Ripiro Peninsula & Baylys Beach

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Kids on Ripiro Beach

© Gareth Eyres

The Pouto Peninsula forms the northern side of the entrance to NZ’s largest and most treacherous harbour, the Kaipara.

Mysterious-names such as the Valley of the Wrecks and The Graveyard pay tribute to a history of seafaring disaster that has left 150 shipwrecks entombed – many without a trace - in the dunes and sandbars of Ripiro Beach and North Head. What is here today is hidden tomorrow, courtesy of the wind blown sands.

At the end of the road a short walk to NZ's oldest three storey lighthouse at Pouto Point reveals a sturdy 3 storey testament to the one time busy passage of sailing ships carrying timber from the region’s ancient kauri forests. The views from the lighthouse provide a panoramic vista over thousands of hectares of rolling dunes, freshwater lakes and pine forest, and out to the bar where the Tasman Sea furiously smacks against sandbanks.

Further on are the remains of a 63,000-year-old fossilized kauri forest, while inland is the legendary Valley of the Wrecks, a one-time beach transformed by the shifting sands into a valley of secret treasures that brings out the pirate in all of us.

Wind, sand and tide permitting, the drive back along the wild Ripiro Beach - the Shipwreck Highway – is exhilarating, passing the salty seaside hamlet of Glinks Gully then exiting at Baylys Beach for an espresso at the colourful café surrounded by crafts and arts of local origin.