Fancy a shower?
Kai Iwi Lakes Coastal Track

If we’re honest, this track isn’t exactly a must-do, particularly if you’re visiting Northland on a tight schedule. However, if you’re visiting nearby Kai Iwi Lakes (and you really, really should) then you might want to consider this short, easy walk. Your efforts will be rewarded with a little surprise.

Like most who camp at Kai Iwi Lakes, we were there to enjoy the crystal clear water. We stayed overnight at Pine Beach campground and in the morning were treated to some of the glassiest mirror smooth water we’ve ever seen. Naturally we had to explore the lake on our stand up paddleboards.

As is often the case, the wind started to pickup mid-morning so we figured it was the perfect time to go for a walk. We’d read about the coastal track which heads across farmland from the lakes towards Ripiro Beach and were intrigued. Was this walk any good?

The best way to get to the start of this track is to follow the signs towards Kai Iwi Lakes. Kai Iwi Lakes is just under 3 hours drive north of Auckland and only 35 minutes north of Dargaville. Heading north from Dargaville along Highway 12, after 24 km, look for signs marked Omamari and Kai Iwi Lakes. Turn left into Omamari Road and then, after 8 km, follow the road right into Kai Iwi Lakes Road.

As you approach Taharoa Domain you’ll see a large blue sign and a turn-off to the right. This road takes you to Pine Beach Campground which is the main camping area in the domain. To get to the start of the coastal track, instead of turning right to Pine Beach, continue straight until you see signs for Promenade Point Campground. It’s best to park here in the area designated for day visitors.

From the parking, head back up towards the toilet block next to the main road. From here you’ll need to walk another 700m along the road to the start of the track which is clearly signposted on the left hand side.

Distance:2 km one way. Return via the same track.
Walking time:30 minutes one way
Fitness level:Low to moderate
Track type:Mostly unformed, crossing grassland with multiple fence crossings

If you have time, you can continue north along Ripiro Beach towards the small settlement of Aranga Beach at the base of Maunganui Bluff. That’s just over 12 km return which will take you an extra 3 – 4 hours.

If you do decide to walk all the way to Maunganui Bluff and back, it’s best to do it around low tide. You can check the latest tide reports here. Also bear in mind that beach access is limited to the intertidal zone up to the high tide mark. Beyond this is private land.

Before walking, it’s always best to check the DOC website for any alerts and updates on track closures.

Kai Iwi Coastal Track

Once you reach the usual green and yellow DOC board that marks the start of the track you’ll climb over a fence into a farmer’s field. It’s worth noting that this is a working farm so you may well encounter livestock. We came across some cows on our walk but they simply looked at us warily before disappearing over the hill in a mini stampede.

The start of the track isn’t particularly distinct but there are a few poles and orange DOC markers that lead the way. For the most part you’ll simply follow the fenceline towards the sea, crossing over occasionally using fence stiles.

This isn’t a strenuous walk by any means and apart from one steep set of stairs to climb there’s nothing especially challenging. By the looks of things it can get a little boggy and potholed in places thanks to the cows but it was all pretty dry when we walked.

Kai Iwi Coastal Track gate

After the short step workout, the track descends gently to a final fence and gate that overlooks the sea. From here the track is more distinct as it makes its way through a small grove of pōhutukawa trees before depositing you onto a lookout above Ripiro beach.

What you see will of course depend on the tide, but when we walked, the tide was out so we were greeted with a wide sandy beach. There are steps that will take you down onto the beach and from here you can walk as far as the tide will allow.

Ripiro Beach

Looking south, the beach disappears off into the hazy distance and to the north you’ll see the imposing outline of Maunganui Bluff. Apart from two cars that drove past in the space of an hour, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves, and since we were in no hurry, we wondered a little way up the coast, admiring the colourful sandstone cliffs. And here’s a fun fact for you. Ripiro is actually New Zealand’s longest drivable beach, longer in fact than more famous 90 Mile Beach.

Ripiro Beach

Interestingly, just north of where the track reaches the beach there’s an unusual section of what looks like stratified lignite that shows evidence of the ancient forests that must have once lined this coastline.

Then of course there’s the little surprise we mentioned at the start – a refreshing natural shower, perfect for cooling off in the heat of the day or rinsing off if you decide to swim in the sea.

Ripiro Beach waterfall

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed walking the Kai Iwi Lakes Coastal Track. Ripiro Beach feels remote and untouched and, along with the lakes themselves, we think this a place worth visiting as you unhurriedly explore the west coast.

Kai Iwi Lakes Coastal Track map

If you haven’t already, clicking on the blue map at the top of the page will take you to Google Maps where you can do the usual Google Map things. The topographical map below shows the track, marked as a dashed line that makes its way from Kai Iwi Lakes Road towards the beach.

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If you’re interested to find out more about the Taharoa Domain, head over to our Kai Iwi Lakes page where you can read about things to do and places to stay.

Looking for more ideas on places to see when visiting the Northland region? Have a look at our guide, Top things to do in Northland.