New Zealand: The Campervan Experience in North Island

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STOP 1: Auckland 

If you are in Auckland just for transit or for landing but you are worried that you did not plan time for discovering the city, good news there isn't much to see! 24hrs is enough to have a feel of the city, walk around and refuel the batteries before going onto your next stop. Haka Lodge Backpacker Hostel is a very comfy and well located hostel on Karangahape Rd. The advantage is that it is very close to the Skybus  Stop 1 to the airport (every 10 minutes and only 35 minutes away $32 return ticket or $18 single) and it is pretty cheap for hostels in NZ ($22 a night). Bring two lockers to closer your under bed locker properly. Washing machine is $3 and the nearest bus stop to Skybus is on 490 Queen Street (stop 7062). Wifi is free & unlimited and breakfast is not included, 
Haka Lodge Hostel Dorm

Useful information

Nearest supermarket: Countdown on Williamson Avenue & Posonby Road (View Map )
Best Coffee in Town:
Holm - Hybrid Cafe + Workspace (Open Mon-Sat 7-4.30) 
Vintage & Second Hand shops on Karangahape Rd
Watch Sunset:
 From Mount Eden with a view over Auckland
Promenade, 40 min from Haka Lodge Hostel
Holm Space Cafe Auckland @holmspace
Black Americano $4

Eat: Avocado on rye bread
Wifi password: holmsweetholm

Stop 2: Rotorua 

Where to stay 

Ash Pit Road Campsite Rerewhakaaitu
, Bay of Plenty - Probably one of the most peaceful, quiet, remote and beautiful campsite you will stay at during your trip to North Island. Pass Rorotura, head to Te Puke on road #5 then road #30 to then take a left onto Lake Rerewhakaaitu. At the end of the road, turn right and drive to the sign Ash Pit Road Campsite. 
For $8 per night per adult, you'll be camping on the shores of the lake. Make sure to bring your binocular to watch water birds!
Lake Rerewhakaaitu Ash Pit Road Campsite

Whakarewarewa, The Living Māori Village

Go to the Whakarewarewa  Maori village for the 12pm visit. You get to see the geysers, geo thermal pods, mud pods and te living Maori Tribe Village. Buy the Whakarewarewa Hangi Pie Experience , it costs $107 for two and at 1pm after the visit you get to eat their traditional lunch at the restaurant. The pie is deliciously cooked in the steamed cooker you will be taught about during the visit. The meal includes a chicken pie with veggies, salad and corn, a steam pudding with fruits. custard and whipped cream for dessert and free coffee or tea. 

At 2pm, enjoy a 30-minute show with Maori, dances, songs, haka. They also invite you to learn a bit of their culture making you dance and repeat after them! After the tour, you're free to stick around and visit their retail shops, get yourself a Maori tattoo and walk around the geysers. 
Geyser in Whakarewarewa, The Living Māori Village
Geo Thermal Pods
Whakarewarewa Hangi Pie Experience

Tarawera Trail 

Tarawera Trail
From Rotorura, pass by Lake Tikitapu (you must stop for a picture!) and carry on for another mile or two. On your right is the entrance to Tarawera Trail. There are several trails with different walking distance depending how much time you have. We did Oneroa Lookout (8kms, 2 hours - one way). There are plenty of stops, maps and toilet as you go. At the finish point, there is also Hot Water Beach DOC Campsite (you need to pre-book and it is only accessible by foot, 7 to 8h trek). 

View Map

Stop 3: Lake Taupo

Downtown Taupo

Taupo is probably going to be the most urban town you'll encounter during your trip. And although we know you're enjoying very much the "into the wild" life, a good day for laundry, hot shower and grocery shopping is not a no no. Near the I-site, you will get the library for FREE wifi and documentation, public toilets and hot showers ($2 for 4 minutes, yes 4 minutes!) They can lend you towels as well if you wish. Watch out, it closes around 4pm! 

Now laundry time! There is one laundromat located few minutes from the I-site, but before rushing there, read carefully (so that you don't do the mistake we did!). From I-site, go to Lotto & Dairy Taupo to purchase a key for the washing machine (it costs $3 and can be used anywhere in NZ) then top it up with money to use for the laundry. It depends on the locations, but roughly a washing machine is $4 and dryer is $3.
Washing Machine mission, click here to zoom in
After all your duties done, we suggest you enjoy your lunch with a view by Great Lake Taupo. You can also rent bikesfor the day or by hour to cycle around the lake. On Saturdays, there's a farm marketdowntown to buy food, drinks and souvenirs from the area.

