A North Island New Zealand Road Trip.
I was recently given the opportunity to cruise around the country in a camper van – thanks to Mighway Camper Vans.
(sometimes I really can’t believe my luck!)
Firstly, Mighway is a genius concept – think, AirBnB for camper vans!
If you’re a camper van owner, you can rent it out to travellers when you’re not using it, OR if you’re a traveller, you can save money by renting a camper van from a private owner!
Ok, so a week or so ago, a friend and I took a week off work and set out on an impromptu adventure.
We didn’t really have any plans on where we were going – this trip was more about the journey than the destination (cliche, I know). We had only planned that we’d hit Raglan first, which I actually had mixed feelings about.
Raglan has a reputation of being a surf-chic town, laid back with lots of travellers and alternative-type people, who are just generally cooler than you.
I too had this impression, until an episode of TV3’s Neighbours at War, (awful programme, really, but the sarcastic narrator keeps me coming back… a bit like Come Dine With Me). The episode revealed that a Raglan local was killing cats in a bid to save native birds. Now I love a Kereru just as much as the next person, BUT I also like really love cats.
You can see now, why I had established a personal boycott against the place.
However, I decided our trip was the perfect time to face this fear and make Raglan stop numero uno – and what a great stop it turned out to be.
Firstly, no dead cats.
Secondly, it oozed that chilled out vibe and the long rolling, black sand beach was gorgeous. The township was smaller than I had imagined, but had what must be surplus cafes to it’s needs, which sits well with me.
When I was imagining this trip, I thought that excluding petrol and food, the trip would be fairly cheap as we’d embrace the #VanLife and enjoy freedom camping.
However each region in NZ has its own bylaws on freedom camping and it seems like in all the key touristy areas, freedom camping isn’t allowed, which I can completely understand. So in Raglan, we paid to park up at a beach side caravan park.
The next day we travelled down the coast on back roads, which were often gravel. We stopped often, looking at waterfalls, caves, beaches and in small towns including Kawhia, Te Anga and Marokopa (which is especially cute). Our final stop was Mokau where we grabbed the local favourite, whitebait, and headed up Cemetery Hill to watch the sunset over Mount Taranaki. It was beaut.
That night we got into some freedom camping, finding an area just off the road suitable for campervans. It was great until about 5:50am when a local rooster (we called him Rodney) decided to wake us up… like right outside our van. Like he knew we were inside and what we were all about. I fed him some cereal as it seemed appropriate and as we were awake anyway, we left our camping spot fairly early that morning.
From Mokau we cruised down to New Plymouth, stopping briefly to do the seaside walk and check out the museum where we learnt about an old beehive house, which has unfortunately been demolished. Sad times.
The weather was also really cloudy, which meant we couldn’t see Mount Taranaki and get any carefully staged, but totally casual, photos of the summit for Instagram. Sad times x2.
But we were really enjoying #CamperVanLife, so we decided to move on quickly, continuing down the coast to Cape Egmont, which I learnt is NOT the western-most point of New Zealand, or even the North Island. However there is a lighthouse there. Good times.
The next place that took us by complete surprise was Krafty Cup World in Rahotu – where we were treated to thousands of mugs hanging from trees and stacked throughout a residential garden. The dedication and passion was evident. The reasoning was not. But it was def worth the stop. They also had chickens at the backyard, which made me wonder what Rodney was up to.
Looking for somewhere to camp we saw a small lake on our map and headed there in hope of a view.
As it turned out Lake Rotokare is part of a completely fenced reserve, where native birds flourish as pests can’t get in. After driving through what can only be described as automated Jurassic-park-style gates, we found a very picturesque spot to camp, and finally take some “carefully staged, but totally casual” pics for Instagram.
The next day we took the Forgotten World Highway from start to finish, Stratford to Taumaranui, and were treated to some beautiful views.
The stand out o this stretch, was the Republic of Whangamamona, and more specifically it’s welcome sign, as I got another great pic for Instagram, wahoo. We stopped at the local pub for lunch, where the fire was on and the notice board was full of hunting competition notices, and printed out email-chain dad jokes – you know the type.
We drove for a few more hours, then settled in Tokaanu, where we soaked in the hot pools (amazing) before camping lakeside in a parking lot with other yuppies who didn’t want to pay for a powered campsite.
The next day we hit Taupo for breakfast (Body Fuel Café, do it), watched a kid play with a drone at Huka Falls (secretly wishing it would fall in) and got ‘off the beaten track’ visiting some more lakes on our way to Rotorua.
It was at this point that all the driving caught up with us, so we stayed in Rotorua for 2 nights, just relaxing.
On our way back to Auckland we stopped at the Blue Spring just outside of Putaruru, which is blue, but also has a lot of greenery growing inside it…
Then before we knew it we were home, full of stories and hooked on camper van travels.
Bring on the next one.