NORTH ISLAND CAMPERVAN ROAD TRIP
Are you planning your road trip for New Zealand and need some ideas on where to go, and best places to visit in New Zealand in a motorhome? You are in the right place! We have also written about our trip South Island Trip click HERE Take a look!
This travel blog is intended to help other campers travel New Zealand in the best way possible, alot has changed with New Zealand rules and you can no longer freedom camp. DOC camps are available, but do not supply hot water, or electricity just drop toilets. During summer months these DOC camps are full up by 2pm, and if you are travelling with children you do not want to find yourself stuck with no where to stay.
I would highly recommend either booking local familes “Driveways” you can find these on Campmate (download the app on your phone. The next recommendation is Top 10 Campsites www.top10.co.nz they have everything you need from dump stations, cold water, hotwater showers, Wifi, electric hook up, kitchens, TV rooms, bike hire, laundry, childrens park, jelly mountain and of course you can book in advance! If you sign up to become a member you will get 10% off each park you book, and during the Autumn months of May and June they Offer 30% off. For us, comparing the cost of DOC sites (that only offer toilets) and Campermate sites, you are achally paying around the same for Top 10 – sometimes a little more – but trust me its totally worth every penny!
We have been in situations in the South Island when we have not had anywhere to dump, or shower and stuck in the middle of no where without phone coverage, and I can tell you that wasnt fun! Since we have travelled New Zealand these past 6 weeks we have realised that it is not fully equipt for campers, freedom camping is now illigal in most towns, and we have found it a very hard country to camp in.
So here you go this is our 18 day road trip around the North Island of New Zealand;
Night one: Cuba Street Motorhome Park $35 (campermate app)
This carpark campsite is 1 min walk from the hippy vintage town of Wellington, Cuba Street is full of quirky people, and vibrant restaurants and bars.
We ate at The Flying Burrito Brothers, and a meal for 4 came to $100, which for us was very reasonably priced.
Night two: Paekariki Holiday Park $42 (campermate app)
We loved this campsite because it was full of large butterflies, and each bay is separated by hedges; we felt like we was in the Queens’ back garden! Lots of grounds for the kids to explore as well as a park and a jelly mountain.
DRIVE FROM PAEKARIKI PARK TO LAKE TAUPO 4 HOURS
1 Night: Happy Daze Drive Way – families drive way $40 (campermate app)
This wasn’t an official Lake Taupo campsite, but we could walk out the back of their garden and see the edge of the lake! Beautiful spot with a beach, and stunning sunset! The family are extremely friendly and have done their fair share of travelling. Our girls played for hours with their children, they are lovely and very sociable – my girls had a lot of fun!
DRIVE FROM LAKE TAUPO TO ROTORUA 1 HOUR
3 nights: Top 10 Rotorua (30% May and June) $148
There are lots to do around Rotorua so we suggest taking your time here, its an absolutely fascinating place; If you can stand the smell (to be fair it wasn’t as bad as others describe – it was like burnt gases) This campsite is a perfect base for all the things to see and do below.
Things to see and do:
Hot Pools at Top 10: Here they have two hot pools that they fill up every day with fresh hot water from the natural geothermal pools, it’s a bit smelly and green, but is ment to be good for your skin and its very relaxing.
Wakarewarewa Forest, Treewalk: www.treewalk.co.nz This is an absolutely amazing 700 metre long tree walk in the Redwood forest, that consists of 28 suspension bridges for you to walk across from tree to tree. Redwoods are known for being gigantic, these are only 100 year old are not even fully grown yet, but still HUGH! We booked the Redwood Treewalk +Nightlights which was out of this world! You get to walk along the tree tops after dusk when they light up the trees with beautiful lights, and 30 lanterns designed by an artist called David Trubridge. If you would like to see them in the day too, and you have a campervan maybe try what we did; park up at 4pm walk into the forest (free to explore the forest next to the treewalk) go back to cook your dinner, and then walk across to the treetop walk after sunset!
Wakarewarewa Living Maori Village: www.whakarewarewa.com This for us was an absolute treat, and the best experience of our trip so far! We had a guided tour around the Maori Village, learnt about how they live, and some of their family history. It was fascinating to see all the geothermal activity and how they use it in their everyday life. After the tour and Maori traditional dance show, we were allowed to spend as long as we liked exploring the village, which we did! We ate lunch in their café, and we choose pastries and corn that was cooked in their geothermic underground ovens – trust me you must try, they taste amazing! We then took a walk round following the maps to see all there hot pools, mud pools and geezers, which again I highly recommend.
DRIVE FROM ROTORUA TO HOTWATER BEACH 3 HOURS
4 Nights: Top 10 Hotwater Beach (30% off May/June) $159
Beautiful campsite 5 minute walk to the Hotwater beach
Things to see and do
Hotwater Beach – This for us was a fascinating experience, and to this day we don’t totally understand why there is hot water under the sand! But anyway, this must be on your list of to dos for the North Island. It will be busy, so get there at the times they suggest, dig a hole and sit in the water that comes up from the ground! It will be hot, so if you have a bucket take it with you so you can cool it down with cold sea water.
