Well a drive actually. In fact a 64 mile drive on the evocatively, if inaccurately, named '90 Mile Beach'. A beautiful, wide expanse of sand that stretches almost to the top of North Island's west coast, it is officially part of the state highway network.
We are visiting the far North of New Zealand, staying at the southern end of the beach in Ahipara and taking a coach trip as we're not allowed to drive our rental van on the beach itself. This area is known as 'The Winterless North' and Doug, our coach driver, keeps telling us how rare it is to get rain up here. But today we have wind, grey skies and drizzle for most of the day.
Before the drive on the beach we visit Cape Reinga - not quite the northernmost point in New Zealand but the furthest north accessible by public road. The fingerpost tells us we are 1,572km from Bluff, the southermost point on S. Island, which we visited when at Invercargill, what seems like an age ago now.
From here you can see the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Seas meet, the collision creating huge waves out in the middle of the ocean. For Maoris this is the place where the spirits of the dead leave this world to return to their ancestors in Hawaiiki, sliding into the sea down the roots of a convenient pohutukawa tree perched on the edge of the cliffs. prompting the thought "what will they do when, as it inevitably will, it falls into the sea?"
Maoris believe the spirits travel up 90 Mile beach. We will travel down it in our coach but first we go sand tobogganing down the huge Te Paki sand dunes. Doug tells us that the rain will make the sand faster and proves it by coming down the dunes and right across the stream that doubles as a road into the shrubbery on the other side. He further shows his expertise by not getting wet whilst doing so - I only make it half-way across the stream and get soaked. (watch the video)
Then it's onto the beach. It's weird driving down a beach in a coach at 90 kph. It's a lot smoother and straighter than most of the roads we've driven on but seemingly is more hazardous than it looks. There is the possibility of quicksand, which means that the bus can get stuck and we all have to dig it out (by the time the AA get here the tide will be in!) or what Doug euphemistically describes as 'running out of beach'. He doesn't elaborate on what the consequences of that would be but I guess wet feet might be the least of them. However today we navigate these hazards safely and return to our campsite with more than a little sand in between our toes.