Sand dune face near Te Paki Stream, 90 Mile Beach, Northland

The west coast of the Far North contains some of New Zealand’s most extensive dunefields, covering hundreds of square kilometres with massive golden dunes rising up to 150 metres above sea level. The dunes have formed along this coast in relation to prevailing coastal currents and wind patterns: Persistent longshore drift along the coast from the south-southeast brings enormous quantities of sand from as far away as Taranaki, while prevailing onshore winds drive this sand onshore to build up the dunefields behind the beach. These processes have been in action here for many thousands of years, building up colossal volumes of sand all the way along Northland’s west coast.

Many of these dunes are very old and, over time, have developed a soil cover and become vegetated, but in some places the landscape is still dominated by mobile sand dunes with hardly a scrap of vegetation to be seen. One such place is in the vicinity of Te Paki Stream, near the north end of Ninety Mile Beach, where huge bare dunes extend inland for up to three kilometres. Like giant ocean swells frozen in time, this Namibian-style dunescape is a maze of huge ‘waves’ of sand, their steep faces spilling away from the southwesterly winds that give rise to their existence. As in a rough sea, waves of all sizes can be found together, from the tiniest surface ripples to the largest ‘swells’ several tens of metres tall.

Sunrise at Castlepoint

View south from Maunganui Bluff

Pingao on dunes, 90 Mile Beach

Evening twilight over Rangitoto Island

Coastal cliffs, Tongaporutu

Piha, West Auckland

Pingao, Mangawhai Heads, Northland

Castlepoint Lighthouse at sunrise

Coastal cliffs at sunset, Tongaporutu

Australasian gannets, Muriwai

Sand dune, 90 Mile Beach

Twilight over Mt Taranaki

Pools at low tide, Oakura Beach

Waves on rocks, 90 Mile Beach

Australasian gannet colony, Muriwai

Wreck of the "Gairloch", Oakura Beach

Sunrise over Rangitoto Island