Huka Falls

Huka Falls Trail
After a morning duty in Taupo, time to explore some more wilderness. Good news, there is a huge waterfall nearby. Jump on your van and drive a few miles up towards Huka Falls. You can either do the one-hour trail or drive directly to the final point. We highly recommend the trail since you will go through beautiful colours of nature. 

Read more about activities in Huka Falls here
Huka Falls, Taupo

Stop 4: Turangi

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

If you like hiking and speechless views throughout the whole trek, you're in for the best day of your life!
Red Crater Alpine Crossing 1,978m
Be prepared - this day requires a bit of preparation before hand. Firstly, head to Turangi I-site to book your shuttle that will pick you up at finish and bring you to the start of the trail. It costs $15 per person. The trail takes about 7 to 8 hours so we advise you start early. Some don't have all day so start the hike at 6AM however it may be very windy and cold at this time of the day, which is why we advise you start at 8:15, which gives you plenty of time to wake up, have breakfast and drive to Ketetahi road (finish point of the trail), about 45 minutes from Urchin campsite . We recommend Backyard Tours for booking your shuttle. They do both ways if you do not have a car or a van. If you do, then only book one way with them. At the starting point they will gather everyone to say some greetings and prayers in Maori as well as take a group picture (a serious and a funny one) you can get it for free on their Facebook page a few days later! The night before the trail, make sure you pack all your hiking essentials because it will be a long but beautiful day.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing

What to pack for Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Viewpoint from Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Half-way through.
Per Person

- 2L of Water
- 1 Pack of tissue paper
- 3 Snacks bars (at least)
- 2 Bananas
- 2 Ham, Cheese, Avocado & Tomato sandwiches
- 1 Apple
- Hat
- Gloves
- Extra layers as it gets cold on top but hot at bottom
- Sunglasses
- Suncream
- Lip balm
- Camera
- Hiking boots
- Down jacket
- Hiking sticks (not mandatory - depending on how fit you are)

Stop 5: Bay of Islands

Hole in the Rock Boat Cruise
From Turangi to Bay of Islands, the drive up to Bay of Islands will take you the entire day. Start at 9:30AM to arrive around 7PM with a break for coffee (at Wild Beans careful if you order a large Black Americano it is actually going to wake you up and make you hyper for a while!!) and toilet around 11AM at Parau, then for lunch at 2PM in the town of Te Kawan (right after Huntly). The only restaurant in town gets many choices of takeaway food or eat in. You can get a hot chicken and avocado panini for $4.5 and a sparkling water for $3.5.

Note well: this may be your last chance to fill in your tank with gas before you get to Cape Reinga. There won’t be many if none last stations up north! Average petrol price there is $1.7 per liter. The more remote the fast station the more expensive the price. It can sometime gets up to $1.9 and down to $1.6.

At Whangarei, go grocery shopping at Park n’ Save . Please note they charge for plastic bags $0.10 in case they ask if you want one…You will understand why they asked! Other grocery stores such as Countdown provide them free of charge! If you need to refill in beers & wine there will also be plenty of liquor stores in town. If you are looking for information about the area, there is also a I-site in town. Just follow the signs. The great scenic campsite to be staying at is Otamure Bay , 27kms from Whangarei, on the beach. It costs $13 per person per night plus $2 for recycling rubbish bag. You can park anywhere on the campsite. They have a beautiful remote beach where the sunset and sunrise are breathtaking. They also have cold showers and toilets and access for boats.
Otamure Bay DOC Campsite
Head to Paihia to book a 4-hour cruise at the I-site. The best quality/price is the “Dolphin Seeker” also called “Hole in the rock” cruise by Greatsights boat tours. It costs $105 per person to go around all the islands, watch dolphins, pass through the hole in the rock and see the lighthouse. The cruise starts at 1:30pm and ends at 5:30pm. Make sure you bring sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat (careful with the wind - don’t bring your favourite one!) 

