When people come to New Zealand looking for gorgeous scenery they should spend the first few years in the North.
This is my home and I think pretty special. Everywhere awesome is only an hour or two driving from somewhere else awesome. Mountains and skiing, beaches and surfing, lakes and fishing, cities and rural. The north has it all.
So, it was with great excitement that I found myself planning a media road trip with fellow photographer @brentpurcell.nz to discover and rediscover some of the Norths finest. The icing on the cake…. I was going to travel in pure luxury with a Campervan courtesy of Wilderness New Zealand.
It was late afternoon when we pulled out of the Wilderness NZ Auckland depot in a brand new Cruise 4 with only 100km’s on the clock, and headed to Muriwai.
We made it just in time for sunset. After a great sleep it was up in the dark to see what the sunrise would bring. The rain came and went, the sky coloured up briefly and the rainbows came out to play. Not a bad way to start the day.
The plan was to visit a few of the lesser known camping spots in the Wildernessst Camping Guide so we headed towards the Coromandel Peninsular. The scenic route is a must do. We took a little wander on the Kawakawa coast road and found a gorgeous little beach called Waiti Bay. A great spot to watch the sun come up if you’re that way inclined.
We stayed at Rays Nest. It’s an endless long stretch of campervan parking right on the water between Kaiaua and Miranda. Known as the seabird coast it has an impressive number of these special little guys. It’s really best for sunrise but we were lucky to strike a spectacular sunset here. Sunrise didn’t disappoint either.
We spent the day wandering along the Thames Coast Road. I’ve been driving this road for years. There’s not many corners! In my opinion it has some of the most rugged, spectacular coastline in New Zealand. It was a little early in the year but in just a few weeks the Pohutakawa will flower and the whole coastline comes alive. There are some great freedom camping spots along here. There’s plenty of space right on the water at Waipatukahu Point Reserve and Waiomu Beach reserve is handily placed right opposite the Waiomu Café. Stop here next time you come up. The food is top level and the coffee is to die for!
Coromandel town is always worth a stop. The people are great, its laid back, a little quirky in places and has some wonderful places to eat, but this trip we needed to keep moving. We stopped for the night at McDonalds reserve, about 20 minutes north of Colville and watched the sun go down. A bit of a storm was brewing and a rather dramatic funnel cloud took over the sky. It was quite something to see.
A very early start and a rather speedy drive saw us make Granite Wharf just in time for sunrise. The wharf sits in the shadow of the Moehau mountain range. In years past the granite was transported from here across to Auckland by barge and into buildings right around the country. You can spot it in the parliament buildings in Wellington.
Further up is Fantail Bay, a favourite among fisherman, then it’s north to Port Jackson. This is a stunning beach. We stopped here for a break and some lunch. Talk about dining with a view. The Muriwai Coastal walk starts here.
Right at the end of the road is Fletchers Bay. The Coromandel Coastal walkway starts or ends here depending on your direction. There wasn’t time this trip but we’ve done the walk a few times and highly recommend it. There’s a mountain bike track as well if that’s your thing.
Heading back down we stopped to shoot sunset in a secret spot before making our way to Stony Bay. The roads a little narrow for the last ten kms but there was no traffic and you get to wake up in Paradise. This place delivered in the early morning. Super calm conditions and reflections and then the sky lit up with colour. To finish off a perfect morning the light hit the top of the mountains and all was good with the world.
Time gets away on you in the Coromandel and with only two nights to go we hit the road and made our way back to Coromandel. This time we went via Tuateawa. The roads are lined with native bush and the coast is extra rugged here.
After a quick caffeine stop in Coromandel, up the middle we went calling into Matarangi before making our way to Opoutere. Now this is a must see. We arrived at the camping spot and the tide was out so I was a bit disappointed to start with. However, a mere 10 minute walk through native bush and pine and you are at a beach so perfect you have to see it yourself to understand. I’m definitely coming back in the summer.
A quick hi to Onemana and it was on to Whangamata for the night. It was Guy Fawkes so there was plenty to see in the sky. Whangamata has a great beachy feel to it at this time of year when there’s hardly anyone around. Can get manic in the summer.
We headed over to Raglan for lunch and then out to Ruapuke. The coast is lined with sand dunes and the views are awesome.