Next stop Miranda. Along the Seabird Coast in New Zealand, Miranda is a wintering ground for Arctic birds. The Miranda Shorebird Centre, owned by the Miranda Naturalists’ Trust is a volunteer non-profit organization located about an hour south of Auckland near the mouth of the Firth of Thames. Each year, wading birds arrive down the East Asia Australia Flyway from their breeding grounds in eastern Siberia and Alaska. Not with a cocktail and a movie in a pressurized jet, either. And you thought you were the first one to come up with the idea of a winter in New Zealand?
Dropping south from Auckland, there are a couple of ways to hook into the Pacific Coast Highway– the Seabird Coast is along the northern part of this highway. We’ll turn off the motorway just south of Manukau City. I mentioned the Top 10 Holiday Park at Manukau City before. It’s a convenient place to stay if you’re RVing or traveling by auto and want to rent a clean, inexpensive room. This park is close to downtown Auckland, a mall, and Rainbow’s End Adventure Park. If you’re driving and don’t want to tangle with traffic in a strange city while new to driving on the wrong side of the road, city buses stop right outside the park. Remember to bring that KOA card for a 10% discount at any Top 10 Park.
The Miranda Shorebird Centre has three bunk rooms plus two self-contained flats. We’ve stayed overnight at the Centre in our movan. If you like birds and have time to linger longer, why not join the Miranda Banders and get out there in the mud? Actually, it’s done at high tide with a cannon-net. If your New Zealand trip is in the future, help out the birds by joining this group. The quarterly Miranda News which members receive is well worth the small fee. Or, help with repairs at the Centre then head up the road to the Miranda Holiday Park and soak in the mineral pool. You’ll find motels rooms, backpacker rooms and RV and tent sites. Take some time to soak in the largest hot springs in the southern hemisphere. If you soak and shrivel long enough, you might see the moon rise behind the Coromandels, that range of mountains marching down the center of the Coromandel Peninsula– our next stop.
Most of the photos in this blog are by Kiwi photographers. Three in this post are by Sandy Austin. I’ve used several by Sandy in the past. If you’d like to see more of her work, click through on a link and spend a little time on a picture tour of New Zealand. Plan to spend more than a little time. Sandy has 4,803 pictures posted.
Before we leave Auckland and head for the Coromandel, you’ll have one last chance to get out on the water and explore one or two islands in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf. From the Ferry Berth at Quay and Hobson Streets in Auckland, you can look east to the Hauraki Gulf. Auckland has more boats per person than any city in the world. If you’ve watched America’s Cup sailing in New Zealand, those yachts were in the Hauraki Gulf. The Hauraki Gulf has 47 or 50 islands– depending on who’s counting. Many are reserves for day trips. Some offer snorkeling and diving sites. The inner islands are easy to reach and you can picnic, camp, or just poke around. The outer islands are mainly closed nature reserves for endangered bird species.
Great Barrier Island, 90 km northeast of Auckland is the largest island in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park. This partly forested island on the edge of the park has a population of 1100 in settlements around the coast. Residents provide their own power with generators. On Great Barrier Island you’ll find walks on good tracks, rare birds, long white surf beaches, fishing, and diving– there are two wreck dives. Port Abercrombie, Port FitzRoy, and Whangaparapara are sheltered anchorages. If you want to stay a while, there are holiday lodges, motels, camp grounds and Department of Conservation (DOC) huts. Ferries depart for the island several times weekly. You can cruise the coastline or take a bus trip on a metal road from Port FitzRoy to Tryphena. You can also fly to Great Barrier Island.
Only 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland, Waiheke, the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf has a population of 7000. Waiheke means cascading waters. There are waterfalls in the Whakanewha Regional Park near Rocky Bay. From the “Stony Batter” where a maze of tunnels and concrete gun emplacements were built for defense by the army during World War II, you have a view of the southern end of the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheka has 22 vineyards, swimming beaches, and restaurants. You’ll also find sea kayaking, golf, diving, a large sea cave on Gannet Rock, a museum and a Forest and Bird reserve at Onetangi. If you’re staying over, you’ll find a variety of accommodations from resorts to backpackers lodging.
Rangitoto, a circular island visible from most parts of the mainland, appeared around 700 years ago during a series of volcanic eruptions.Connected to Motutapu Island by a causeway, Rangitoto has many species of plants and trees including the largest pohutukawa forest in the world. There are no overnight accommodations on Rangitoto. Adjoining Motutapu is a farmed reserve in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park.
If you’re looking for more salt water or wildlife, turn right off SH1 at Silverdale about 30 km’s north of Auckland, then head out to Shakespear Regional Park at the end of Whangaparoa Peninsula. Tiritiri Matangi Island, off the tip of the peninsula, has the oldest lighthouse in the Gulf. A bird sanctuary with five walking tracks, the public can visit free. Ferry service runs from Gulf Harbour on the peninsula– the ferry also runs from Auckland. The island has steep cliffs and one sandy beach. Tiritiri Matangi means wind tossing about, so dress wisely.
If you’re not in hurry, travel a little farther north and spend a day on Kawau Island– catch a small boat from Sandspit Wharf. The Maori lived on Kawau at one time. In the 1840’s a manganese mine was established. Later copper was discovered and the partial ruins of the old copper mine are still on the island.
In 1862 Sir George Grey, one of New Zealand’s first governors, bought the island and turned the mine manager’s home into a mansion He also imported many plants and animals– including five species of wallabies. The wallabies still roam the island damaging the native vegetation. Ten percent of the island, including the Mansion House, are owned by the Department of Conservation (DOC). There are many native birds including wekas, bellbirds and Kiwis. If you’d like to spend a quiet night, bachs, holiday flats and bed and breakfast accommodations are available. Most are located on the water. The majority of the island has no roads. Book ahead in the summer season as this is a popular tourist area.
If you charter a sailboat in Auckland, you’ll probably visit the Kawau Island Yacht Club. Although not necessarily travel on the cheap, the cost of chartering drops if you share cost with others, do your own cooking, and either you or a friend has the skills to captain. The two best places to charter and cruise in New Zealand are the Hauraki Gulf and the smaller Bay of Islands in Northland. The Moorings has been in business many years and has a great reputation. I’ve chartered from them several times and always liked their service. Hauraki Gulf sailing is more open and challenging than the Bay of Islands. The Moorings doesn’t want you or their expensive yacht on a reef or at the bottom of the Gulf. They’ll check out your skills before turning you loose from their dock.
There are many more islands north of Kawau Island and south off the Coromandel. Close to Auckland, they’re easy to visit if you have only a short time in New Zealand and want to dive, fish, sample a little Kiwi history, or just poke around on a lonely beach.
RVin NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
The best part about traveling by car or RVing in New Zealand– you can eat when you’re hungry, rest when you’re tired, see what you want to see, and never have to worry about the tour bus pulling out while you’re in the bathroom. And by the way, it’s not a bathroom in New Zealand. You better check the Kiwi Dictionary on that one.
While you’re in Auckland, you’ll want to visit the Auckland Museum. In the Auckland Domain near Parnell, you’ll find the Winter Garden and the Museum, which was combined with a war memorial in 1929. The Auckland Museum has guided tours and a Maori Cultural Performance most days as well as special events. Through April 10, their special exhibit Wonderland: The Magic of the Rose, will tell you everything you wanted to know about this popular flower. If you like music, the NZTrio has a concert series in the museum’s auditorium. To find out what’s happening at the museum while you’re in Auckland, try the Auckland Museum’s Event”s Calendar.
If you’re interested in Blues, Pop, Heavy Metal, or anything else that has a melody or makes a noise, the Concert & Gig Guide will help you find it. For loud noise and plenty of action, catch a New Zealand Warriors game. New Zealand’s rugby team has a few home games in the coming months.
A little more dignified than a rugby game, Auckland’s Cup Week is at Ellerslie March 6-13. Said to be New Zealand’s richest and biggest thorough bred racing event, this three day party has fancy horses and fancy ladies. Kiwis always like a party and their Birdcage Bash is big– and exclusive. To get in, you have to be at least 18 years old– New Zealand’s legal age to drink, and you have to dress snazzy. This event is known for its fashion and glamour. Don’t expect to show up in a pair of shorts and jandals.
The Museum of Transport and Technology (Motat) has a little of everything from trams to an aviation collection covering over 100 years of New Zealand transportation. On the Great North Road, next to Western Springs Park, Motat’s aviation collection is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. It includes the only Solvent Mark IV Flying Boat in the world and also one of the few remaining WW2 Avro Lancaster Bombers. Restored steam trains are also a popular part of Motat. For operating days, see Motat. A collection of operating tram cars covers 120 years of steam, cable, and electrical tram traction. Number 248 runs from Motat’s Great South Road site past the zoo to Motat’s Motion Road site
If you enjoy speedway racing, or just want to get a little mud in your face, catch the Midget World Series or the Spring Car Classic at Western Springs Speedway. A circle track, six classes race here including midgets, springs and motorcycles. Most Saturday nights between November and March, you can find US and Kiwi drivers competing for the chance to tear up their car or tear up their body in the chase for the trophy. A natural amphitheater, the Western Springs Stadium holds 30,000 for sports events and 50,000 for large music concerts.
While I’m not a fan of organized tours, I like to take a tour of any new city just to get a feel for the city and figure out what’s out there that I might want to visit. The Auckland Explorer Bus, a hop on, hop off sightseeing bus tour runs all day and offers free hotel/motel pickup. Leaving the Ferry Building at the end of Queen Street, the Auckland Explorer Bus stops at fourteen Auckland attractions including: Kelly Tarlton’s, the Auckland Museum, Mt. Eden, Auckland Zoo, and Motat. Western Springs Speedway is on nearby Stadium Road.
Plan your New Zealand trip your way. If you travel by car or RV in New Zealand, spend time exploring those spots you’d like to visit. Sometimes the things you remember most are the unexpected surprises or unique people you meet in another country. Auckland has many unexpected surprises.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
If you’re RVing through New Zealand in a campervan, renting a car and staying in hotels, or just poking around Auckland, you’ll find water everywhere. Surrounded by water, Auckland, the City of Sails, has much to offer if you like boats, maritime history, or just plain sea life.
Near the Ferry Berth on Quay and Hobson Streets, the New Zealand Maritime Museum covers Kiwi maritime history from the Maori migration to modern day cup sailing. You can check out the boats, life-sized exhibits, or collection of models and artifacts on a guided tour or poke around on your own with an Audio Guide. If you'd like to get out on the water, the museum's Ted Ashby sails Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. The SS Puke and Breeze sail most weekends.
