With its epic left-hand surf breaks and enormous sand dunes, New Zealand’s Ninety Mile Beach is as much a surfers’ paradise as it is the ultimate spot for a unique coastal adventure.
Also known by the Maori name Te-Oneroa-a-Tōhē (the long beach of Tōhē), this elongated piece of coastline can be found in the Far North region of the North Island, stretching along the Aupouri Peninsula just west from the town of Kaitaia towards the idyllic Cape Reinga.
The beach is a slight misnomer, given it’s only 88 kilometers (55 miles) in distance. No one knows exactly where the confusion comes from, but local legend posits the name can be traced back to the early horse riding days: it was calculated you could travel an average of 30 miles a day on horseback; since it took three days to travel along the shores this way, early explorers assumed the beach was 90 miles long.
Surfers of all abilities can readily delve into Ninety Mile Beach’s awesome waves. While its waters are famed for their left-handers, you’ll find various peaks that offer good right-handed breaks too. With such a long stretch of exposed coastlines to play with, it’s easy to find waves suited for all levels – punchy swells are a constant that keep surfers coming back to this great destination.
At the southern end of Ninety Mile Beach you’ll find Ahipara – home to some of the finest left-hand breaks in New Zealand. Shipwreck Bay, to the left of the Ahipara township, is a mecca for expert surfers eager for a bit of diversity: its waves are notable for offering a mix of gnarly take-offs, awesome barrel sections, plus a handful of wally waves and long leisurely rides.
A trip to the northern end of the beach will unveil the desert-like sand dunes that are also wont to attract visitors to this incredible part of New Zealand. You may not be able to surf on these, but they’re the ultimate go-to for sandboarding.
Surfcasting is another great activity Ninety Mile Beach is renowned for. If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s exactly what its name implies: trying to catch some fish while either standing on the shoreline, or wading on the surf.
Fishing itself is such a loved pastime on this beach that a five-day angling competition is held every year in late February or early March. If that’s something that suits your fancy, snapper is the white-fleshed fish you’ll be casting your lines out for.
It’s also interesting to note that, on a low tide, this beach officially becomes a highway. You won’t be able to drive your car on this one, though: the sandy roads are best suited for four-wheel drive vehicles. In fact, most car rental companies won’t allow their cars to be driven on the sand because of safety concerns. So if you don’t have access to sturdy 4WD, it’s best to leave it to the pros – like former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who famously drove a Toyota Corolla across Ninety Mile Beach as he raced against an America’s Cup yacht in 2013.
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