BOWENTOWN and WAIHI

The main Bowentown campsite was very full very early, I ended up following signs to a car park just down the road. Both are free sites for self-contained vehicles for up to 3 consecutive nights.

The main site borders a lovely, calm, blue bay. ANZAC Bay. Here you can swim, snorkel, jump off a rocky warf and climb a hill to a lookout. I definitely recommend this place as it is beautiful. There is also toilets and a cold outdoor shower here.

Waihi beach is a stunning surf beach, packed with experienced surfers and keen swimmers, the sets can be easily compared to West Auckland beaches. Lovely little shops line the town.

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THAMES, Tararu Beachfront North end Reserve

This reserve allows 2 nights consecutive camping for free to a self contained vehicle only.

The site is in a small car bay used by truckers and visitors, it is not very far from the busy road. There are about 6 designated spots for campers to park bordering of a small, over grown, meter width of grass then the Stony shoreline.

At the West end of the campsite there is a breeding ground for birds.

I arrived here just before 3pm when the temperature was hitting 28°c, I couldn’t resist hopping into the water. It was a little murky towards shore but nice further out. This would be the perfect spot to kayak.

MIRANDA, Ray’s Rest Reserve

Ray’s rest is a freedom camping site for self-contained vehicles. Maximum stay is 2 nights.

The campsite consists of a large, flat, Shelly area, no facility and the ability to park 5m away from the high tide line.

Arriving at the campsite, the tide was high yet quite brown towards the shelly shore, the campsite was about 3/4 full with about 20 vehicles here. As the tide went out a very long bed of mud came to sight, explaining the brown water.

In the conversation of activities-the only one I found was to walk along the shore line. The water was too yucky to swim in and it was the only thing stretching for miles each direction of the campsite.

Short summary: Picturesque yet plain.

Goat island marine reserve and camp ground

Goat island beach is a marine reserve (note this means no dogs or fishing etc) located north east of Auckland . This is one of the very top spots to snorkel in NZ and you can do it for free if you have your own gear! Other activities including the glass bottom boat and glass kayaks are offered here.

The campground is located a bout a 15minute walk from the beach or a minutes drive. The grounds let you camp anywhere or the large lawn for $20 a night. Hot showers, cutlery/utensils, plates/bowls and cooking equipment are also supplied however when I have been here previously the dishes were not done, microwave and kettle we’re filthy so I would recommend bringing your own gear or camping somewhere and driving a bit further to the marine reserve.

Other things you can do in this area are eat at Leigh Fisheries, visit Matheson bay, surf/swim at Parkiri, pop down to Matakana, and plenty more.

Waipu Caves (glow worms)

With the caves only a short distance from the main road this is a great place to pit stop and explore or as day trip if you do both the caves and the waterfall 20minutes south of the caves. I was at the caves on Dec 29 2017, on this date when we entered the main cave you could follow straight and continue by walking through knee deep water and bending down under long, low rocks, this is the way to go to see the best glow worms, it is eventually a dead end and so is hard to get lost in. If you turn right after just entering the cave there is a very large, shoulder-deep stream you can swim through that will take you on a loop back out to the main grassy area. There is a Doc campsite here. If you follow a small track going left instead of entering the caves, you can follow it up the bank and explore massive rocks in an odd formation. Most people will say to wear gumboots or shoes to help with the slippery floors but I found it best to wear bare feet so I didn’t ruin any shoes and got more feel out of the experience.

‘The Cove’

The cove is a cave like natural phenomenon, you will find it between Red Beach and Orewa Beach on Auckland’s North Shore. To get to the cove from Orewa you will need to cross the bridge at the south side of the beach and follow the path and coastline walking towards Red Beach, it is best to do this at low tide so you don’t have to climb over too many rocks (the cove is also best seen at low tide). It is about a 10-15 minute walk from the bridge to the cove. If you are coming from Red Beach you will need to do a bit more navigating over tricky rocks however it will only take you a couple minutes to reach the cove. At the cove there is a large, semi-covered space as well as a medium sized cave to explore.

Ngawi and Cape Palliser

Ngawi and Cape Palliser will exceed even the highest of expectations. Imagine the bluest of waters, seal families posing amongst the rocks, a view from the light house that words cannot explain, a very small town with giant character.

The town’s character is shown by the painted bulldozers along the beach. You can see these from the road. The bulldozers are used to tow boats and boat trailers, often these boats are for crayfishing.

The light house and view from it. The climb up the stairs is very steep and long so be cautious if you have athsma or any injuries preventing you from being physically fit. From the light house you can see bays and bays away, sometimes even the south island on a clear day.

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These are some photos I got with the seals, remember do be very careful when going up close to these animals as they can be very dangerous.

Some photos of Ngawi township as seen from next to the beach.

On the drive to Ngawi I stopped into Putangirua Pinnacles, a beach view camping ground with clean toilets and walls of rock surrounding. The pinnacles are must-see for everyone but especially Lord of the Rings fans as some scenes were shot here.

Roadtripping New Zealand

My favorite thing to do in NZ is to get out on the road and explore, here are some tips on how to road trip ‘kiwi style’.

  • Ditch the GPS. Plan out your trip to a destination/area, look up and memorise the directions and area before you go, then follow the signs! This adds an extra element of adventure and gives you a large sense of accomplishment when you arrive at your destination.
  • Snack! Stop off for a steak and cheese pie, scoop ice cream or for a coffee. The best place to get these are at a local dairy and takeaway shop.
  • Make a road trip playlist. Grab ideas off my Spotify playlist HERE.
  • Learn the road rules. If you are new to driving on NZ roads just a quick Google can help you fit in with all the kiwi drivers e.g staying in the left lane when not over taking and pulling over if you are driving a slow vehicle or going more than 10kph under the speed limit( mainly on open roads). This will stop you from creating an avoidable traffic jam.
  • Make pit stops. New Zealand is a beautiful country and when driving long distances you will see plenty of pullover bays, lookouts and places to park on the side of the road where you can take in the scenery and snap some pictures.

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