The waterfront itself is a good place to spend an afternoon. Ferries come and go as well as other interesting boats. My first trip to New Zealand in 1985, I wandered the docks and visited with one of the crew of the damaged Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, which was lashed to the dock. The Rainbow Warrior had been ripped by two bombs killing one crew member, Fernando Pereira. The French government had ordered the bombing. The Rainbow Warrior crew have since scattered around the world. Today, the Rainbow Warrior is a living reef off the Cavalli Islands in Northland.
Probably the only place you'll find snow and ice in Auckland is Kelly Tarlton's Under Water World. South of Central Auckland on Tamaki Drive, you can time travel back to visit a life-size replica hut of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the South Pole explorer. Then, visit a penguin colony in an antarctic snow cat. In Underwater World, you can view the sea life while traveling through a clear tunnel on a moving walkway. If you want a closer view of the sharks, you can get nose to nose with one. A professional dive instructor will help you meet the sharks. You'll get a lot wetter than you would on a ride through the tunnel, so bring a towel.
Maybe you don’t want to rub noses with a fish, but you’d still like to get a little sand in your shorts and meet new friends. November to March each year, Auckland’s Stroke & Stride Series invites locals and visitors to enter one or all of eight swim/run events. Swim in Waitemata Harbour Bay then run along Auckland’s waterfront dripping salt water– and maybe win a prize.
You’re never far from water in Auckland, so dig into New Zealand maritime history, take a boat trip, or at least take off your shoes and get your feet wet. - - -
All photos are by Bryan Goddard who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Bryan has more than 1,000 photos uploaded on flickr. Click back on his links and you’ll find a slideshow of his many New Zealand photos. On BeeJayGe, his website, you can find more photos of his New Zealand travels and a link to his blog.
RVin NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
Leaving New Zealand’s kauri country and following Hwy12 south to Dargaville and Matakohe, we’re on our way back to Auckland. Both towns have museums with history of the Hokianga including early day use of kauri timber and kauri gum. The Dargaville Maritime Museum also has a large display of maritime relics. Hwy12 cuts into Hwy1– the route we took north from Auckland– at Brynderwyn. This time, we’ll cut around Kaipara Harbour and get back to Auckland by a less traveled route– a route Dave and I took north our first year when we got lost and figured sooner or later we’d end up where we wanted to go.
Before we get too far out of kauri country, we’ll stop by the Kai Iwi Lakes about 34 kms north of Dargaville. These three fresh water lakes with their white sandy beaches and sheltered bays are a good place to swim, fish or camp. Turn off Hwy12 at Omamar Road to these dune lakes filled by rainwater– they have no natural inlets or outlets. Although they’re close to the Tasman Sea, pines have been planted in some areas. You’ll find sheltered camp and picnic sites. Camp sites are at Promenade Point and Pine Beach. Every once in a while, the New Zealand Water Ski Championships are held here. The local ski club has a ski jump and slalom course on Lake Waikere. Only 5 small ski boats are allowed at a time. These are not large lakes. A gum digger’s hut once located on Lake Kai Iwi was moved to Dargaville Maritime Museum. If you want to explore around Kai Iwi Lakes, there are several walking tracks. You’ll find walking access to Ripiro Beach on the Tasman Sea. Vehicle access to the beach is at Omamari about 8 kms south.
Ripiro Beach is New Zealand’s longest driveable beach, stretching 100 kms from Mauganui Bluff north of Kai Iwi Lakes to Pouto Point at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour. If you have the time and energy, rent a 4WD and explore the beach or drive your own vehicle to Pouto Point and take a tour of the old lighthouse which overlooks the entrance to the harbour and the sites of around 150 shipwrecks. We won’t be going that way. We’re staying on Hwy12 to Dargaville then swinging inland to Matakohe.
At one time, Dargaville on the northern end of the Wairoa River was a busy kauri timber and gum trading port. The Wairoa was used to transport logs downstream to ship builders. Today, this small town surrounded by dairy farms is best known for the Dargaville Maritime Museum overlooking the town. In addition to information, photographs and artifacts from kauri logging and gum digging days, the museum has the largest pre-European Maori canoe exhibit in New Zealand, relics from several shipwrecks, and masts from the Rainbow Warrior. You’ll also find that gum digger’s hut moved from the shores of Lake Kai Iwi. About a half hour drive beyond Dargaville, the Kauri Museum in Matakohe has the largest collection of kauri gum in the world and antique kauri furniture, as well as information about the early pioneers who settled around Kaipara Harbour. If you want to dig deeper into the early kauri logging history, Kauri Country Safaris will pick you up at the museum for a guided eco-tour into the forest where you can learn to hitch up a team of bullocks– not oxen as used in early day logging in the Cascade Mountains, neutered bulls.
A short distance from Matakohe, Hwy12 links into Hwy1. We’ll follow Hwy1 south to Wellsford then cut off on Hwy16 since we’ve covered things to see and do including a hike around Dome Forest on our way north. Hwy16 follows along the southern part of Kaipara Harbour through small towns, deer farms, vineyards, and orchards to Helensville. Only about an hour’s drive north of Auckland, expect more people, more traffic, more stress. Nearby Parakai has an Aquatic Park with thermal mineral springs and a campground with tent and caravan sites. If you’re tired of sand in your shorts and ready for a little city life pampering, Mineral Park Motel has private mineral pools. Or, if you want to spend the night in Auckland, stay at Shore Motels and Holiday Park on Northcote Road.
It only took two years, but I got you back to Auckland– not close enough to the airport if you have to catch an early morning flight and return a rental car or RV. You’re still on the north side of that Nippon Clipon. If you don’t want to fight early morning traffic, spend the night at Manukau City, find a motel in the low rent district where we started, or have a fling in a fancy downtown hotel. If you missed a few sights your first time in Auckland, stay at Manukau City and catch the bus or try a downtown hotel.
We’ve traveled the twin coasts of Northland and Far North from the Hibiscus Coast to the Kauri Coast. Next, we’ll be catching up on things to do around Auckland then heading for the Coromandel.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
We’re in kauri country. We’ve traveled New Zealand’s kauri country since we turned southwest near Mangamuka Bridge and dropped into the Hokianga. Kauri, a conifer and one of the world’s largest trees, grows in this warm northern part of New Zealand. At one time, kauri spread from Northland to the Coromandel Peninsula south of Auckland. Today, the majority of kauri are in the Hokianga region.
Called Hokianga-nui-a Kupe– the returning place of Kupe, Maori legend says Kupe discovered Hokianga Harbour. The two headlands are Taniwha who came with Kupe. The eleven rivers that feed into Hokianga Harbour are paths made by their children. When Kupe first came to New Zealand, trees covered 80% of the land. Early Maori chewed kauri gum and mixed soot from burnt gum with oil to make moko– facial tattoos. They valued kauri for its size. At times, teams of chanting Maori pulled ropes tied to logs from the forest. The first Europeans used kauri timber for shipbuilding. Kauri’s strong straight growth made it ideal for masts. By 1900, most kauri forests had been cut down. Kauri logging ended in state forests around 1985.
We joined Hwy 12 just after we left the ferry at Rawene. Then, we took a short drive out Signal Station Road to enjoy a view of Hokianga Harbour from South Cape. We’ll follow Hwy 12 down the Kauri Coast, visit Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, and his four sisters, then sooner or later end up in Auckland. Most tours skip this fairly remote area. The best way to explore these four protected kauri forests is by vehicle or boat. You’ll find campgrounds in Waipoua Forest and also Trounson Kauri Park– both a short distance south of Opononi. If a night in the bush isn’t your cuppa, you can stay in Opononi or Omapere and take a day trip to visit Tane Mahuta.
If you hang around with an Aussie, they’ll tell you the bush is the outback. In New Zealand, the bush is a forest– a thick forest layered with trees, shrubs, vines and ferns. You don’t want to and probably can’t get far off the path. Even though there’s no poisonous creepy crawly things in New Zealand, you might run into a weta– a large scary-looking cricket who thinks you’re large and scary-looking, or a friendly fantail. About the size of a chubby sparrow with an apricot breast and white ear patch. He’ll tag along and zip past your nose, then sit on a branch and spread open his tail for you to admire. Don’t count on a weta or fantail to lead you through the bush. Stay on the path.
You’ll find Tane Mahuta towering above a canopy of smaller trees and vines in Waipoua Forest.
Maori say Tane is the son of Ranginui, the sky father and Papatuanuka, the earth mother. The living forest creatures are Tane’s children. A visit to this ancient Lord of the Forest is calming as a church sanctuary. You’ll want to stay and let the worries of the world seep away. There are several tracks and walks throughout the forest.
Te Matua Track is posted from Hwy 12. Once in the carpark, you’ll find signs for Te Matua Ngahere, Father of the Forest. A 20-minute walk from the carpark, Te Matua, the second largest living kauri in New Zealand, is believed to be over 2000 years old. All kauri have sensitive surface roots. You’ll find viewing platforms and wooden walks around kauri. From this same carpark, you can visit the Four Sisters with their evenly spaced slender trunks joined together at the base.
Spend an evening in the forest with the night critters. You’ll find DOC camps near the Tasman Sea or inland at Trounson Kauri Park. Trounson campsite is serviced and booked at any DOC Visitor Centre. DOC has three types of campsites. Standard and basic can’t be booked. There’s a Top 10 Holiday Park nearby. If you’re traveling by car and not camping, book a room at the Holiday Park. We’ve talked about these parks before and their discount cards. Wherever you stay, you can book a guided night walk with the Top 10 Holiday Park. They’ll take you on a night walk through the kauri where you might see weta, glow-worms, Moreporks– tiny New Zealand owls that sing through the forest once the sun goes down– or a kiwi.
Spend any amount of time in a kauri forest and you’ll understand:
The Last Kauri “Artist Rei Hamon was once manager of the Thames Sawmilling Company and had the job of supervising the felling of a large kauri above Tapu in 1961. He recalls, “When that tree fell, it had been standing there for maybe a thousand years...I went back later to where it had been standing, and there were birds fluttering around there, kaka and kereru, that had nested in that tree for generations. That was the finish. I handed in my resignation. I vowed never to fell another healthy tree.”
Quote from: Joanna Orwin, Kauri: Witness to a Nation’s History. Auckland: New Holland, 2004, p.174
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
November in New Zealand can be wet, even where we’ve been wandering around north of Auckland. Wet is not fun if you’re traveling in an RV, small van, or tent camping with an auto. Who wants to spend their day ducking wet clothes in a movan or reading three-year-old magazines in a Laundromat while waiting for the dryer to cook your sleeping bag? Even if you’re on a tour hopping from heated resort to heated resort, you’ll never see the scenery your tour director wants you to believe lurks behind the clouds. In New Zealand, December and a whole new season of summer weather is here. Each December, I was always impressed to leave California and the shortest days of the year, spend a night watching movies on the plane, then step into Auckland’s flower season and long daylight hours.