After the cruise, if you are looking for a campsite, Paihia is quite touristy (station balneaire in english) so you may only encounter Holiday Park to camp for about $20. Surely it has hot shower, great view on the bay and unlimited wifi but if you are looking for a cheaper option you may need to drive a little bit further out. We found a great spot with the nicest owner just a few minutes away, in Haruru Falls. The camping also motel is called Falls Motel & Campground . For $20 per person per night you get to camp right by the waterfalls, you can also rent canoe for $10, you also have kitchen facilities (gas cooker, boiler, microwave), washing machines & dryers, power points, hot showers and unlimited wifi all included in that price. We also recommend this campsite if you aim to drive up to Cape Reinga the next day as it is located right on the road that leads to it!
Peter is very nice and if you also are very kind he will make sure to give you the best spot on the campground!
Hole in the rock boat tour

Stop 6: Cape Reinga

From Paihia to Cape Reinga, it's about  3 hours drive along the coastline. Stop halfway for lunch by the bay. There are lots of parking with a view, picnic tables and toilets. We tried for you the one in Pukenui a great spot - one hour before Cape Reinga.

Once you arrive in Cape Reinga (you may stop a few times on the road just to capture some great shots because yes the view is insane!), walk towards the lighthouse for a magnificent view on the ocean, what am I saying 2 oceans! This is the most northern part of NZ where the Tasmanian Sea (female) meets the Pacific Ocean (male). Incredible show you could be staring the whole day. We recommend you do the 2km walking trail starting from the lighthouse going down to the beach (45min one way).
Lighthouse at Cap Reinga
When the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasmanian Sea
Cape Reinga Walking Trail
Where to stay

The Tapotupotu DOC campsite is located few minutes away from the lighthouse. It is a standard campsite of 45 places $8. We advise not to arrive too late as it is quite a famous spot. Firstly because located right on the beach, great spots for surfers and also because there is not much other choices of accommodation in the area!

Visit a winery

Cotton Hill Winery

Free wine tasting if you buy at least one bottle otherwise it is $5

Mike Webb is the duty manager and the owner of the winery. With his wife and dog they opened the winery in 1996. He calls himself a citizen of the world although born in the US. His passions besides wine is cycling and sailing around the world. He is very kind and will tell you everything about his travels as well as what to see in Oceania - Fiji, New Caledonia, Tasmania…Anything to make you even want to spend more time on the continent! He spends his days at the winery or fishing and hunting in the area. His winery is open from 10am to 5 pm and located on SH10 before Paihia. Mike will make you try any wine you want - starting from white then red and the icing on the cake the port (uniqueness of NZ). Trust me you will end up buying more than one bottle. Because if you compare his wine to grocery wine in NZ…wait no it is not comparable!

View Map

Back to Auckland

From Paihia to Auckland is quite a ride, it could take 3 to 5 hours depending on weather conditions and roads. If you need to be in Auckland the next day - we advise you stop halfway at the DOC campsite Uretiti Beach . It is a scenic campsite ($13 per person per night with cold shower, toilets, recycling rubbish bag for purchase at $2). You can park anywhere, near the beach is a great spot - especially if you wish to crack some beers, eat some snacks and play cards in the evening watching the beautiful sunset!

The Grocery Shopping list for the camper on a budget

Campervan "Lucky" rented with Lucky Rentals
- Toilet paper x4
- Dishwashing liquid
- Sponge
- Gallons of water (15L for 3 days)
- Eggs (to boil or in omelette)
- Peanut Butter (for breakfast on toast)
- Jam (with peanut butter indeed!)
- Slice Bread
- Crushed Ice (1 bag per day for the cooler)
- Sugar
- Tea or coffee
- Pasta or rice
- Tuna can
- Ham
- Cheese slices
- Tomatoes
- Avocados
- Bananas (energy when hiking)
- Apples
- Kiwis (one a day, they are so tasty)
- Bagels
- Cream cheese (for bagels!)
- Oats (for porridge)
- Orange juice
- Beers (18 cans $24 NZ lager) & wine ($14 a bottle)
- Peanuts & chips

TOTAL: $124 for 2
Enjoy this kiwi world!

Marion Payen, Founder of Hibiscus & Nomada

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself”


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