Travel north of Auckland and you get to the New Zealand Northlands. The Northlands is home of the Maoi culture, stunning landscapes and a lot of windy roads. Many of which are gravel so watch out for your windscreen – chips are common and rather irritating.** Insert photo of Jeanine here **
Waking up in our new van – that we had named Jeanine, was a novel experience and one that we won’t be forgetting in a hurry. Jeanine is also surprisingly comfortable. I was expecting a bit more a squeeze when it came to space I guess but Jeanine is spacious enough for two, even though she technically can fit three. I wouldn’t want any more bodies to have to sleep and live that two.
Jeanine is our touring girl. She will be taking us to all the places that we have been dreaming about whilst in New Zealand and allowing us to experience it all in style, even if we are getting that little bit extra attention. They are all jealous of Jeanine clearly. We roll in style.
You want a first stop after seeing the sights in Auckland. We heading straight for the Waitangi headlands, we were not disappointed, even with the wind and rain. The landscape was our first experience of the New Zealand that we had heard so much about and is what brought us across the globe to see. The ocean landscape at its most pure.
These cute caves are a good place to walk into them to take a look up to the ceiling and see the glow-worms. It is also a free cave to go into which you will find as you go, although I am sure there will be better caves to see the glow-worms in NZ we found that this was perfect for us.
This was our first hike of since arriving in New Zealand it was well worth it, even though our boots got just a little muddy. We couldn’t go all the way through the cave due to the large amount of water that was preventing us from getting past a certain point. That didn’t matter however as the glow-worms were all still clearly visible for us to see. Please do take a good head torch though if that is where you are heading, as the rocks within the cave are rather slippery. You might need to use your hands as you scramble around in the dark. I fell into the water as we crossed a rock crossing – so I would also look into getting some waterproof boots if you can to save your socks!
Bay of Islands & Russel
When we went for the bay of islands we had high expectations as all the people who have been who we knew all said how amazing it was and beautiful. They were not wrong. The bay of islands did not disappoint one bit. We did head out on a tour of the islands to try and see some dolphins whilst we were there and we managed it! They were had to find initially but when we did there were so many of them. They were showing off a little to I think jumping in synchronisation around the boat, truly amazing to see. To date I think it has to be up there as one of my highlights of the trip thus far. We went on the morning trip with the Fuller Company as it was the better option for us, also the cheapest. Although the other company’s boat wasn’t far away at any point that is the way these things happen. We set off at 9am, which is good, as the waters seem to be calmer in the mornings and heading out to sea. After spotting the dolphins we heading up to the end of the bay where the old lighthouse stands at the end of the land head. Here there is the sight called the ‘hole in the rock’, it pretty much comes as advertised although it can fit the boat that we were on through said hole. All you can do is hope the captain knows what he is doing at that point because there isn’t much wiggle room, as I like to call it.
When in the bay of islands we also wanted to spend some time over in Russel. Russel is a small port town that was known as the ‘hell hole of the pacific’ – really appealing title I know, but now it’s a really cute little place where you can catch the ferry across from Paihia (on the mainland) to go spend the afternoon there. The day we went it was really windy so we basically just found a good seat with a nice view of the harbour and drank in the Duke of Malbourgh hotel. It has the hotels entire history in the back of the menu, which I really liked. *Nerd alert*
Heading up to the most Northern point of New Zealand was well worth the drive. We even stayed at a Department of Conservation (DOC) campsite right at the top, which if you are camping was well worth it. The campsite was basic, with cold showers and long drop loos but the views made up for the lack of home comforts provided. Waking up with the Pacific Ocean out of the back window of the van was something that I would highly recommend to anyone.
After waking up and heading into the water for a morning wake up swim we headed a little further north to see the Northern lighthouse. This lighthouse is also the location of the meetings of the seas. You can see the two tides battling it out where the meet at the cape. To the West the Tasman Sea defending itself from the Pacific Ocean situated to the East. Truly remarkable to be able to see on the surface.
This is the point where in the Maori culture believe that the souls of their dead leave this world and find their spiritual home. As we were camping so close to the top of the cape we were able to get to the lighthouse early in the morning therefore missing the crowds. That gets bussed in from the bay of islands and other tourist hot spots.
Giant sand dunes of Te Paki
On the way back down from the far Northern reaches we hit up the giant sand dunes for some sand dune surfing. As you can imagine we had sand coming out of everything for days afterwards but it was totally worth it. Driving to the dunes was so easy, as is getting anywhere in New Zealand as we are quickly finding, everything is sign posted and easily spotted from the main roads. It is also the easiest place to do anything that you like, for example we rocked up and rented a sand board from a lady who was renting them from the back of a trailer and off we went.
These giant sand dunes spans over 7 square km around the mouth of Te Paki Stream. They are so expansive that they have even created a beach that is 90 miles long. So is creatively called 90 mile beach – see what they did there? Clever. You can even drive on it! If you are driving on it then do please check the tide times as otherwise you might find yourself in a tricky situation pretty quickly.
Lake Kai Lwi
My absolute favourate place that we have camped, Lake Kai Lwi. If you are passing through the area it is a must! The lake when we arrived was a mirror. A mirror reflecting the most glorious sunset we have seen in a while. Truly beautiful. We stayed there for a night that was so lovely again this was a DOC site so basic but at least they had hot showers!
You know what I will make sure I do a post dedicated to the campsites that we stayed and rate them so that if you are heading on your own little adventure anytime you can see what we thought of a few of them.