– absolutely beautiful beach, if you go in Autumn you will have the whole beach to yourself!
– Unfortunately we didn’t get to go to the coves, it was on our list but struggled to get there with the weather, and tide times. I love to go places where no one else is, and capture beautiful photos, so sunrise was on our minds. But everytime we got up at 6am, the rain was coming down hard! Absolutely gutted.
DRIVE FROM HOTWATER BEACH TO AUCKLAND 3 HOURS
1 Night: Z-Peir $20 for 24 hours (campermate app)
Things to see and do
There is probably a lot more to do in town, but we had to apply for our Visa for Thailand, and buy a few things so we didn’t have a lot of time here. After we finished our to do list, went to a cool place called Great Escape www.greatescapethegame.co.nz If you are brave enough to take on a challenge you can be locked into a room where you have to solve puzzles to escape! We choose “Dreams of Alice” as we had the kids with us, and we didn’t know what to expect! All I can tell you is that there are a lot of surprises, and we managed to escape with 2 seconds spare! Highly Recommended!
DRIVE FROM AUCKLAND TO WHATUWHIWHI 4 HOURS
WHATUWHIWHI (Doubtless Bay)
2 Nights: Top 10 Whatawhiwhi (30% off May/June) $91.80
Beautiful campsite, close to the beach!
Things to see and do
Fishing: Buy fishing equipment from Reel Rods www.reelrods.co.nz we just bought two different types of hand lines that cost $5 – $10.
Perehope Beach – 2o metres from the Campsite great for Fishing, fishing at high tide is recommended.
Waikato Bay – Double bay full of beautiful shells and warm water, as we are travelling in Autumn we had the whole beach to ourselves and had a fantastic day out.
Karikari Beach – Long white sandy beach absolutely beautiful.
DRIVE FROM WHATUWHIWHI TO CAPE REINGA 2-3 HOURS (allow time for Sand Dunes)
1 Night: Tapotupotu Campsite DOC – $32.50 Beautiful campsite by the beach (campermate app)
Things to see and do
Te Paki Sand dunes – Hire boards from a little van at the dunes $10 each – the smaller dune behind the van is best for kids and they will still fly down the dune quite fast we had a fun few hours here.
Lighthouse – Very spiritual place for Maoris as this is where their loved ones in spirit “leap” into their final journey. This is a beautiful 10 minute walk down hill to the lighthouse.
Meeting of Oceans – To the left of the lighthouse you will see a group of waves, which is the Tasmanian Sea and Pacific Ocean meeting – they do not mix just clash against each other.
DRIVE FROM CAPE REINGA TO BAY OF ISLANDS 2.5 HOURS
BAY OF ISLANDS
1 Night: Top 10 Piapia $52
Things to see and do
This was a pit stop from Cape Reinga to Red Beach – We didn’t plan anything here as we needed a relaxed day, but that is what is great thing about staying at a Top 10, they always have things to do for the kids if you are wanting a chilled day! We spent the day playing in the park, and the beach 1 metre away from our campervan. There are around 20 ducks here, that are not shy, and love to be fed! If you are looking for things to do around the Bay of Islands, there are plenty of boat trips and day trips for you to do around the area.
2 Nights $63
Top 10 Red Beach (30% off May/June) $63
Beautiful campsite walking distance to beach and 30 min drive to Auckland
We have spent the entire day packing up all our things in just one small suitcase, and bagging up the rest of our unneeded clothes, and unused food ready to donate tomorrow at Auckland City Mission!
Things to see and do
We have found possibly the worlds best homemade science children’s museum in the world! You can tell that a lot of thought and hard work has gone into designing this, and is most definitely made with love!
If you are after something to do with the kids, especially if you are world-schooling we would HIGHLY recommend The Science Play Room https://www.scienceplayroom.co.nz Our girls love science, and this covered everything in a fun, educational way for children of all ages! This is an interactive, educational mum and toddler group that will keep them little minds active for hours! There is even a separate locked gate area for small children/ babies aswell as somewhere to make a tea or coffee.
The room is made into many little rooms separated by little wooden walls in bright fun colours. I can’t remember them all but they have: The Body, Bees, Dinosaurs, Magnets, Space, Submarine, Music, Vets, Electricity, Architecture, Air machines, Mirrors, Bending Light…the list goes on!
Spark innovative, imaginative learning through playful experiences.
Stimulate curiosity about the world around you.
Explore science, technology, engineering, arts and maths activities.
The lady who runs it has clearly worked very hard to put this all together, a lot of thought has gone into The Science Playroom and you must definitely take a visit! Please go to the website for directions on where to park for Free.
Here are some photos from our day:
Last Destination is Auckland Airport as we are off to THAILAND for 2 months keep an eye on our blog!
Top Tip: We suggest planning your route around dump, water stations, and petrol stations and Plan your trip before you go to your next few destinations; Wifi and phone service is very limted.
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