We last stopped in Kaitaia. Now, we’re headed down Hwy 1. We’ll be leaving Far North and drop back into Nortland about 25 kms south of Kaitaia. If you booked a short tour to Cape Reinga, you’ll zip south on Hwy 1 past Omahuta Forest and Puketi Forest and cut back into the west side at Kawakawa a little south of Opua where we caught that ferry to Russell in the Bay of Islands. We’re taking the road less traveled as usual, so we’re going down the west side of the North Island towards Hokianga Harbour, more water, and a vehicular ferry. We’ll end up around Opononi near the entrance of Hokianga Harbour on the Tasman Sea. There’s never a lot of travel time when wandering around New Zealand. It’s not like trying to drive across Texas or across and down Florida. From Kaitaia to Kawakawa is around 100 km. Exact mileage for any driving day can be found here.
If you came to New Zealand to hunt, mountain bike, camp, or just wander around in the bush, there are several tracks and walks in Omahuta Forest & Puketi Forest. Kauri Sanctuary Walk, a short loop that takes about 30" to walk, can be reached from Hwy 1 just a little south of Mangamuka Bridge– where we’ll be turning west. If you’re not much of a walker, the Manginangina Kauri Walk has a boardwalk built through mature kauri and a swamp forest. Omahuta Forest is managed by DOC. They recommend “high degree of skill and experience as well as route-finding abilities” on Pukatea Ridge Route.
Mountain biking is popular on old logging roads. There’s a DOC campground in Puketi if you want to mountain bike through this native forest, or think chasing down a wild pig without having him chase you down sounds like a dream vacation. Hunting permits are available from DOC. This is a dense rough area even with a map and permit. You need a guide that knows the area. I don’t hunt. I do hang around with pig hunters and have one in my family. Wild pigs are big, mean, and smelly. New Zealand’s “Captain Corkers” are feral pigs supposedly released by Captain Cook.
At Mangamuka Bridge, we’ll turn south a short distance to the small village of Kohukohu, an old timber mill town, and the Hokianga Vehicular Ferry about 4 kms beyond this small town. The Kohu-Ra operates daily between The Narrows and Rawene. Crossing takes about 15 minutes. Also called Te Kohanga o TeTai Tokerau– the nest of the northern tribes– Hokianga Harbour cuts almost halfway across Northland. Surrounded at one time by kauri forests, ships maneuvered the sandbars while loggers stripped the land. It’s quiet now with few roads through the mangroves and sand dunes. Clendon House, part of New Zealand’s Historic Place Trust, is in Rawene– the third oldest European settlement in New Zealand. Built in 1860 by shipowner/trader James Reddy Clendon, this home is open to the public.
Nearby Opononi is a good place to stay and explore Hokianga Harbour, sand dunes, Horeke– an old ship building town, or the Koutu boulders along the beach. One of the best and easiest ways to explore the harbour is by boat. The Information Center in Omapere can help you book a cruise. If you don’t have time for a boat trip, at least turn off Hwy12 just south of Omapere on Signal Station Road and drive to South Head for a view of the Harbour.
A little over three hours drive from Auckland, you’ll want to spend time around Opononi or its sister Omapere. If you’re RVing, camping, or backpacking and looking for something a little different, The Tree House Eco-Lodge– north of the ferry landing is suitable for small movans. No cats allowed– it’s a bird sanctuary. You’ll find many accommodations in and around Opononi and Omapere– resorts, campgrounds, B&Bs, or Farm Stays. Check here, or ask at the Information Center.
Many Maori trace their ancestry to Hokianga Harbour. If your time is limited, Hokianga Harbour is not far from Auckland. Squeeze in some time to explore this area some consider the “Birthplace of the Nation.”
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters in New Zealand
We stopped at Kaitaia when we dropped back down from Cape Reinga past Ninety Mile Beach. Kaitaia in Far North, New Zealand has more than just a motorsports track where little kids throw dirt clods at cars to help their favorite driver. We’ll be taking Hwy 1 through Omahuta Kauri Sanctuary, but first, let’s check out the area around Kaitaia.
Much of New Zealand’s early history around Kaitaia centered around kauri logging and later gum digging. In the early 1800's, most of the kauri trees were stripped from the land by timber-cutters. When a kauri tree is injured, sap dribbles down the tree then hardens into gum. Through the years, it collects at the base of the tree then petrifies under the forest debris. Kauri gum color varies from clear to almost black or dark red. Young gum is easily melted and can’t be polished. It’s called kauri gum. As it ages, it’s called kauri copal. A sub-fossilized resin hundreds to thousands of years old, kauri copal can be polished. New Zealand amber is rare. Fully fossilized, it’s considered a gemstone. For a look at New Zealand’s kauri logging and gum digging days, visit Far North Regional Museum. At Gumdigger Park, 20 minutes north of Kaitaia, you’ll find a gumdigger village display. In this old gum digging site, two ancient kauri forests are buried. You can touch logs over 100,000 years old. Kauri and kauri gum crafts are for sale in their gift shop.
I’ve been suggesting ways to see New Zealand by RV or auto. There’s another way to see New Zealand from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff on the bottom of South Island– if you’re in good shape and have the time. The 3000 kilometer New Zealand Walkway will be open in 2010. The walkway runs down the coast, through forests and farmland, over volcanoes and mountains, beside rivers and on green paths through seven cities. If you don’t have enough vacation time to walk 3000 kms, at least spend a little time on nearby Kaitaia Walkway. You can brag back home you walked The New Zealand Walkway.
Just a little south of Kaitaia, you’ll find the entrance to the walkway. Called an easy bush walk through shade trees in the summer, it’s a 30 minute walk to the path junction. From there, it’s a 20-minute return climb to a kauri grove or a 15-minute return to the lookout over the forest. You won’t get your feet wet on either route. Stream and river crossings are bridged. If you plan to continue on the rest of the Kaitaia Walkway, don’t expect an easy bush walk with dry feet. The track is marked, but you’ll wade through rivers. DOC calls it, “suitable for people with above average fitness. High level back country skills and experience, including navigation and survival skills.” There are three camp sites. Maita Bay and Rarawa Beach are near Kaitaia. Raetea North Side is in Raetea Forest, a lowland coastal forest.
If you’re looking for a little night life, pack a picnic and spend an evening with the Glow worms. Eighteen kms south of Kaitaia off SH 1, Glow Worms Nocturnal Park is not as popular as the Waitomo Caves, but a fun place to get up close to a glow worm. At the Waitomo Caves, you step in a small boat with other tourists, float through the caves, then step out at the other end and get out of the way or get run over by the next boat load of tourists. In the Glow Worms Nocturnal Park, eat your picnic or wander around and wait for the glow worms to wake up. The paths are lit with fairy lights so you don’t trip and smash a worm.
Ahipara is on the Tasman Sea, a little south of Kaitaia. On the windy side of the island, you’ll find more sand dunes, a buried kauri forest, fishing, and surfing– around the reef at Tauroa Point. The information center in Kaitaia will give you exact directions to these and more places to spend time in the area. They can also help you find a place to stay. Kaitaia Hotel is down town if you’re looking for something historical. Ahipara Motor Camp is on the Tasman Sea. Kaitaia Motor Camp is where you’d expect it to be-- in Kaitaia. There are many motels and even a BBH backpacker lodge if you’re saving a few dollars for a kauri gum souvenir. The weather’s warm in this part of New Zealand. You’re surrounded by history and outdoor activities. Stay a while and enjoy yourself around Kaitaia.
All photos are by Bryan Goddard who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Brian has more than 1,000 photos uploaded on flickr. Click back on his links and you’ll find a slideshow of 94 photos around Kaitaia and up the peninsula to Cape Reinga. On BeeJayGe, his website, you can find more photos of his New Zealand travels and a link to his blog.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters in New Zealand
If you’re a Kiwi or a motorsports fan, you know that New Zealander Scott Dixon won the 2008 IndyCar Series Championship and also the Indianapolis 500 this May. Three races remain in the 2009 IndyCar Series. Helio Castroneves has his nose up Scott’s exhaust, but chances are Scott will capture the trophy again for the Kiwis. IndyCars for you non-motorsports fans are those open-wheel, low slung cars that whine around the track like angry hornets. Scott’s championships aren’t an accident. New Zealanders take their motorsports– all their motorsports– very seriously.
Training for young drivers starts early. Scott raced carts as a seven-year-old. At 13, Scott raced saloon cars– similar to American stock cars. While competing at Pukekohe Park Raceway, he rolled the car on its roof, then struggled from the car with the cushion strapped to his back– the cushion he needed so he could reach the pedals.
Just off Hwy1 about halfway between Auckland and Hamilton, Hampton Downs opened this month. Near Meremere drag strip and oval track in north Waikato, Hampton Downs is a training and testing facility as well as a fancy modern-day motorsport complex.
Each Boxing Day (December 26) during the Cemetery Circuit, motorbikes (NZ motorcycles) race around the cemetery in downtown Wanganui. In this street race, sometimes called the Southern Hemisphere’s Isle of Man, motorcycles tear around town, zipping around corners– usually. Sidecars bang by, driver in front, feet dragging passenger in back, trying to maneuver around the turns. They’re noisy, so bring ear plugs. Paeroa hosts the race finals in February. There are six low-cost parking spots in the middle of town. When the races are in town, RVs move to the town reserve. Motorcycles often miss the turns and you wouldn’t want a cycle in your bed. If you’re staying home for Christmas, you can watch the Cemetery Circuit race live on the internet. Just make sure to check ahead for the correct times– New Zealand is a day ahead.
Still farther south, near Feilding, you’ll find Manfeild Autocourse. No. I didn’t spell it wrong. The town is named for Lord Feilding. Built in 1973, the track was brought up to international standards in 1990 with its 2.8 mile road course. Manfeild park which contains the course is a busy place. On any day, you might find a horse show, a wedding, a shearing contest or an international race.
The South Island is a little shy of large towns north of Christchurch, but south of there each February, you’ll find the Southern Festival of Speed. With three permanent circuits and one temporary circuit in Dunedin, this series for classic and historic vehicles (including motorcycles) has four venues and seven racing days. The courses are in Christchurch, Timaru, Dunedin and Invercargill– almost all the way to the end of the South Island. If you plan to visit the Southern Festival of Speed, these towns are all on the eastside of the South Island along Hwy 1. Use a Mileage Calculator to figure your travel time. The Southern Festival of Speed is just one of many events. If you won’t be in the South Island in February, you’ll still find some type of motorsport if you hang around for a while.
