Tour Operator Review: Paradise 4×4 Tours and Coopers Beach


As photo journalists of Traveler’s Digest we search the globe for adventures & in New Zealand we found even more than we had expected. One such adventure was in the tip of the north island in a small town called Coopers Beach. Just being in this land that time forgot was unforgettable and our next adventure would be even more unforgettable.

Our small touring party had been in New Zealand for around eight days and every hour was like a trip through a beautiful dream. We landed in Auckland and after exploring that city we drove North for two days, stopping everywhere to snap a photo. The land was just phenomenal. Mountains, rain forest, valleys, beaches and every mile was better than the last.

We were due in a little place called Coopers Beach. I had researched the area, but there was not a lot of available information. The data I did find was promising. Coopers Beach is located by a small town named Mangonui. It was definitely a Maori tribal name, but what ever it meant, I am sure it had something to do with “Awesome Place.”

We checked in to The Beach Lodge and after many hours of fireside conversing with our hostess, Margaret Morrison, we settled in for the night. We had made plans to tour the utmost northern tip of this inspiring island and wanted to be well refreshed. The tour would start early and a day full of history and magnificent scenery had to be enjoyed with an alert mind.

The 4×4 arrived early, as expected, and we were ready. We loaded our camera equipment into the Toyota and after warm handshakes and introductions, we headed off. The owner/operator of the Paradise 4×4 Tours was Gordon Williams. A nicer man you’ll never meet. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I felt good about the trip. As we drove, he went into detail about the land and it’s native people. He had married into the local tribe of Maori and was extremely knowledgeable about their culture, their history and their folklore. This magical land and this warm knowledgable man made this day one I will not soon forget…and the tour had just started.

The drive was several hours and I related to his every word and wasn’t aware of the time as it slid into oblivion. He took us to a 90 mile stretch of deserted beach that was unlike any I have ever seen or read about. The name suited it well, 90 mile beach. A little humor doesn’t hurt! To be able to drive on this secluded, wind swept beach, the tide had to be out and if not, there was no way to get through the rolling sand dunes. After an hour or so, we came across a heard of wild horses, grazing on the prairie grass that clung to the sand. We stopped and walked as close as possible to film and shoot photo’s. These horses were left by the British over a hundred years prior and had remained wild and unbroken, except for the occasional Maori tribesman who took the time to break one. They were a living example to the raw untamed beauty that nature bestowed and seclusion preserved in this gorgeous land.

The daylight was fading as we climbed to the tip of the mountain and wandering along the trail to the very edge of the land where we spent an hour at a centuries old lighthouse sitting precarious on the edge as it guarded the coast where the Pacific and the Tasmanian sea blended together. The sun was bidding us a goodnight and the cold wind was chilling our bones, but I can not remember feeling so aware of my humanity and the beauty of our world. The power of the universe was evident in this enchanted land by the sea.

Traveler’s Digest toured with Paradise 4×4 in June 2002 and would do it again and again. This land is a must see for anyone that is still breathing and the only way to see it and learn about it, is from a man that knows and who will take the time to personally share it. And Gordon Williams is that man. Tell him hello from Mike and the crew at Traveler’s Digest. When the tour ended I felt like I had traveled back through time to when the Earth was young. Escape into the world of fantasy and wonderment, visit New Zealand… you owe it to yourself!

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Michael Smith was the touring editor for Traveler’s Digest. His journeys took him across the world and on a series of unforgettable adventures!