Havana Cabana in Sandy Bay

By: Jill Malcolm


Havana Cabana in Sandy Bay Havana Cabana in Sandy Bay
Havana Cabana in Sandy Bay Havana Cabana in Sandy Bay
Havana Cabana in Sandy Bay Havana Cabana in Sandy Bay
Havana Cabana in Sandy Bay Havana Cabana in Sandy Bay

One of the best things about travelling New Zealand is that you never quite know what you are going to come across, such as a little slice of Cuba in sunny Northland.

Tucked away among flaxes and tall banana palms, Havana Cabana might not have caught my eye if it were not for my coffee addiction. Through a small, vine-choked gate, I spotted coloured tables spread around the lawn and a small cream cabin with faux tile roof and blue shutters. Cuban cha-cha-cha music lent a Spanish air.

The cafe is only new to me. It’s been there for about 15 years, set up by Rob and Rebecca Pullman who became addicted to Cuba’s food culture when they lived in Florida. And so, right next to this lovely beach, where there is no other facility except a surf club, I could have ordered Cuban grilled fish, nachos, chorizo, cabana bread, burritos, sopapillas or a pina colada. But my choice was a cafe con leche and churros, one of my favourite Spanish combinations.

Behind the churros machine in the cabin is a small plaque proclaim ‘Jesus is Lord’. In an added twist to the Cuban theme, every Sunday when the cafe is open, a casual outdoor church service is held on the lawn at 9.30am. Rebecca and Ron are not just cooks, they’re also pastors.

Even without the Cuban touch, Sandy Bay is a wonderful piece of the Tutakaka coastline. Surfies bob about in the push-and-pull behind the breakers that curl in neat rows onto a wide sand beach.
Past the cafe is the beginning of the popular Whananaki Coastal Walk, which is just under six kilometres long. By all reports (I only did the spectacular first bit), there are impressive coastal views and scenery most of the way. The walking surface is even but, because it is remote and exposed, you need to take all-weather clothing.

A little off-the-track is the Bougainville monument dedicated to the 37 people onboard the Capitaine Bougainville freighter that caught fire in a storm in 1975. Sixteen of them did not survive. If I did the walk, I’d start at the Whananaki end and treat myself to a cafe con leche when I reached Sandy Bay.

There is no camping ground at Sandy Bay but over the hill is the equally lovely Woolleys Bay where there is a small parking area for RVs right by the beach.

Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide.

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