If you like cars, boats and airplanes, or anything else that goes varoom, varoom, New Zealand is the place for you. While RVing in New Zealand, we spent a good part of our time looking for anything that went fast and made noise-- or did at one time. We found motorcycle races at Mata Mata where sidecars with feet dragging crew maneuvered around corners-- most of the time. We found midget race cars– that spent a good part of the race upside down– at Western Springs Speedway in Auckland. And, we found Destruction Derby races in Kaitai where little kids yelled, "Go Uncle Joe!" and threw dirt clods at the drivers trying to bang Uncle Joe.
Kaitais is where I dropped you in August before I wandered into skiing and motorsports. This is usually a good time of year to find a bargain on airline tickets and plan ahead for your New Zealand trip, so we’ll be dropping down the east coast of Northland, through Auckland and on to parts of the North Island you’ll want to visit.
RVinNZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
I’m jumping away from traveling in New Zealand today to American Samoa. My stepdaughter, Elizabeth worked as a midwife in American Samoa and recently returned to the states. She sent a link to a blog written by her friend Melanie Brown. Melanie tells about the “90 seconds of violent shaking followed by several aftershocks.” Then, the Samoan d.j. saying, " a huge 15-20 foot wave is coming towards the office building.”– the same office building where her husband Paul, a marine ecologist at the National Park of Americas Samoa was working.
Red Truck in Building
Both photos are by Melanie Brown. You’ll find more pictures of the tsunami devastation and Melanie’s account of what happened before, during and after the tsunami. She’ll be updating, so drop this blog in your favorites: Tropical Browns
RVinNZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
September is a good time to avoid New Zealand travel– unless you ski or snowboard. I leave my home near a ski resort in the Cascade Mountains and visit New Zealand in their summer season because I don’t want to shovel snow, fall on my butt in the ice, or crawl under my car to pry off a chain wrapped around the axle. But, if you’d like to take a holiday now and get your nose burned on a snow field instead of the beach, hop on a jet to New Zealand.
New Zealand ski season is June to November. New Zealand is a volcanic area constantly moving and belching and Kiwis take their skiing seriously. When Mt Ruapehu in the North Island burped out hot lava, skiers weren’t surprised, only determined they weren’t going to lose a ski season. Kiwis let the mountain go about its business throwing fiery boulders into the air. Then, they slipped down one side of the mountain on skis while lava slipped down the other. There are three main ski areas in the North Island and many in the colder South Island. If you’re a beginner or professional, you can find a New Zealand ski area and price that suits your experience level and your credit card balance. While all New Zealand ski areas cater to snowboarding, Wanaka in the South Island is the snowboarding capital. Ohau Lodge another snowboarding area in the Southern Alps is famous for its parties.
If you still believe the world is flat, try some heli-sking in the Southern Alps. You better know a little more than how to carry a pair of skis and party with the crowd. Heli-ski companies will transport you up the mountain and you figure out how to get yourself down.
Most of the vans I’ve seen around Queenstown have ski racks– you might ask before you rent if you don’t want to sleep with wet skis. Kilometers on rental vehicles are usually unlimited although some roads are off limits, including one near Wanaca– which you probably couldn’t pass over even if you wanted to in their winter season. GST is very high, so if you're comparing rental RV rates, ask if the GST is included.
Why not call in sick and disappear for a few days? Apollo Motorhomes is one of the New Zealand campervan companies offering relocation specials– $1 per day. Just dig around their site. The day I checked, I didn’t find anything available for New Zealand, but found $1 per day specials in Australia, United States, and Canada. Privately owned, Apollo Motorhomes recently bought into the US RV rental market. They have branches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. If you live near one of these cities, contact them for more information. In August, Apollo partnered with CanaDream. I’m not familiar with the Canadian market, but if you’re looking for a relocation special in Canada, check their site and follow the link.
If you’d like to spend the last days of summer slipping down a frozen mountain or sitting around a fire in a remote alpine lodge, consider a New Zealand vacation in snow country. If you can’t make it this year, at least dream a little. Turn on your air conditioning and watch a New Zealand ski video.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
Gumdiggers played an important part of Te Paki history. That history more or less follows the history in other parts of Northland. The Aupori tribe came to Te Paki when other tribes wanted their land and a few more slaves to work that newly acquired land. Just when things weren’t stirred up enough, the whalers and missionaries arrived to complicate history. The first European landowners were Stannus Jones and Samuel Yates, a young English lawyer. Yates married a local Maori princess and became a husband, farmer, storekeeper and gum trader. Called “King of the North” he homesteaded at Paki– now called Te Paki. Dalmation gum diggers settled just south of Te Paki and hunted for kauri gum, fossilized resin from kauri trees used in varnish. They left their coins in that money tree for good luck.
In 1966, the Crown bought Te Paki Station and took over management. Te Paki Farm is now much smaller and most of its grassland is returning. Part of The Farm can be seen from the road. Working dogs keep the cattle and sheep from misbehaving. Six Santa Gertrudis bulls were brought in to meet the Angus-Hereford cross cattle in hopes of producing a higher quality lean meat. Horses are used to roundup the cattle. Dogs do most of the work keeping the sheep moving in the right direction. If you’d like to visit a working farm, there are two public access tracks. Just don’t turn your back on those Santa Gertrudis bulls.
Te Paki is not just wind swept sand dunes, rocky cliffs and grassland. At one time the hills and gullies were covered with totara, rimu, and kauri trees. Those trees disappeared for some unknown reason, but some survive in the deeper valleys. A short walk takes you to a grove of kauri trees just below Te Paki trig.
If you want to explore but don’t fancy hiking and packing your own supplies– ride a horse. You can book a short half day trip or pack in and spend two or three days camping and exploring.
On your way out of Te Paki, you’ll find Rarawa, the third DOC campground I mentioned. Near Sh1 on Great Exhibition Bay, A few kms north of Ngutaki, it’s a sheltered campsite in the pines behind the beach.
Take time to visit Te Paki even if it’s only a day trip up Ninety Mile Beach to Cape Reinga– or try a dune buggy trip along the sand. Once you see Te Paki, you’ll want to return and spend more time off that tourist track.
We started in Kaitai and we’re ending in Kaitai, so I’ll suggest some low cost places to spend the night. There’s a small amount of parking at Ninety Mile Beach. Turn west at Houhora Heads into Settlers Rd then right into Hukatera Rd which runs through the pines to the beach. Houhora Heads also has an inexpensive motor camp if you need a shower. Back on the Tasman Sea side at Waipapa Kauri, The Park Top 10 Ninety Mile Beach is another inexpensive motorcamp.
If you’re looking for a motel in Kaitai, it’s easy enough to find one on your own. If you have a self-contained movan, several businesses in Kaitai allow overnight parking. Liquor King, The Warehouse, Farmers, Pak-N Save all allow overnight parking. They just don’t want you to hang around taking up space during the day– always ask first.
The best part about traveling on the cheap in New Zealand by RV or auto, you can wander off the tourist track and really get to know an area before moving on. Remote and rugged, Te Paki, with its hiking tracks, sand dunes, white beaches and endangered wildlife, is off that tourist track. If you have limited time, stay in Kaitaia or another nearby town then take a day trip over the sand of Ninety Mile Beach– actually about 64 miles long. This trip takes you up a running stream to Cape Reinga, You can also drive your own vehicle on Ninety Mile Beach. If you do, use a vehicle wash in Kaiataia when you return– you don’t want that salty sand rusting your vehicle bottom. If you decide to drive the entire length, make sure you brought that AAA card we talk about every once in a while. You’ll need it if you get stuck in the quicksand crossing Te Paki stream at the very end. A cell phone would be handy, too. You can stand on the roof of your campervan or auto while calling AAA. If you end up with salty sand on your bottom waiting for AAA, don’t wash off with a cool dip in the Tasman. Swimming is not recommended. There are dangerous currents on the west coast of Te Paki.
Kaitaia, at the southern tip of Aupouri Peninsula, where Hwy1 jogs over from the east, is the normal jumping off spot for Te Paki. Kaitaia is also a good spot for fuel and supplies– don’t forget the bug spray. Hwy1 takes a straight shot up the Aupouri Peninsula through Te Paki. At the north western end of the peninsula, you’ll find Cape Reinga and that lighthouse you see on brochures. About the same latitude as Adelaide, Cape Reinga is not as far north as you can get. It’s as far north as you’ll probably get– North Cape to the east is part of Te Paki Scientific Reserve.
Managed by the Department of Lands and Survey, Te Paki Recreation Reserve includes The Farm, Mokaikai Scenic Reserve, North Cape Scientific Reserve, and Motuopao Island Nature Reserve– off the western side of the peninsula near Cape Maria Van Dieman. The Nature Reserve has breeding colonies of fairy prion, white-faced storm petrel and black-winged petrel– which roam Te Paki campgrounds.
Two of three DOC campgrounds are on the northern tip of Aupouri Peninsula, so we’ll start at the end of Hwy1 at Cape Reinga and work our way back. Cape Reinga lighthouse, originally on Motuopao Island was moved in 1941. Surrounded by ocean, New Zealand has a sad history of shipwrecks. Since 1800, over one hundred and forty ships have sunk off the New Zealand coast– many near Cape Reinga. In 1902, the Elingamite went aground on an island in the Three Kings– a group of islands north of Cape Reinga named by Abel Tasman. Forty-five sailors lost their lives. Originally installed in 1879, the lighthouse beam on Motuopao Island could not be seen in the waters off North Cape. A lighthouse using the original lens from Motuopao was built at Cape Reinga. From the cape, you can look over the Three Kings and also see the foaming swell where the currents of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific
Ocean break over the Columbia Bank just west of Cape Reinga. At times, wild westerly winds scream in from the Tasman Sea– piling up sand dunes along Ninety Mile Beach. Hopefully you’ll visit the cape on a calm clear day when you can also see the high rocky cliffs of North Cape 24 kms to the east. From the lighthouse, the first section of the New Zealand walkway heads south to the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach. You can also drop back to the east and into the nearby DOC camp– not as easy as it sounds. It’s more climbing than walking and would keep a mountain goat panting. Te Paki is full of walking tracks.
Tapotupotu Bay, just easy of Cape Reinga has campsites, water, toilets, and cold showers. Occasionally tour buses stop so visitors can picnic, catch a little sun and enjoy the crescent shaped beach stretched between two high hills. A tidal stream large enough for canoes feeds in at the eastern end. The turn off is about 3 kms south of the cape. Kapowairua, a larger DOC camp, is located at Sprits Bay. If you want hot food at either camp, bring a portable stove. Fires are usually prohibited. Day visitors are always welcome. Camping is on a first come first served policy. To get to Spirits Bay, turn off at Waitiki Landing. There are two roads that fork off to the east on the way to Spirits Bay. Kerr Road goes to the edge of the Mokaikai Scenic Reserve with its historical sites. Access to the Scenic Reserve is possible, but you need permission to cross Hapua land. The money tree where gumdiggers left coins for good luck is in the Scenic Reserve.
