Blasting Over Sand Dunes, Bush and Beach in a 4×4 Buggy

When you wake up the next morning and find that you still have sand in your ears, you know you have explored the sand dunes of the Far North right! So why does Laura have sand in her ears? Time Out Tours.

It all starts on the tar-sealed roads of Ahipara, a small town at the very end of Ninety Mile Beach, where we are rocking up to the base of Time Out Tours. The signs and the 4×4 buggy parked up outside the house make it obvious that we’ve found the place. Tony comes out to greet us and show us where we are going to go today with a view looking out at the beach and distant sand dunes out of the back of his property. It looks like we are really going on a mission today!

Gearing up for a Time Out Tour

Helmets on, waiver signed and body board attached to the back, we get into the beasty-looking 4×4 vehicle complete with racing-style seats and a cage structure around us. We look so badass driving through the streets of Ahipara on the way to our first destination of the day.

Awesome views of Ninety Mile Beach

With the noise of the engine gurgling away, we climb a steep and winding gravel road to a point where only the maddest of vehicles can go. Tony tackles the rocky track which quickly turns into pools of water until we reach the edge of the tallest hill around where some awesome views are revealed. On one side, we see the never-ending stretch of Ninety Mile Beach – an official highway in New Zealand that we actually travelled down about a week ago. On the other side, we have the local’s favourite surf spot, Shipwreck Bay, leading to some rough and wild headlands backed with sand dunes. In short, that’s where we’re heading. It’s basically the gnarly end of Ninety Mile Beach.

A rocky scramble on the hilltops A rocky scramble on the hilltops
This is insane! This is insane!
And then we were on another planet! And then we were on another planet!
Water, sand, rocks: we'll go through it all Water, sand, rocks: we'll go through it all

Squeezing along the coast

Back in the buggy, we head back down to sea level where it’s finally time to hit the sand. The ride starts off smoothly along the beach until we are faced with a mix of sand and rock pools with high cliffs on one side and the sea making the gap alarmingly narrower on the other. This is our first taste of what crazy sh*t these vehicles can do.

Slowly but surely, the 4×4 gets over rough rocky coast as we sway from side to side from within. As soon as we get around this headland, we leave civilisation of Ahipara behind and have nothing but open beach and dunes ahead of us. This is a good time for Tony to put his foot down!

Wildlife and living the wild life on the coast

We race down this isolated part of the coast where only the brave have set up a few huts seemingly made of just congregated iron for when fishing trips call. At the moment, the beach is more occupied by various seabirds: shags, stilts, herons, kingfishers, terns and seagulls, as well as wild horses who are keeping the huts’ gardens cut short while the occupants are away.

After crossing multiple streams and feeling like this couldn’t get any faster, we then turn onto an access to the sand dunes…

Sand dunes, coast and sensational scenery

Trailblazing on the sand dunes

Trails subtly remain in the barren sandy landscape ahead of us and Tony really amps things up by hitting them at speed. (And this is just “tourist speed”). Sharp twists, turns and drops meander their way through the sand dunes. The further into the dunes we go, the more it feels like we left planet Earth. We feel like we are on Mars or something. There’s nothing but hills of sand around with the most bizarre features put together. We didn’t know that nature did sand sculptures?! Spiky ridges and pinnacle-like outcrops stick out of the sand in various places probably formed on insanely windy days like today.

Sand surfing down the dunes

Once on the tops of the dunes, the wind blows sand through the buggy and the sand in the ears mystery is solved. It only gets more sandy and serious when Tony finds a good spot for sand surfing. With Robin’s broken arm, he is going to have to give this a miss, so Laura takes one for the team. Tony gives Laura some tips on how to control speed (otherwise you would go flying) and Laura gets in position to sand surf. Holding onto the front of the body board and using her legs for control and speed, she lets gravity do its thing! Ok, so maybe she controlled her speed a bit too much on the first go, so the second turn is taken with a lot more enthusiasm! Nothing better describes body boarding down a sand dune better than: “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

That's one way to get down That's one way to get down
Going up for round two! Going up for round two!
Leaving trails in our wake Leaving trails in our wake

Epic coastal views and sandy canyons

Feeling sandy but awesome, Laura gets back in the buggy and we head off to capture some more stunning viewpoints of the coast from atop the dunes. We can’t believe that after 358 of travelling New Zealand every single day, we are still discovering completely different landscapes! Saying that, even if you lived here you would see different landscapes over time, as we find out when Tony takes us to a sand canyon where water has rushed through and formed this new waterway. He tells us that the weather has recently shift an entire sand dune out to sea! We also stop by an archaeological site where the old Maori tribes that lived on the beach used to dump their sea shell waste.

A bumpy ride through the bush

From barren sand dunes to forested ones, we make away to yet another different landscape. Inside a low-lying forest, we follow the roughest-looking 4×4 track we’ve ever laid eyes on. This is a real test of Tony’s driving skills when there are almost literally steps to climb, deeps dips to avoid, and deep pools to go around.

After rocking about on the scramble up the hill, we finally make it to real gravel roads once again. What’s more, we pass the road that took us to that very first lookout over Ninety Mile Beach! We have done a perfect circle back to the Time Out base.

We are buzzing after that trail-blazing thrill ride through dunes, bush and beach! This trip encapsulates heaps within about two hours, and we are stoked to be able to have such brand new experiences after almost an entire year of none-stop New Zealand adventures.

Back to the Ahipara Holiday Park

We say thanks and bye to Tony and head straight back to the delightfully modern and characterful Ahipara Holiday Park for a shower to get rid of all the sand. But, as you already read, we are still pulling sand out of all orifices! And on that note, we’ll see you tomorrow for horse trekking on the beach!

Laura and Robin

Exploring the sandy desert in New Zealand
Exploring the sandy desert in New Zealand Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Have you read yesterday’s post about our overnight stay on a hostel boat? How about these articles?

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See you tomorrow!

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