Map showing Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga (or Te Rerenga Wairua in Māori) is the northwestern most tip of the Aupouri Peninsula, at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand. Cape Reinga is located over 100 km north of the nearest small town of Kaitaia. There is a road all the way but the final 20 km (approximately) is gravel. Suitable vehicles can travel much of the way via Ninety Mile Beach and Te Paki stream bed.

The Cape Reinga lighthouse is one of New Zealand's iconic features. It was built in 1941 and first lit during May of that year. The Cape Reinga lighthouse replaced one located on nearby Motuopao Island, which had been built 1879. Accessing the lighthouse was difficult due to the rough seas in the area, so in 1938, it was decided to move the lighthouse to Cape Reinga for safety reasons. The remains of the original tower can still be seen on the northern end of the offshore island.

An automatic battery-operated unit now stands on Cape Marina van Diemen, and the Cape Reinga light is now solar powered. It was automated in 1987 and is now managed by computer from Wellington. The 50-watt light bulb, magnified by the lens systems, throws a signal of warning 49 kilometres out to sea and is often the first light in New Zealand that sailors see.

The whole of the northern tip of the North Island is steeped in Maori tradition and in the heritage of their past. It is the most spiritually significant area in the country. An 800 year old Pohutukawa tree, which clings to the cliff overlooking the ocean, is said to be the launching point for spirits of the dead in their journey to Hawaiki.

A spring in the hillside, Te Waiora-a-Tāne (the 'Living waters of Tāne'), also played an important role in Māori ceremonial burials, representing a spiritual cleansing of the spirits, with water of the same name used in burial rites all over New Zealand. This significance lasted until the local population mostly converted to Christianity, and the spring was capped with a reservoir.

The area is on the list of tentative World Heritage Sites.

Image credit: Richard Gallagher - Wikipedia.

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