga.
Fun Fact: Here is another extreme point of New Zealand — also visible from the Cape Reinga lighthouse: The Cape Maria van Diemen is the westernmost point of the country’s North Island.
And what is typical for the northernmost point of New Zealand? It is generally considered the separation marker between the Tasman Sea to the West and the Pacific Ocean to the East. Have a closer look at the photo and you will see how the two seas clash and create unsettled waters (there is a colour difference too). The Māori refer to this as the meeting of Rehua and Whitirea; being a male and a female respectively.
2. N/S: Cape Palliser
Another cape, another lighthouse. Cape Palliser is the southernmost point on the North Island. It is actually further South than the top of the South Island (= Cape Farewell, see further below).
Once you climbed the 250+ steps you reach the base of the lighthouse which was built in 1897 and is fully automated and managed from a control room in Wellington since 1986 (like all of the country’s lighthouses).
Cape Palliser is home to a permanent fur seal colony. They were lying around a bit everywhere, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that they nap only 2 metres away from the road. Not that many tourists here I guess…
…However, there is one spot nearby which attracts a crazy bunch of tourists — I’m talking about Lord of the Rings fans! Not far from Cape Palliser, you can visit the Putangirua Pinnacles, weird earth formations that served as film location in Peter Jackson’s trilogy. And there I discovered something I had never seen before: Heaps of old shells enclosed in rocks along the river bed. Old South!
3. S/N: Cape Farewell
Let’s move on to what I consider as my personal favorite extreme point of New Zealand: Cape Farewell, a super remote spot made of quartz sandstones constantly blowing up in your face.
These quartz sands derive from the erosion of granites and other rocks on the West Coast from where they are transported northward by coastal drift. At Cape Farewell, they form a 15 miles sandspit comprising shifting sand dunes up to several metres high.
Look at this small scene from the Farewell Spit: Can you imagine all the sea treasures you can find there? Sadly, not only “dead material” is washed ashore here. The spit is a trap for whales which regularly strand and can’t escape when the tide rapidly drops. Scientists still try to figure out why whales keep stranding here…
Tons and tons of sand and shells forming artistic patterns in the spit dunes. Love it!
4. S/S: Slope Point
At Slope Point in the Catlins, eroded cliffs drop down to the wild sea below. Can you see the contrast between the S/S and N/N? Wind rules over here!
The land around Slope Point is used for sheep farming with no houses anywhere nearby. Hence, you have a good view on all the trees that have been deformed by the arctic winds that often hit that spot of the country.
There is no road to Slope Point; it must be reached by a 20-minute walk over a very odd looking moss carpet. Nature is an artist!
Once you reached Slope Point, you’ll find a signpost showing you the distance to the Equator (5,140 km) and the South Pole (4,803 km). It’s chilly here!
Have you been to one or several extreme points of New Zealand yet (N-S-E-W)? Which one is your favorite?
Since the South Island’s extreme points in the West and East are hard to reach, I would be very interested to see your photos and hear your story of the West Cape in Fiordland (westernmost point) or the West Head in the Marlborough Sounds (which is, despite its name, the easternmost point).
Now let me end today’s post with one of my photos from another beautiful extreme: The North Island’s easternmost point — the East Cape. This is where I have witnessed the last sunrise of the year 2012 (December 31) as one of the first persons in the world (a stone’s throw from the international date line).
If you like this post you might also like Climbing Mount Taranaki From North Egmont…