New Zealand’s north island absolutely blew me away! It’s definitely one of the most beautiful and diverse places I’ve ever been to. The areas that we covered on our journey are Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki.
First stop Auckland
We arrive in Auckland and I feel exhausted. The city seems loud and dirty and our hostel room doesn’t have a window. ‘You should have requested a window when you booked’ the guy at the reception says. I resist the urge to flip him off. The evening is saved by the best ice cream I have eaten in a long time, at Giapo – an upscale, unique artsy haute ice cream shop.
We stayed in town for two nights which I thought was plenty. I personally didn’t really warm up to Auckland, but then again I’m not much of a city girl. There are however a couple cute cafes (check out Chuffed Coffee & Scarecrow) and cool vegan restaurants (Green Time & Sunflower Thai), and the sky tower is definitely worth a visit on a sunny day.
On our second day we visited Rangitoto Island, which is a short ferry ride away from the wharf in Downtown Auckland ($30 Return). Ranigtoto is the youngest and largest volcano in the Auckland volcanic field. The hike to the top takes about 45 minutes and is rewarded with stunning skyline views of the city. On the way back down take a left and explore the Lava Caves!
We ended the day with burritos and our second visit at Giapo, because it’s just that good.
2. Journey to Coromandel
The wind is rough, the water is freezing and the sun is relentless, but Port Jackson Bay couldn’t be more beautiful. We jump into the waves, play frisbee and eat lunch right at the beach. It feels like we’re the only two people on the planet and I couldn’t be happier.
On day three we picked up our Wicked camper van and also took a lot of useful kitchen items & some CD’s from the ‘Free Shelf’ at the Wicked office. We then proceeded to go food shopping and fill up the car and made our way towards Coromandel Town, which is about two and a half hours away from Auckland. Definitely stop for a cold cider or a coffee in this cute little town if you are passing though. We then kept driving north and spent the night at a campground in Colville Bay.
The next day we got up bright and early and slowly made our way to Port Jackson Bay, which is located at the very tip of the Coromandel Peninsula. If you are going on the same route definitely take your time since there are plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the raw, stunning coastline.
We were absolutely blown away by the beauty of Port Jackson Bay. The campground was super basic – with a cold outside shower, pit toilets, a ‘kitchen area’ with two power outlets (a genuine luxury in many cases), a kettle and a few sinks – probably one of the best campgrounds I’ve ever stayed at. We shared it with roughly five other cars, which is hardly anything considering the size of the place. After parking the van right at the beach we jumped in the water, which was freezing cold but super refreshing.
In the afternoon we went on the Muriwai Walk along the coast and up the massive cliffs, to the next bay and the one after. There was nobody to be seen the entire time, except the occasional cow here and there. After about four hours we felt burned and exhausted so we headed back to the camp. After dinner we wrapped ourselves in our sleeping bags, sat on a bench near the beach and ate dark chocolate whilst watching the night sky.
Waterfalls and Inconveniences
‘The road is closed’, a tired looking road worker informs us. I’m annoyed because I don’t want to stop and we still have a few hours to go before we reach our campground for tonight. Kennedy Bay is barely a small town – I can’t even tell if there is a town centre or not. We drive past the road which leads to the beach twice, because it is tucked away behind large oak trees and the sign has been withered over by ranks. It’s scorching hot and we already have sunburns from the day before. Covered in sunscreen and armed with large hats we venture along the empty beach, nobody to be seen, except an Irish man who is even more burned than we are. He is also waiting for the road to reopen and is eagerly trying to manufacture a little shade using the two open doors of his car and a large towel. Once we reach the end of the beach we sit down under the palm trees and eat lunch. I have to admit, this isn’t too bad, it’s actually quite beautiful. Maybe it’s good that we were forced to stop. Maybe sometimes you just need to take a second, breathe and look around. And what you’ll find might surprise you.
I would have loved to stay in Port Jackson for another few days, but we had to move on. So with a heavy heart we packed up all our stuff and took our van on the road again. We took the Port Charles Road towards Waikawau and were forced to stop in Kennedy Bay since the road was closed for construction. Even though this was kind of annoying, we enjoyed a beach walk and had a little picnic in the shade under some palm trees. After two hours we could finally move on and made our way back to Coromandel town. We stopped to buy water and a few snacks and kept driving until we reached the Waiau Falls. This waterfall is pretty small but absolutely stunning and well worth a visit.
We kept driving on the 309 Road through the jungle-like forest. When we spotted a warning sign at the side of the road which read ‘Pigs Crossing’, we didn’t think much of it until we actually had to stop the car because of – you guessed it – crossing pigs (and little piglets). If you feel like it it’s even possible to stop to feed or pet the pigs!
On the way to Whangamata stop in Hahei and have a look at the famous Cathedral Cove, a beach with rock stacks and arches. The only downside is the large amount of tourists frequently visiting this spot, so if you prefer to have the beach to yourself skip this one and go to Waverly Beach on the south west coast, but more on that later.
We also came across an old abandoned bus, which reminded me of the ‘Magic Bus’ from Into the Wild. After watching the sun set behind the hills we kept driving.
We spent the night at the Wentworth Valley campground just outside of Whangamata, which is basic but beautiful, set in the middle of nowhere and has a cooking area (but no stoves), sinks and pit toilets.