(To be continued)
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
Leaving Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, we’ll swing west and travel along the north end of New Zealand to Karikari Peninsula. No, my spell checker didn’t hiccup. We’re on our way to Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga– on that peninsula that juts out between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. If we were in a hurry, we could drop back to Pahia and follow Hwy 1 we passed on our way north. It’s more or less a straight shot to Kaitaia– the usual jump-off for Cape Reinga. So far, we’ve followed the scenic route north from Auckland, dropping off to small towns or campgrounds along the Pacific. You’ll find remote bays and beaches, quaint villages, and islands. You can dive, fish, sea kayak, or explore along this route north. You’ll find more quaint villages, but don’t expect to find bays and islands on the Tasman Sea. New Zealand is totally different on the wind-swept west coast of North Island.
Heading north on Hwy 10, the next main loop drops off to Matauri Bay and the Cavalli Islands. Just 30 km north of Kerikeri, Matauri Bay with its white sand and clear water is popular with divers, surfers, and fishermen. Matauri Bay Holiday Park is an inexpensive campervan (RV) park close to the Cavalli Islands and the Rainbow Warrior– now a living reef. You can see from the photo on their site, the Holiday Park straddles the beach. A short climb up the headlands, you’ll find a memorial to the Rainbow Warrior. If you’re a diver, make arrangements at the park.
Holiday Motorcamps are Top 10 & HAPNZ. Top 10 parks are usually a little larger. They spend more on advertising and seem to pull in more tourist trade– rental vans. HAPNZ parks– some are council owned– are uncrowded and usually Mom and Pop run. Local residents often live on site in permanent caravans with their flowers, pets and kids. All motorparks are clean and friendly. We’ve had few problems other than the time Dave was showering in a rural area of Northland and a caretaker in a hurry to get out fishing, hosed him down with a fire hose. We’ve stayed at Mantauri Bay Holiday Park and always enjoyed the helpful people and relaxed atmosphere– and we’ve never been given a cold shower with a fire hose.
Just off Matauri Bay, Motukawanui Island is the largest of the Cavalli Islands. DOC has a basic hut that sleeps eight on Motukawanui. Basic means basic. You’ll need your own stove and bedding. At Pekapeka Bay a little farther north in the direction we’re headed, Lane Cove Cottage, another DOC hut, sleeps 16. Access is by boat from Totara North or Whangaroa. You can also hike in– about two hours from Totara North. Lane Cove Cottage has tap water and a solar shower.
And back to Hwy 10 and on to our next stop– Doubtless Bay. Named in 1769, when Capt. James Cook sailed past. Evidently unimpressed, he wrote in his journal “doubtless a bay”. Much more impressive than its name, Doubtless Bay sweeps from Taupo Bay in the east to Karikari Peninsula in the west. Mangonui is the largest town, but there are resorts, holiday parks and motels all around the bay. In sub-tropical New Zealand with its many beaches, game fishing, and scuba diving, Doubtless Bay also has gourmet to take-a-way quality restaurants and golf courses. Kiwis like their sports. You’ll find golf courses almost anywhere in New Zealand from the world-class 18 hole course at nearby Carrington Resort to courses in the farmer’s paddock with electric wire around the green to keep the sheep from trimming the grass. We played one of those courses. Range markers showed which direction to aim over the rolling hills. When sharing a golf course with sheep, watch where you step. White shoes are not recommended.
If you’re staying around Doubtless Bay, use their Visitor’s Site to find pictures of the area and any other information you need. They even offer a free DVD to encourage you to visit. Depending on your budget and type of transportation, stay a day or two. Carrington Resort has a helicopter pad. If chartering a helicopter breaks your budget, stay at DOC’s Matai Bay campground. You’ll have the same spectacular scenery. Sorry, no world-class golf course, winery, Black Angus stud farm, or maid service. DOC offers cold water showers and you clean up after yourself, but the price is right. If you’re RVing or traveling on the cheap, try Hihi Beach Holiday Park in Mangonui– or click on that Visitor’s site and fine a motel or hotel.
If you rented an auto or RV in New Zealand and have the time to wander, spend some of that time in the Bay of Islands and dig into early New Zealand history. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the treaty between Queen Victoria’s government and some Maori tribal chiefs was signed in 1840, is a popular tourist destination. Close to Pahia, it’s easy to visit if you’re short on time. But New Zealand history began before 1840, and a good deal of it happened around the Bay of Islands not only in Waitangi and Russell, but Kerikeri just north of Pahia.
After Captain Cook named the Bay of Islands in 1769, other European ships began poking around these sub-tropical waters. They soon learned to avoid campouts and Maori dinner invitations after French Captain Marion du Fresne and two dozen of his crew camped in the Bay of Islands. They were killed and eaten.
After the American Revolution, the British needed another place to dump their criminals. They started the penal colony in Australia. Trade began between Australia and New Zealand and sealers and whalers began working along the New Zealand coast. During this time, two Maori chiefs were captured by the British and taken to Sydney– not to teach convicts how to make stew, but how to make flax into fiber. An art practiced by Maori women, the Chiefs either didn’t know how to make fiber or wouldn’t admit they knew anything about women’s work, so they were brought back to New Zealand– no doubt a little angry with the British.
In 1809, after dropping off convicts in Sydney, the Boyd stopped in New Zealand for lumber. A Maori crew member had been whipped. When they reached Whangaroa, he wanted utu– revenge. The crew and most of the passengers were killed and eaten and the ship burned. And as things often go in history, white whalers wanted revenge. They attacked the Maoris and killed more than sixty of them. And here’s where Kerikeri and its mission station– Kemp House, New Zealand’s oldest European building and nearby Stone Store come into the picture.
Reverend Samuel Marsden, an Englishman who came to Australia to save the souls of convicts, occasionally saw Maoris on the streets of Sydney. These Maoris from Godless New Zealand also needed their souls saved. The Maoris welcomed the missionaries and Marsden sponsored an Anglican Mission in the Bay of Islands. Three missions were established– at Rangihoua, Pahia, and Kerikeri, near a terraced pa site above the Kerikeri basin. With language problems and cultural differences, soul saving did not go well. Hongi Hika, the Maori chief at the time, threatened to send them back to Australia unless the soul savers gave them muskets. In exchange for protection of Marsden’s mission stations, the missionaries came up with muskets, hatchets and axes. Hongi Hika also visited Sydney and London. In London, he received many gifts which were very much appreciated. He traded them in on his return trip to Sydney for more muskets– to use in wars against other Maori tribes. It costs time and money to wage a war against your neighbors. The Maori didn’t have time to plant food. They were too busy cultivating flax and processing it to trade for more muskets. As they weren’t vegetarians, war prisoners helped supplement the food shortage.
During these praise the Lord and pass the ammunition days of the Musket Wars, Marsden asked the British to step in and bring some law and order to the region south of Australia so they could get back to the business of soul saving. The British had its hands full keeping a penal colony running smoothly in Australia and weren’t interested in New Zealand. Finally, under pressure from the missionaries tired of paying muskets for souls, they agreed to extend Australia’s New South Wales colony to include as much of New Zealand as could be negotiated with the Maoris. In 1840, European settlers began arriving and the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
Originally intended as a mission storehouse, the Stone Store, designed by missionary John Hobbs, was built at the head of the Kerikeri inlet rather than on the Bay at Pahia. The oldest Pakeha stone and timber building in New Zealand, it was later used as a theological library, a Kauri gum store, a native boy’s school and a general store. Both the Mission Station (Kemp House) and the Stone Store are open to the public. Above the Keri Keri basin, you can also visit a terraced pa site where Hongi Hika’s people lived.
Kerikeri has much to offer besides a glimpse at history and year-round beautiful weather. The small town atmosphere attracts artists who sell from their studios. Clothing, pottery, food, and wood carvings are all available at a reasonable price. Pick up a brochure of the Kerikeri
Art and Craft Trail from the Visitor Centre, then either find your own way around or take a tour– they’ll even pick you up in Pahia or Waitangi if you don’t have your own auto or RV.
One of the best things about Kerikeri if you’re camping or RVing– you’re close to the Bay of Islands, but in the low rent district. There’s a DOC campsite with water and toilets at the Puketi Recreational Area. Follow the signs off SH10 near Kerikeri. And don’t worry about unfriendly Maoris in your campground, even if you’re French. Everyone in New Zealand is polite and friendly even when you’re not. If you have a campervan, try the Aroha Ecological Centre just north of Kerikeri. You can stay the night for a reasonable price, hire a boat or wander the beach, then enjoy a guided kiwi night walk– kiwi birds are nocturnal. If you’re really traveling on the cheap and have a self-contained campervan, stay free at Waipapa Landing. Two km past the Stone Store, go through the roundabout and past Riverview Rd then turn right before the one-way bridge.
Whether you’re digging into New Zealand history, shopping for quality arts and crafts at an economical price or just looking for a cheap place to spend the night while exploring the Bay of Islands, stop in for a day or two at Kerikeri.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
New Zealand is the land of plenty– plenty of food. The food supply is clean and safe. In New Zealand, you’re not told, "Just eat, don’ task," as you dig through your rice wondering if that strange little fellow you’re munching is the same one that scurried across your floor last night when you flipped on the light. At times, New Zealand food is boring, but boring is good if you don’t want the trots on your next day’s adventure. We talked about red meat and sea food last post. Chook– chicken-- is often for company dinner. Not long ago, it was the most expensive meat in Godzone. New Zealand is dairy country and heavy on milk and cream. Breakfast cream for cereal has the texture of unwhipped whipping cream. There’s Cream #1 and Cream #2. We finally settled on plain milk for our cereal– American cereal. If you buy New Zealand cereal, eat the box and throw away the cereal. Kiwis dump milk or cream in their coffee and tea. If you want black tea or coffee, ask before it’s served. Milk coffee is made with hot milk.
Olivani makes a good olive oil-based margarine. American brand margarine, produced in Australia, is available. You’ll find Paul Newman Dressings, produced in Australia, and that’s one the Australians improved on. Better than you can buy in the states and at a cheaper price. If you want American cranberry juice, it’s dear.
Lemon and Paeroa, a lemon flavored mineral water, Coca Cola, Pepsi, and various sodas, and Ch’i Water, New Zealand herbal mineral water in the green bottle, is available. I go through a bottle of Ch-i water a day. Dave can’t stand it.
