In Kaitaia, get sand between your toes and see the sights, says Elisabeth Easther.

Origin of name:

Kaitaia means plentiful food.

Population: 5200, Northland's second most populous town, behind Kerikeri.

Where is it: 160km northwest of Whangarei.


The town slogan: Where journeys begin.

Interesting fact: Signage is often in Maori, English and Croatian, in acknowledgement of the three main cultural influences.

Most prominent industries: Farming, fishing, forestry (and milling), tourism, avocados, vineyards - and marijuana.

Best reason to stop: The beaches, Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga.

Best place to take the kids: The beach - with two coasts so close, whatever the weather, you'll usually find shelter.

Best place to get a drink: Mussel Rock - the chowder and the nachos are a treat.

Best food: There are two very good restaurants, The Beach Comber and The Bushman's Hut.

Most famous locals: Actress Vivienne Martin, a local girl who had a major acting career in the UK, and Kiwi rich-lister Peter Cooper.

Best flat white: Mussel Rock knows its coffee, while Birdies is also great for a cuppa and a nosh.

Best bakery: The Pak'n Save bakery.

Best local websites:, or
Source of pride: The clean green environment and those pristine beaches.

Best museum: The Far North Regional Museum has a great pre-European collection, as well exhibits about gumdiggers and shipwrecks.

Best walk: Kaitaia Walkway, a 4km track that is an easy-ish bush walk leading to a splendid kauri grove, great for a bit of shade.

Town competition: The Snapper Bonanza contest takes the cake, or should we say bait. Or Te Hautaewa Challenge, a race on Ninety Mile Beach.

Best view: Right along Ninety Mile beach.

Best park/playground: Jaycee Park. It's got a train, and swings and slides. A lovely spot.

Here for a short time: Go to the beach.

Best kept secret: The fish and the shellfish.

Best shop: The produce shops - and the growers' market every Saturday will blow you away.

Best swim: The sea, town pool, or Lake Ngatu.

Rare find: The seaweed pickers' settlements.

Interesting wildlife: Eco Valley Kiwi and Glow Worm Tours are a popular way to see the wildlife.

Where to take a visitor from abroad: The Kauri Museum, a celebration of the forest giants.

Locals say: Of a beach with three people on it, "Let's move on, this beach is crowded".

Visitors say: "Where are all the people?"

Driving on the beach can be treacherous. There are holes in the sand, quicksand too. And don't stop while driving through Te Paki Stream. Locals don't really enjoy pulling the guts out of their 4x4s towing muppets out of holes.

Thanks to Dave Collard of Mussel Rock for sharing his knowledge.