South of Dargaville, the Pouto Peninsula is a place of ever-shifting sands, petrified kauri, fossilized leaves and an eerie past full of mystery and intrigue. The Peninsula forms the northern side of the entrance to New Zealand’s largest and most treacherous harbour, the Kaipara. Mysterious names such as the Valley of the Wrecks and The Graveyard pay tribute to a seafaring history that left 150 shipwrecks entombed in the dunes and sandbars. At the end of the road, NZ’s oldest wooden lighthouse at Pouto Point is a sturdy 3 storey testament to the one time busy passage of sailing ships carrying timber from the region’s ancient kauri forests. The views from the lighthouse provide a panoramic vista over thousands of hectares of rolling dunes, freshwater lakes and pine forest, and out to the bar where the Tasman Sea furiously smacks against sandbanks. Further on are the remains of a 63,000-year-old fossilized kauri forest, while inland is the legendary Valley of the Wrecks, a one-time beach transformed by the shifting sands into a valley of secret treasures that brings out the pirate in all of us. Wind, sand and tide permitting, the drive back along the wild Ripiro Beach - the Shipwreck Highway – is exhilarating.
Text Credit: Melissa Bayley
Image Credit: Captured Souls Photography