Over the next six weeks, we’ll be racking up roughly 3,000 miles by travelling down the North and South Islands of New Zealand in our very own self-contained camper van. From our point of view, what better way to travel. Welcome to our home!
Unless we hired a car, this was the only way of getting around New Zealand as the Kiki Experience Hop-on, Hop-Off bus, which we had originally intended on using is not due to start operating until November.
It was always going to be impossible to travel around the world with glorious sunshine every day. So far, we’ve had amazing weather in North America and Fiji, but we were well aware we were going to be coming to New Zealand in their winter.
If you’d like to read my previous blog post from the our eight nights Island Hopping in Fiji’s Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands, you can do so by clicking here.
Day One – Settling into our camper van in Auckland
Our journey begins in Auckland – often mistakingly believed to be the capital of New Zealand.
When we landed at Auckland International Airport, we had to go through the painstakingly slow and frustrating biodiversity checks. We then went to pick up our Britz camper van which we named Kennesse. As we would find out, despite only being five-years-old, he wasn’t without his problems.
Before settling into our new home at the Remuera Motor Lodge, we did a huge food shop at Countdown and came across a U.K. section. It included cordial, some of the most popular biscuit brands and Yorkshire Tea, which went down very well with Emily.
When you’ve been away from home for three and a half months, you start to miss those little home comforts.
Day Two – Auckland – All Blacks Experience & Sky Tower
I’m not really a big Rugby fan, but we decided to do the All Blacks Experience costing $45 p/p. I knew New Zealand had a rich history when it came to Rugby Union, but I didn’t realise how dominant they’d been in recent years.
According to Wikipedia, they are ‘the most consistently ranked #1 team since the introduction of the world rankings in 2003, having held the #1 ranking for 77% of the time during this period. Impressive!
In my opinion, this was good value for money. The five interactive zones at the end of the 90-minute guided walkthrough were great fun.
Afterwards, we went up to the Auckland Sky Tower observation deck, which is the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere at 328m, yet just 28th in the world. Unfortunately, at 158m the Blackpool Tower doesn’t feature in the Top 100.
Day Three – Mount Eden, Karekare Falls & Piha
The next morning, we ventured out in the camper van to check out the views of Auckland from Mount Eden – a dormant volcano also known as Maungawhau. After struggling to park, the views from the summit were well worth the 1.3 mile hike.
Next, we headed to Kitekite Falls – a 45-minute drive away from Mt Eden, as we had planned to do the 1.7 mile out-and-back trail. However, despite trying to drive down the track to reach the Falls, we were not able to because of height restrictions.
Instead, we drove to Karekare Falls. The 0.5 mile hike was easy, but there were an additional 414 steps to climb to reach the top. When we eventually did get there, you couldn’t see over the waterfall. At least we gave our legs a good workout!
Day Four – Drive from Auckland to Paihai
Today, we left Auckland behind us and headed 143 miles further North to Paihai – known as ‘the gateway to the Bay of Islands‘.
To get there, we drove on State Highway One. This isn’t the same as driving on the M1 motorway in the U.K! For three hours, we drove on a single carriageway through beautiful green landscapes.
Along the way, we stopped off in the city of Whangarei where we bought a new book each and I bought myself a pair of Crocs – please don’t judge my style of footwear! The reason we wanted to visit the area though was to see the Whangarei Falls.
These were at the very beginning of the trek and then it was an additional three miles to get to the Paranui Falls Lookout.
For the next three nights, we used the Top 10 Paihia Holiday Park as our base. If you are planning on travelling in New Zealand, I would highly recommend staying at the Top 10 Holiday Parks located all over the country.
You can purchase a two-year subscription for $49 which will give you a discounted price on stays, as well as having other benefits including saving on activities.
Day Five – Bay of Islands Boat Tour
Luckily, the weather was on our side, as we knew there was an incoming storm forecast for the next couple of days.
Because of the good weather, the Discover the Bay – Hole in the Rock cruise we had paid $135 p/p for was able to go ahead as scheduled.
We had travelled to Paihai specifically to see some of the Bay of Islands, which are made up of 140 subtropical islands. They are known for undeveloped beaches, big-game fishing and Māori cultural artefacts. (Māori are indigenous Polynesian people from mainland New Zealand).
We departed from Paihia Wharf at 10:00 AM, stopping off alongside several islands and locations including Tapeka Point, Moturua Island, Deep Water Cove and Cape Brett on our way to the iconic landmark of the ‘Hole in the Rock‘ or Motukokako.
Unfortunately, the Captain was unable to steer the vessel through this incredible formation because of the worsening weather conditions.
We came across a lot of sheep along the way. I think my new nickname should be ‘The Sheep Whisperer’.
(See the map below to see the islands we visited and the exact route the boat took).
After spending time here, we then headed back to Paihai, stopping off at Russell on the way.
There wasn’t much to see or do, but I managed to buy a long-sleeved Crew Clothing jumper. (I’m in desperate need of more winter wear and layers).
Day Six – Driving to the northernmost point of New Zealand – Cape Reinga
Despite the now awful weather, we made the brave but probably foolish decision to go on a six-hour round trip drive to the northernmost point of New Zealand – Cape Reinga. This is where the separation marker is for the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean.
It was a long and arduous 134-mile drive. The wind was gusting and driving conditions were far from ideal. Two hands were needed on the steering wheel at all times.
Eventually, we made it to Cape Reinga safely. Not wanting to hang around, we set off on the short 10-minute, 300m walk to the lighthouse. If you were doing this with a young child, it was the sort of wind that would have quite easily swept them off their feet.
Thankfully, on our way down, the visibility was still quite good – the fog hadn’t yet descended like it did on our way back up.
We got our picture of Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) and selfies with the mileage signpost and then rushed back up to the car.
After somewhat drying off, we had lunch inside the camper van at Tapotupotu Bay nearby before setting back off to Paihai.
Everything was going to plan until we heard a loud bang 30-minutes from base. Em was driving at the time and I was dozing off, so I genuinely thought we’d crashed when I heard it.
It turns out, part of the support on the awning had bent, which had caused it to fall aside. The vehicle wasn’t drivable.
We pulled over and rang for roadside recovery, which took over three hours to arrive. Thankfully, after banging and hammering, the man was able to somewhat repair the damage and get us back on our way.
The only downside is that we now have no awning – probably not the end of the world given the average weather conditions. However, we have put in a request for a new vehicle, as this isn’t the first time something has gone wrong for Kennesse.
Day Seven – Storm halts our tracks
At the time of writing, we are currently stranded in Paihia. Today, we were supposed to drive 243 miles to Coromandel Town – over five hours away, but because of the storm, we felt it would be safer to stay put. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.
Tomorrow, we’ll gradually work our way South, stopping off in Auckland along the way to see if poor Kennesse can be repaired.
If you’d like to keep up-to-date with our travels, then you can enter your email to receive notifications of blog updates at the bottom of this article; follow my blog by clicking the link, or drop me a follow on Twitter at @AlecW95 or on Instagram at @AlecW95 or @alatw95.
Alternatively, you can follow Emily on her travelling TikTok account at @emstraveladventure.
Thanks for stopping by, until the next time…