90 mile beach isn’t the only beach here you can drive on. In fact, there are quite a few, including one near Helensville called Muriwai.
Naturally, I didn’t dare take my car out on the beach – that’s just asking to get stuck using a FWD car. 4x4s only! And even then, when out by myself I certainly wouldn’t tempt fate anyways. So, I stopped at the car park and hiked over the dunes to the beach.
The dunes weren’t quite a sizable as those up near Cape Reinga, though they still required a good hike. I could have used a nice sand-board to get down too, they were plenty steep! Like pretty much everywhere I’d been so far, I was the only one out there once I got onto the beach.
It doesn’t quite come through fully in this picture, but the sand here is chocolate brown to black in colour (volcanic sand). When I was walking down the dunes towards it, the beach looked fairly compact and hard, so easily drivable. Once I was at the beach though, I was surprised to find the beach had the consistency of icing sugar (no, I did not sample it!). So, absolutely deadly to cars being driven out unprepared for such a challenging drive. I did find it amusing to find posted speed limits on a beach, especially one so empty and devoid of life. There were even numerous dead birds nearby:
These birds had been dead for at least a month – most likely from July. There was a huge and sudden mass die off of birds along the west coast of New Zealand this July – the largest ever on record in the country. A strong westerly wind had pushed thousands of normally sea-faring birds over land in New Zealand, and they couldn’t make it back over water before starving to death. This was likely a small patch of them (I saw several other patches, each with 20-30 birds) on my walk. I headed back inland and passed through an odd looking forest before finding my car.
These are apparently primarily pines from California – though they grow much larger than normal here in New Zealand. They act as a wind-break for the lush farmland further inland – years ago farmers were finding their good top soil was being blow away but the high winds coming from the coast, and planted huge forests of these trees. They grow quickly and high enough to block the majority of the wind, and don’t spread like crazy so they don’t interfere with New Zealand’s fairly fragile ecosystem.