Beer and wine are easy to buy and reasonably priced. Cheep Liquor and Liquorland have the best price for hard liquor. Many Kiwis make their own moonshine. Home manufacture is allowed in small quantities. Moonshine kits are available in stores. The main government concern seems to be "do it right." Though the Kiwi government looks kindly on moonshiners, they turn the evil eye on pot growers. We’ve shared moonshine– some excellent, some passable, but we’ve never been offered pot. We hang around with an older crowd. If they smoke, they don’t brag.
Pikelets are small pancakes, usually served cold with butter, jam or whipped cream. Sometimes you can find them in a pie-cart– those traveling kitchens in a caravan that serve anything fattening or fried. Bubble and squeak is vegetable hash. If you order pea, pie and pud from the menu, you’ll get a meat pie with a side order of peas and mashed potatoes– I warned about getting fat in New Zealand. Another local delicacy is marmite. Marmite and vegemite, fortified yeast extracts, are spread on bread. I was told marmite is beef flavored and vegemite vegetable flavored. Marmite is an acquired taste, but then I gave up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at an early age.
Unique best describes New Zealand sandwiches. They can be skinny little slices of bread with a dab of marmite spread in the middle, a slice of bread rolled around an asparagus slice, a hot dog bun filled with canned meat and a beet slice, or a hamburger with a sloppy fried egg flopped in the middle. Eat one of those with some chippies– potatochips, or chips– french fries, and you’ll be chocka in no time.
Eat, drink and get fat on your way through Godzone while enjoying that spectacular scenery and those friendly people. Worry about those extra inches around your middle when you’re home sorting through your photos. Consider them another souvenir you brought home with that sheepskin rug.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
The first time I traveled five months in New Zealand, I stopped at a supermarket on my way out of Auckland and got lost in the diaper aisle. I needed napkins. I was sent to the diaper aisle for baby diapers. I soon learned nappies are for a baby’s bottom. Surviettes are to wipe your top when you’re a sloppy eater.
Larger towns have supermarkets with bakeries and delis. You’ll need your trolley or trundler. Smaller towns have butcheries, bakeries, dairies and milk bars. Fruits and vegges are cheap and abundant in the summer. Blackberries, raspberries, strawbs, capsicans,cougarettes,butternut, silverbeet and marrow are in season. Avocados can be found as low as five for 1$NZ at the greengrocer or on a table in someone’s yard. Just pick the ones you want and drop your money in the honesty box. Swedes are 2$NZ per bag. Dave’s a Swede in good nick, too. He won’t let me stuff him in a bag, though. Fruits and vegges are more expensive in the South Island. Hawks Bay and Northland near Kiri Kiri are good produce areas. In March, the first crop of apples from the South Island hits the markets as low as 2$NZ per bag.
Meat is fresh and cheap. Most cuts are the same as US cuts, but watch the T-bones– the butcher steals the fillet. Hungry for a hamburger on that new barbe? Better ask for steak mince or you might end up with beetroot in that patty. Or try a banger– good with onions. Of course not as good as Wisconsin bangers my traveling Wisconsin food expert tells me. Watch the hogget, too. It’s one-year-old lamb, not pork. The beef seems a little gamier– possibly fresher. Deer and elk raised for export is available in some areas– as well as on the menu in upscale restaurants. When camping in elk farm country, never spend the night across the river from a lonely bull elk. And never share a campground with a hippie and his bongo drum.
If you like sea food, try tuna, snapper mahi mahi or salmon. Dig your own tua tua or pipi or find some paua– a little smaller than California abalone. Supermarkets carry good supplies of sea food if you don’t want to get your toes sandy. To catch your own fish– salmon, trout or a bill fish, you’d probably have better luck with a guide or charter company. And, that’s a topic for another post.
New Zealand is very careful about agricultural disease. When clearing customs, you are asked if you’ve been on a farm or golf course in the last thirty days. Golf shoes need to be disinfected. New Zealand’s economy would be devastated if any of the European or Asian diseases got into the country. New Zealand is very clean. You don’t have to worry about the safety of the food supply. You do have to worry about the safety of your pants– remember to bring those elastic pants.
(To be continued)
RV in NZ:How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
When traveling on the cheap in New Zealand by RV or auto, you’ll probably prepare most of your own meals. If you want to travel through New Zealand fast and fancy, find a tour guide or rent a vehicle then graze your way through New Zealand at any restaurant that suits your fancy. You can find Indian, Thai and Chinese restaurants– just about any type of restaurant you find at home. New Zealand is short on Mexican restaurants, but they can be found. There’s a Mexican restaurant in Rotorua and another in central Auckland opposite the Sky Tower. KFC, McDonalds and Burger King taste pretty much like home, but pizza has lost something in the translation. Every try canned spaghetti on pizza? Me neither. There’s a Denny’s behind the large cinema in Manukau City– near the Auckland airport. In Auckland 1 I talked about finding a place to settle in for your first day.
There are delis, bakeries and espresso cafes in any town. A Kiwi favorite is meat pie, a flaky, high calorie meatpie. Beware unless you brought elastic pants. A pie-cart is a traveling kitchen in a caravan with a flip down side. Enjoy fish and chips, anything fattening and fried, or a raspberry bun– a hotdog bun covered with raspberry frosting. If you’re looking for a snack, try a milkbar– a mom and pop store that sells ice cream, milkshakes, magazines and newspapers. Supper is a late night snack– not dinner. Tea can be a tea or coffee break or the evening meal. The first time we were invited to tea, we ate a sandwich since we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Big mistake. It was a full course meal ending with fruit and cream. English buffets are often loaded with mutton, cream, and fancy pastries. You’ll find venison– very tasty venison– on the menu in upscale restaurants. Pav or Pavlova is the national dessert. Aussies claim they, not the Kiwis, invented this concoction of meringue, whipped cream, strawberries and passion fruit. I can’t see what all the fuss is about.
A private hotel usually has a more homelike atmosphere and serves food but not alcohol. Some private hotels will let you bring your own wine and charge a corkage fee. Just ask ahead. Beer and wine are sold in supermarkets. Try Cheep Liquor or Liquorland for hard liquor. A licensed hotel is a hotel with a liquor license. In rural areas, if you’re looking to relax, meet the locals, and enjoy a few beers, find the hotel. A booze barn is a large open room for drinking– not a friendly neighborhood tavern. A boozer is just another name for a bar that’s usually part of a hotel. Most licensed hotels have not only a bar, but a liquor store.
The Bay of Islands
You’ll want to try a traditional New Zealand hangi at least once during your visit. Stones are placed in a lighted fire pit. Then lamb, pork or chicken, and kamara and vegges wrapped in muslin are wedged into wire frames and lowered over the hot stones. The meal gets more than a dash of water– they use buckets. This steaming pile is covered with fresh dirt. Your hangi takes a while to cook, so there’s time for a long happy hour. Enjoy hangi along with Maori singing and dancing at Rotorua (NI). During an RV rally in the Bay of Plenty, we had hangi with chicken and wild pig. East Cape is known for its wild pig hunting. (If you’re a REAL pig hunter, you don’t use a gun– you chase them down with a knife.)
It’s said Kiwis love rugby, racing and beer. Beer is often served in jugs– pitchers. Kiwis don’t like foamy beer– if you pay for a full glass of beer, you should get a full glass of beer. There’s several regional brands available. Move on to the next town down the road and try a new one. You probably can’t keep up with a Kiwi beer drinker. If you give it a good try, you might get pissed– not the same as pissed off, which means the same as it does in the states.
And yes, Alcoholics Anonymous is in New Zealand. But, AA refers to their Automobile Association. If you’re a member of AAA in the US, bring your card. All privileges are reciprocal. You’ll get discounts on motels and entertainment and best of all free maps not available to the public that show the back roads. You’ll need these if you skip the tour guide and fancy food and head into the wop-wops for the New Zealand beyond the tourist trail.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
If you travel Northland, New Zealand by RV or auto in early February, and happen to be in the Bay of Islands, you’ll find free concerts, political speeches, the New Zealand Navy firing a 21-gun salute, Maori wakas (war canoes) and 40,000 other party people squeezed into and around the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Waitangi Day is a national holiday to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between Queen Victoria’s government and some Maori tribal chiefs. It has never been ratified and they’re still trying to figure out what it means. The treaty was signed on the grounds of James Busby’s house at Waitangi February 6, 1840. A draft had been presented to the local Maori chiefs the previous day. Governor Hobson had returned to his ship anchored in the bay and expected the Maori to discuss the treaty and maybe sign it the following day. The chiefs had talked it over the previous night, didn’t have enough food to wait another day, and wanted it signed ASAP so they could get home to dinner. Hobson was rowed back to shore again, didn’t have time to dress for the occasion, and signed it in his civilian clothes just after noon.
In 1932, the run-down house of James Busby was gifted to the nation. In 1934 the first celebration was held in honor of its restoration. Kiwis always like a party and the tradition continued through the 1950's. Reluctant to add another public holiday to the calendar, they finally decided to substitute Waitangi Day for Auckland Anniversary Day.
The treaty was between the Crown and Maori. Queen Elizabeth II is officially New Zealand’s Queen. She is represented by a Governor General who ratifies laws by the parliament of New Zealand. Usually, the Prime Minister is the official representing the Crown on Waitangi Day.
Fun and games often start a few days earlier. On the 5th, the dignitaries are welcomed and speeches are given by both sides. At dawn on Waitangi Day, the Royal New Zealand Navy raises the New Zealand Flag, Union Jack, and White Ensign on the flagstaff on the Treaty Grounds. During the day, there’s a church service, games, Maori cultural entertainment, concerts, wakas charging around the bay and a navy ship re-enactment of the calling ashore of Governor Hobson to sign the Treaty– not all that traditional since the officer has a little more time to dress this time. The day ends with the Royal Guard of Honour and a Beat Retreat at Ceremonial Sunset on the Treaty Grounds lawn.
Even a holiday won’t please everybody. There’s often controversy. Protesters don’t seem to like this flagpole on the Treaty Grounds any better than the one near Russell. In 2004, protesters managed to hike the Maori Sovereignty Flag above the others on the flagstaff by flying it over a nearby tree. One year, a cruise ship cancelled their scheduled stop in the Bay of Islands– afraid a passenger might end up in the middle of what they believed was a re-enactment of the Musket War. Prime Minister Helen Clark also decided to visit elsewhere that year. As Waitangi day is celebrated throughout New Zealand, it wasn’t hard for her to find a more peaceful celebration. Considering the crowds, protestors, and four days of free flowing liquor, there seems to be few serious problems– don’t mess with the flags and you won’t be a guest of Her Majesty.
