Day 20: A Ferry, Uretiti Beach, and Road Walk from Ruakākā to Waipu Cove
Wednesday, November 29, 2023 6:05 pm
Location: Camp Waipu Cove (428.7 km)

Another ferry, another beach (or two), a resupply, and a food truck made for a busy day as we continue our march through New Zealand’s Northlands.

Around 1:30 am, we were woken up by a sudden rain, which was a problem since we’d both left our vestibule doors open to allow better airflow. Fortunately, we were quick enough getting our doors closed that not much rain got in, but in the moment, it still felt like I fumbled around a bit before getting that accomplished. The rain stopped a few minutes later, and there was another brief rain about an hour later.

This didn’t delay waking up, though, and we were all ready for our ferry across the harbor with plenty of time to spare.

We didn’t have to wait long for Blair to show up — in a bright orange jacket on a bright orange tractor towing a boat.

Blair arrives with our ferry across Reotahi Bay, pulled by a tractor.

He had five of us (Susanna, Peter, Martin, CareFree and I) give him our poles, then our packs, and then he had us get in the back of the boat. Then he finished towing the boat to the water, backing it in. After unhitching the boat from the tractor, we were off. (Chris and Jess had to wait; he could only fit five people in his boat.)

It only took a few minutes to take us across to a pier on the other side of Whangārei Harbour, and then we were off the boat and back on trail (or rather, sidewalk).

A very brief road walk out of the docks and past a giant stockpile of sawdust brought us to a grassy trail along the fence for the oil refinery we saw yesterday. The refinery didn’t make much noise; or if it did, it was drowned out by the sound of the water.

After working its way back to the coast, the trail joined a beach along Bream Bay, heading south. After we passed under a low causeway for the refinery (presumably to allow ships in the bay to load or offload oil), the only obstacle was a fallen tree, which was a little trick to navigate because it was close to high tide.

Variable oystercatcher (Tōrea pango)
Variable oystercatcher (Tōrea pango)These birds, with bright orange beaks and legs, are often seen searching the water for food in pairs.

After a short while on the beach, we diverted to the track over a pipeline in order to provide us with easy access to town: I needed to resupply, and CareFree needed to catch a bus back to Auckland to work for a few days.

The pipeline trail was rough sand, and took a fair bit of effort to walk it, but it eventually brought us to Ruakākā, and one of the widest road shoulders we’ve walked on all trail.

This road brought us to the main road through Ruakākā, and to a supermarket. I resupplied for two days to Mangawhai Heads.

A bit further down the road, CareFree turned off-trail, heading to a gas station near the highway to go back to Auckland. If things go as planned, she’ll catch back up on Saturday, wherever I happen to be. It was sad to see her go, but she’ll be back soon. (She had a 3 pm bus ticket, out of an abundance of caution, and was able to get on the 12:30 bus once it arrived, so she didn’t have to wait at a gas station for several hours.)

The rest of the detour through town was relatively uninteresting. A Rual Post mail carrier zoomed by on the sidewalk with a motorcycle. A relatively wide sidewalk, or a 30 km/h side road meant I didn’t have to walk directly along a busy road.

The detour also skipped a potentially difficult crossing of the Ruakākā River estuary, instead going over the river on a bridge.

Leaving the main road and turning back towards Bream Bay, I passed a food truck next to a general store. After some deliberation, I decided that I was in need of a cheeseburger, and took an early break before I got to Ruakākā Beach.

About 5.5 km long, I made good time on the beach, traversing it in just over an hour. I was fortunate for it to be a bit cloudy for most of the way, which cut down significantly on the heat from the sun. The sand was much like Ninety Mile Beach, easy to walk on now that the tide was going out, though not as wide.

Bream Head
Bream Head

There were a lot more people on this beach than the other beaches I’ve been on so far. Along the way, I passed four horseback riders, a few people sunbathing, a small number of beach walkers, and several fishermen, including an old guy who was standing at attention by his rod fully nude.

I also passed Lukas, who said that Darien has hitched back to Auckland, and is taking some time off to work and get proper gear for the trail. I was glad; it was the first sign that Darien might finally have started to listen to what everyone around him was telling him.

After departing the beach, the trail joined a road going through Waipu. Reaching the town’s main road, I stopped at the cafe immediately next to the trail to get some ice cream (because why not?).

Continuing on, the trail was a road walk for the rest of the day, though a substantial portion had a cycle track built on private land adjacent to the road, which made the walk much safer.


My destination for the day was Camp Waipu Cove, a campground about a kilometer and a half off the trail. It seemed quite a bit more fancy than the holiday parks we’ve stayed at before. I got my tent set up, got a shower, and proceeded to relax most of the rest of the day.

Everyone else from camp this morning gradually arrived; Jess and Chris later because they’d gone to a pizzeria in Waipu and gotten free beers from the bartender because they were walking the TA.

I’d had enough food today that I didn’t cook dinner, I just had a snack. But while I was eating in the dining area with Peter and Susanna, a woman from a nearby camper came over with a bunch of food she was going to throw out, but decided to give to us instead. This included some bread, eggs, small pies, cheese, carrots from her garden, and a jar of pickled olives. Susanna cooked the eggs for Peter and me, and also made some toasted cheese sandwiches. I took the pies for breakfast tomorrow.

Waipu Beach
Waipu BeachIn the distance, Bream Head and several islands can be seen.

I also took some time to plan the next stretch of trail, but the need to plan around CareFree returning makes that much more difficult, since there’s only limited bus access, and she’ll likely have to hitch there. For now, the tentative plan is to resupply in Mangawhai Heads for Puhoi, about 4 days (105 km) ahead, and assume it’ll just work out.

Two nights in a row I’ve had a bright light shining at my tent; last night, it was the light from the restroom at Reotahi Bay; tonight, it’s a streetlight, though at least this one is less bright.