Imagine the heart-pounding thrill of sandboarding. With the wind in your hair as you tear down the giant sand dunes, you have only your toes to slow you down.
Sandboarding is sand surfing on your belly, head-first while you fly to the bottom of the dunes, laughing and smiling all the way.
The Giant Te Puki Sand Dunes reach up 100 metres, with the longest run nicknamed “Devil’s Hook” offering a 350 long metre “surf” down. And it’s fast, as some of the slopes exceed 45° (estimated).
It certainly was faster than the sand skiing we did in Morocco.
A destination on its own, Te Paki is also a frequent stop of travellers heading to Cape Reinga at the northern tip of the island. Sandboarding is one of many popular adrenaline-pumping adventures on New Zealand’s North Island.
Note: Always check the official rules regarding New Zealand’s traffic light’ levels. Many options are at reduced capacity, therefore, booking ahead is more important than ever, as is reading cancellation policies.
Sandboarding in New Zealand
What can I say about sandboarding? I would have said I am too old (like I implied about my surfing in Raglan), but then I learned about the 89-year-old who gave sandboarding a try. It turns out, he loved it.
Safety is the responsibility of the rider. The basic guidelines are to find a smooth slope with a gentle curve at the base, and a good run off with no rocks, plants, or people in the way.
Our girls and their friend had a blast riding down. Our daughter sandboarding New Zealand style, full speed ahead. Her friend used her feet to slow her down a bit. To our surprise, both girls ended up with little sand in their clothing and NO sand burns.
Jeff and I took the conservative approach. Enjoying an interesting mix of the sand and the vegetation as we walked up to the best spot for photos.
Where are the Giant Sand Dunes?
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- Follow the road to the dunes, and you can hire a sandboard right there.
- Many people visit as part of an all-day bus tour that also drives on the 90-mile beach to Cape Reinga.
- We drove to the giant sand dunes as part of a loop around the top of the North Island.
90-Mile Beach, sand dunes, Cape Reinga tour from the Bay of Islands
The most popular way to explore the top of the island is an all-day tour from the Bay of Islands. Our favourite tour drives along 90-mile beach, visits Cape Reinga and its lighthouse, talks about local Maori legends, wanders among 2,000-year-old Kauri trees, and of course, includes a sandboarding adventure.
While we could do it all on our own, it feels safer, smarter, and more fun to be on the bus for the beach drive. Check reviews and price.
Rent a sandboard when you arrive
You can hire (rent) a board from Ahikaa Adventures, which have a small trailer overflowing with boards right at the parking area for the dunes. I don’t think they ever run out.
They even have toboggans for little ones. (Minimum age is up to the parents). Board hire is available in the summer from 9.30 am until at least 6 pm and in winter from 10.30 am until at least 4 pm. The owner stays later if people keep showing up.
Sandboarding needs smooth, sleek boards, and the average beach boogie board just won’t get the speed you want, nor will it hold up to the coarse sand.
Practical information about the Te Paki dunes:
- Entering these New Zealand sand dunes is free.
- The general advice is to be sure to lock your car here, as you would in all tourist destinations.
- There is no time limit for the board rental, but most people only last about an hour as the walk up is quite tiring.
- Sandboarding is generally done barefoot, which works out well, as you need to cross an ankle-deep stream to get to the dunes.
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