The best time to wander and enjoy that small spectacular park, Waitangi Treaty Grounds, is not during Waitangi Day surrounded by 40,000 booze appreciating party goers– moonshine is legal in New Zealand. Home manufacturing of hard alcohol is allowed in small quantities. Kits are available in stores. The government seems concerned you distill your alcohol safely and don’t kill yourself.
Until recently, entrance to the Treaty Grounds was free. Now, admission is $20 for two days if you’re not a Kiwi– the Maori version of sock it to the tourist. Tourist won’t complain and don’t hang around long. The tourist tax is suspended for Waitangi Day. There’s only two roads in– over the bridge from Pahia or the Puketona Road from Haruru. If you want to enter the grounds, just smile and remember your own town usually has a bed tax– just another way to squeeze dollars from travelers who must have more than you since they’re traveling and you’re not.
During the regular season-- not the silly season, those 3 or 4 days around Waitangi Day– you can find individual Maori guides to give you a tour of the grounds. You can also enjoy a musical performance in the carved Maori Meeting House. If you pay the $20 tourist tax, you can wander around the Treaty Grounds and nature trail on your own.
On leased land from the trust, the Waitangi Golf Club hangs out over the Bay of Islands. If you’re a golfer, stop in at the club house, enjoy a drink, and swap tee tales. Green fees are reasonably priced and visitors are welcome. Clubs, riding carts, and hand carts can be rented, You can buy most anything else in the pro shop. Even if you take the scenic course when golfing and zigzag your way along, try the Waitangi Golf Club. The price is reasonable, but you can pretend you’re a millionaire. just carry spare balls to donate to the Goddess of the Sea. This is one course you won’t forget.
There is no overnight camping on the Waitangi National Reserve. Haruru Falls Motor Inn on Puketona Rd and Haruru Falls Resort on Old Wharf Rd are reasonably priced if you’re traveling by car of RV and trying to save your Kiwi dollars for that golf course. Free overnight parking is available at Waipapa Landing a little north– and we’re heading in that direction.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
The first time I traveled New Zealand, I didn’t worry about traveling on the cheap. I flew into Auckland, rented a car and spent three weeks zigzagging from Auckland to Christchurch. I stayed at quality hotels, wandered into any restaurant that took my fancy, checked out the Waitomo Caves, watched the well mannered sheep at the Agrodome, and even managed to squeeze in a two day farm stay. Then, I flew home and went back to work to pay off the credit card bills that trickled in over the next couple of months. Those were the days when I was young, dumb, and richer.
That’s still a good way to travel if you have the big bickies. There’s nothing quite like hanging out at a top quality hotel or resort and wallowing around in all that pampering to make you feel special. It will probably strain the budget if you want to spend four or five months in New Zealand. If that’s your plan, you might need to consider at least some of that "On the Cheap."
Melanie McMinn has a new blog Auckland on the Cheap. She lists inexpensive activities and cheap places to eat in Auckland. Melanie is not a travel agent or promoting a business so you get information about a little of this and a little of that– whatever happens to be cheap in Auckland. If you’re traveling to New Zealand and have a question about saving money in Auckland, send Melanie an email. If you’re a Kiwi and have a tip to share, she’d like to hear from you, too.
Enjoy your time in Auckland even if it is "On the Cheap." As Melanie says, "After all, fun doesn’t have to be expensive!"
RV in NZ:How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
While traveling New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, you can always find a place to stay in Pahia, that small tourist town where the bus stops. Because Pahia has a good-sized wharf, cruise ships anchored in the bay shuttle their people to shore to check out the nearby Treaty House, try a fresh seafood meal, book a sightseeing trip, or buy that souvenir for mom. If you’re traveling by auto or RV, why not stay in Russell? This small village, once the capitol of New Zealand is tucked away and harder to reach, but it’s quaint, packed with history and you can easily get yourself back to Pahia on the small passenger ferry. When you explore the bay, those sight seeing trips can be booked just as easily from Russell.
Captain Cook anchored around Kororareka headland in 1769 and gave the Bay of Islands its English name. Abel Tasman poked around those waters over a hundred years earlier. In 1642, he said some unfriendly words about the local inhabitants, traveled south and spotted the Southern Alps, then headed north up the Tasman Sea to check out those Tasmanian Devils.
According to Maori legend, those unfriendly Polynesians arrived in New Zealand in the 10th century. As they had no written language, it’s hard to prove one way or the other. Eager to escape food shortages and war, they found plenty of food, though not much good red meat. They were not vegetarians. Tough Old Lady Cove reminds us what can happen to a nagging mother-in-law. The Maori brought kumara– a sweet potato-like vegetable that grows best in a warm climate. Although Maori settled throughout New Zealand, the majority of them kept their kumara happy and settled in this semi-tropical section of New Zealand.
In the early 1800's, Russell, originally named Kororareka or sweet penguin by the Maori, was known as the "hell-hole of the Pacific." With its rowdy night life, it became a popular port with Pacific whalers. When British convicts were brought to New South Wales in Australia, those now empty ships needed cargo for the return trip and the British government needed to train seamen for the Royal Navy. So, they offered money to encourage Americans to join the whaling fleet. An American captain on the British boat William and Ann first hunted whales in New Zealand waters in 1791. By 1838, Kororareka was an international port with more or less 100 ships anchored at any time. Whalers picked up supplies, repaired their ships, and gave their men a chance to get rough and rowdy in this best little "hell hole of the Pacific."
During the early 1800's, whaling was a major part of the European economy. Whale oil was used to light city streets and lubricate machines. Sperm whale oil was odorless and could be used indoors. Spermaceti, a liquid wax from the sperm whale’s head, was used to lubricate precision instruments and to make smokeless candles. Sperm whales were hunted in open water. Black or right whales were hunted in bays or near the shore not only for their oil, but for the baleen which hangs inside their mouth to filter food. Baleen, the same material as human fingernails, was used for lady’s corsets. Ambergris (grey amber) found in the sperm whale’s bowel was used as a base for perfume and also an aphrodisiac for those European males excited by all that plump perfumed flesh squashed into those lady’s corsets.
On Maiki Hill, above this sheltered village stacked up the hillside overlooking the bay, you can still find a flagpole where the Union Jack was raised by the British and occasionally lowered by the Maori. In 1845, after New Zealand’s capitol was moved from Russell to Auckland, the rowdy sailors slipped away and a financial recession hit the Bay of Islands. When the government didn’t offer a stimulus bailout, the local Maori protested and took over Russell. The Union Jack was lowered rather roughly for the fourth time. In 1857, the flagpole was replaced by the son of Kawiti, one of the Maori Chiefs in this Battle of Kororareka. A piece of this original flagpole is in the Russell museum. The United Tribes flag of 1834 is still flown 12 days a year.
The only way to get to Russell for many years was by a coastal steamer that brought supplies and passengers twice a week. During the depression years of the 1930's, a coastal road from Whakapara was built by government public works crews. "The Back Road" as it’s still called is windy and scary. "Best driven at night so you can see the headlights coming and get out of the way," we were told. We drove it once. Once was enough. If you have a rental vehicle, your insurance might not cover you if you’re on this road. Don’t miss that last vehicle ferry from Opua.
Tourist guides would call Russell unique and charming. Those are hokey but accurate words. The Duke of Marlboro Hotel on the waterfront has been up and down almost as many times at that flagpole. The (5th) Duke, built in the 1870's, burned in 1931. You can’t keep a good Duke down, so if you’re pub hopping, stay a night or two at the Duke. If you’re RVing or booked some where else, at least stop in for a drink and a meal. We’ve had Christmas dinner there– an elegant English meal worth every penny. The Duke of Marlboro is one of many New Zealand historic hotels.
Built in 1841, Pompallier, New Zealand’s oldest surviving Roman Catholic buildings, is now a museum. You can easily spend a day in the Russell Museum digging through photos and remnants of history, so don’t cut your time short in Russell.
If you’re RVing or on a budget, stay at the Holiday Park. It’s one of the nicest RV parks in New Zealand. Surrounded by flowers and perched on a hill, it overlooks the bay. You can walk the short distance to town, book one of the scenic cruises near the wharf, or catch the passenger ferry to Pahia and check out the other tourists. The Holiday Park has rooms as well as RV spaces. Bring your own bedding and towel for a cheaper rate. If you have a tent, a large grassy area– usually fully booked during the holiday season– is available. Russell and this RV park are popular with Kiwis, so book ahead in January.
Slip back into history in this sheltered little town of Russell. Roam around the beach, sip a brew in The Duke, or climb the hill for a panoramic view of the Bay of Islands and Motuarohia just around the Kororareka headland where James Cook anchored. Just don’t mess with that flagpole. It’s caused enough commotion in this once rowdy, now sleepy little town.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
If you managed to get yourself to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand by RV, auto, or bus, don’t rush by. There’s plenty to see and do. If you came for the water, try game fishing or swim with the dolphins. If you like boats, charter a yacht and spend nights in a sheltered anchorage or pick something a little smaller and paddle around in a sea kayak.
If you came north by bus, you’ll end up in Pahia, a small tourist town with three sandy beaches. You’ll find motels as well as backpacker accommodation in Pahia. In nearby Waitangi, the treaty between the British Crown and Maori chiefs was signed in 1840. From the wharf in Pahia, you can catch a passenger ferry to Russell– once the capital of New Zealand. A little farther north, you can reach Kerikeri by jogging back to Hwy 10. At Kerikeri, you’ll find orchards, wineries, arts and craft shops, and the oldest building in New Zealand– Kemp House.
From all this "once the capital...oldest building" I’ve been dropping in, you’ve probably guessed you’re surrounded by history. Named Bay of Islands in 1769 by Captain Cook, there are 144 islands in the bay. I take the Kiwi’s word for that one since I’ve never counted. Besides these four historic towns, you’ll also find one of DOC’s national parks– the Bay of Islands Maritime Park.
With so much to see in the Bay of Islands, this video will give you an idea of what you’ll find. Notice the Duke of Marlboro Hotel in Russell– our first stop on a tiki tour around the bay.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
Opua, in the throat of the Bay of Islands, twenty-one days from Tonga, is a hurricane hole for an international collection of yachts. There is a small store with good ice cream where you queue up for the mini-auto ferry to Russell and not much else. Although Northland and Far North have an occasional hurricane, Opua is tucked in tight.
Rag Baggers, as those sailors who only know how to pull back on the throttle and steer, sometimes call those cruisers packed into Opua for the season, take their sailing seriously. Some are waiting for a weather window to catch the next leg of their circumnavigation, others will head north to catch the currents and winds then drop back along the Alaska/Canada west coast.
There are cruisers and day sailors proudly trimming their sails in the Bay of Islands. For lack of a better description, cruisers live aboard, poke around and anchor out or wharf-hop. Day sailors usually like to race the closest sail boat– even if that other sail boat doesn’t know it’s racing– then hang around the dock or clubhouse at the end of the day and swap rose-colored sail tales.
Sailing on Open Water
New Zealand, although it’s the land of top mega yacht racers, is not a cruiser friendly country. We passed Whangarei on our way north. It’s almost impossible to find a slip in the crowded boat basin and most cruisers anchor out. A little farther south is Auckland, the City of Sails. You can anchor or dock at Tauranga, Wellington, Picton or Christchurch. But where do you go from there? Remember you’re straddling the
Roaring Forties. A circumnavigation of both islands is possible with a little good weather and a lot of good luck, but the west coast of New Zealand is so shallow, it’s pretty hard to slip in anywhere if the weather turns ugly. Remember the movie The Piano? Her piano came ashore on the beach in a flat bottom boat. The Piano was filmed on the east coast of the North Island.
If you want to cruise– charter a yacht at Opua, hop in and tour the Bay of Islands. The weather’s warm, the water’s warm and the fishing is hot. Take that fancy sail boat out yourself, or hire a skipper and sit back and enjoy a beer while you burn. New Zealand is close to that hole in the ozone we’ve been watching for years. You can turn to toast in a hurry even on a cool cloudy day.
The Moorings has always been a top of the line charter company. They’ve been in business worldwide for many years and provide quality boats– with or without a skipper. If you want to cruise the Bay of Islands and hang out at the Opua Yacht Club with cruisers from several nations, the Bay of Islands is easy sailing. If you only know how to pull back the throttle and steer, the Moorings has power boats, too.
If you’re traveling by auto or RV, don’t be shy about stopping in at the Opua Yacht Club. It's not fancy– just friendly.
And we made it to Opua– that tiny town in the Bay of Islands with the good ice cream.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
If you’ve bought or rented an auto or RV in New Zealand, you can take a loop to the Tutukaka Coast on your trip up Hwy 1 to the Bay of Islands. New Zealand has some of the best water in the world, so why not enjoy a little diving, fishing or sailing?
We doubled back to Whangarei from Bream Head to get around the Parahaki Reserve. Now, if you follow the signs to Whangarei Falls, you’re headed up Ngunguru Road to the Tutukaka Coast– a thirty minute drive east. If you missed Whangarei Falls while wandering around Whangarei, this is your chance to visit the most photographed water fall in New Zealand. You’ll find easy access walkways and a picnic area at the falls.
It’s not far to Tutukaka, so take your time and enjoy the drive. If you’ve brought your lunch or want to explore a little, Ngungururu, a small settlement on the river, has a picnic area at the north end of the beach near the school. Kayaks and dingies are rented at the motel. The current can be strong at ebb tide, so check the tide table before leaving shore or you might find yourself exploring Ngungururu Bay. If you’re RVing, there’s a Holiday Park nearby. Just don’t park too close to the river unless your RV floats. We pulled into a Holiday Park late at night. The next morning we couldn’t step out– our movan was up to its bumpers in water.
Tutukaka is the jumping off spot for the Poor Knights– one of the world’s top ten dive sites. Even if you’re not a diver, you’ll find plenty to do in and around Tutukaka. The harbor has small sheltered beaches– one at the end of the marina. You can rent a kayak or dingy and poke around the harbor. If you’re not a diver but would like to try a little snorkeling or fishing,
Sea Safaris will take you on a personalized tour of the Tutukaka coast and the Poor Knights. If you just want to visit an alpaca and bring back a warm souvenir,–a sweater or blanket, not the alpaca– Rocky Bay Alpacas welcomes visitors.
From January to April, there are many events in the area such as: The New Zealand Big Game Fishing Competition Nationals (Feb), the Northland Mountain Bike Challenge in nearby Glenbervie (Feb) and the Small Boats Fishing Tournament (Mar). If you like fishing or cycling, you’ll find some special event while you’re around Tutukaka.
Maybe you’re really not excited about smelling like fish all day and just want to spend time relaxing in style. You can lay back and view the Poor Knights and the harbor from the Pacific Rendezvous resort.
You won’t want to miss the Poor Knights if you’re a diver. With good underwater visibility and a warm current from the north, you’ll find tropical species such as spotted black grouper and mosaic moray. Reef fish include pink and blue maomao and two-spot demoiselle. The steep cliffs of the islands drop 100 meters below sea level in places to a sandy sea floor. Wall diving, you’ll find fissures, caves, kelp forests, and sponge gardens. South Harbor provides shallower area for novice divers. Experienced divers can find challenging dives all around the islands.
The Poor Knights were named by Captain Cook because they looked like sleeping Crusaders– heads to the south, feet to the warm northern sun. The northern island is Tawhiti Rahi. The southern island Aorangi. In the early 1800's Maori on Aorangi bred and traded wild pigs (released by Captain Cook) with the mainland Maori. An argument over a bad trade ended in a massacre of the Maori on Aorangi. Since then, the islands have never been inhabited nor claimed as native land. On Aorangi, those Captain Corkers damaged the environment until they were exterminated in 1936. Purchased by a European in 1845, the islands were bought by the crown in 1881 and designated a lighthouse reserve. Today, a marine reserve surrounds the islands and landing is not permitted. Limited recreational fishing is allowed.
Between October and May, millions of seabirds return to the islands to breed. Batter shearwaters (rakes) live on the Poor Knights. Their feeding grounds range across the Pacific between the coasts of New Zealand, the Chatham Islands and California. They return each year to New Zealand– the only place in the world where they breed. Tuatara are found on the larger islands as well as two species of gecko.
Dave and I have spent a lot of time around Tutukaka. We’re both divers, but never dived the Poor Knights. If you want to try one of the world’s top 10 dive sites, you can find a charter dive operator here.
If you’re looking to charter a sailboat, the Bay of Islands is a better choice. Or, if you just want to enjoy an isolated beach, try Matapouri a little farther north on your loop back to
If you have a self-contained RV and want to explore the coast and sample some fresh seafood, ask at the hotel in Tutukaka if you can spend the night on their property. If you want to get back to Hwy 1 to get an early start for the Bay of Islands, parking is available behind the hotel in Hikurangi– just mind your manners and ask first.
Air New Zealand has a Fly to New Zealand and Get Australia Free special. You can visit New Zealand AND Australia for about $950. From LAX– including taxes and fees. This will only be available a short time, but air fare prices change as often as the New Zealand weather. If you’ve passed the "Wish I could visit New Zealand." and moved into the "Let’s go!" watch for those bargains.
The loop to Tutukaka brings us back out on Hwy 1 a little south of Hikurangi. The Tutukaka coast is only a little over three hours from Auckland. Even if you’re not headed north to the Bay of Islands, if you have a day to spare while staying in Auckland, why not rent a car and explore this secluded part of Northland?
We’re headed for Pahia next with a brief stop at Opua, that hurricane hole packed with yachts hiding out for the summer.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand
When you book a New Zealand tour of Northland, chances are you’ll leave from Auckland and head for Paihia in the Bay of Islands with a short stop at Whangarei Falls. By day three, you’ll be in Opononi on the west coast for a day in the sand dunes or another bus trip into Waipoua Forest and the giant Kauri trees, then back to Auckland. You’ll see a little of Nortland. But, there’s a better, cheaper way to see more and pay less– rent or buy an auto or RV. Either way, you can wander off the main road and find beautiful country any place you wander.
If you spend the night in Whangarei– which I think is one of the best towns in New Zealand-- you might as well pack up a lunch and drive the short distance around the north side of Whangarei Harbour, past the airport, to Bream Head, a high bluff at the end of a peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. To the north, you’ll find Ocean Beach with its pounding surf and miles of isolated beach. We won’t be passing nearby Whangarei Falls yet. We’ll find them on our way to Tutukaka.
Riverside Drive takes you back over the Hatea River. Beyond the airport, you’ll find the Waimahanga Walkway, an easy 45 minute walk near the mangroves– remember nothing will bite you, so don’t worry about a snake with a bad disposition or an alligator hoping lunch will pass by. If you want to get wet then enjoy your lunch, Tamaterau is a good place to swim or windsurf. The Pines Golf Course, an 18 hole course with views of the harbour is also nearby. There’s a boat launch a little farther up Whangarei Heads Road at Parua Bay. With the airlines as fussy as they are now, you probably won’t bring your own boat, but you can have a beer in the Parua Bay Tavern on the water’s edge and watch the boats. Parua Bay is a small community about 2 kms from the boat launch. McLeod Bay, another swimming/picnic area is just across from Marsden Point, that spot where we checked out the harbour on our way into Whangarei. A small wooden church built in 1858 is still used for Sunday worship.
Taurikura is easy to spot. It’s a natural volcanic rock causeway that disappears into the sea. Woolshed Bay is a popular anchorage for sailboats waiting for a daylight passage into Whangarei, a weather break, or just hanging out enjoying the scenery. From the car park in Woolshed Bay, you’ll find several walkways crisscrossing the Bream Bay Scenic Reserve. You’ll be glad you packed a lunch– or two– if you decide to explore. The entrance to these walks are at Urquharts Bay back a short way (see map), or Ocean Beach– where we’re headed. Like most New Zealand walkways, they’re well signposted. If you’re in really good shape, have the time, and brought a lunch or two, take the six hour (one way) walk and enjoy the view of the offshore islands and harbour views. There’s also a shorter 3 hour hike to Peach Cove and return. This is a kiwi sanctuary, so no dogs are allowed. You can find more information on hiking trails in this area at the Department of Conservation, DOC.
Only 35 kms from Whangarei, Ocean Beach is a nice day trip along the largest enclosed harbour in New Zealand. Along the way, you’ll have a chance to enjoy the water, do some beachcombing or maybe watch dolphin and orca glide in and out of the water. At Ocean Beach, you can beachcomb for miles to the north or poke around in the rock tide pools to the south.
However you spend your day, whether working up a blister on one of those long hikes, swimming and snoozing on the beach, or settling back in the pub with a few brews, remind yourself how glad you are you took the time to rent or buy a vehicle so you could spend a day in part of New Zealand the tour guide forgot to mention as the bus zipped past on the way to the Bay of Islands.
If you’re all worn out from all that hiking, swimming or snoozing and have a self-contained RV, there’s overnight parking at Whangarei Heads at Ocean Beach. You can also find a place to park the night at Parua Bay opposite the hotel or at Pataua South past the public toilet.
Next, we’ll be headed up the road to Tutukaka, but we’ll have to get back to Whangarei so we can get around the Parahaki Reserve.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand