Aug 24th- 29th
And so our bags were packed, the apartment emptied, we'd been to collect our hire car, and overfilled the car with all our belongings, including all our camping equipment, and were saying our fond farewells to the city that had been our home for the last 9 months.
Our first stop after leaving Auckland was Whangaparoa, only 1 hours drive away, but what would be a good spot for our first night of hour 3 and half months road trip through both North and South Island. We stayed at 'Shakespeare National Park' for €16 pp. It was all a bit strange though, we had to check in through the phone which was in a bug infested phone booth. The facilities were basic toilets, no kitchen, no showers and no wifi. We could have easily been cheeky and just said on the phone that there was only one of us as no one was physically there and we practically had the camp site to ourselves. We chose a good shelter spot near to the beach- of which you could still see Auckland in the far distance- we hadn't even got far enough away from the city yet! We went shopping for more tent supplies, like a stove and torches, then chilled out by the tent cooking our first meal of soup. We then decided to stay another night as we were happy chilling, we went walks up the nearby hills and watched the cows grazing in the fields and later watched the sunset over those hills, and at night ate at a Turkish restaurant in Whangaparoa town centre, the food was very good!
The following day we headed to our next destination, another 1 hour up the coast to Whangarei where we stayed at Whangarei Central Holiday Park for €17 pp, with a nice grass plot and hot showers. We were joined for dinner (soup) with a convict who not so happily told us he had never left NZ and now can't due to his parole- we spent that night with one eye open! Whilst in Whangarei we drove to (although could have walked) to Whangarei Falls where we walked around the bushland to the impressive 26 metre falls. Then had a drive to Mt Parihaka- an ancient volcano which dominates the skyline, it was a former Maori Pā site (village) and has a war memorial at the top (which lights up at night and can be seen from the surrounding areas). The views from the top were impressive and we could see for miles. We also visited the Botanical Gardens 'Botanica' which had native ferns and other beautiful species of plants and flowers. The town basin is the biggest attraction, we wandered around looking at the historic buildings and watching the boats bobbing in the marina whilst we grabbed an ice cream from the 'Fudge Shop'.
After Whangarei we had a long (in NZ standards) 3 hour drive to the northern tip of NZ- Cape Regina. We walked out to the lighthouse and took in the scenery around us, before heading to 90 mile beach (only 55 miles long) and we went sand boarding on the Te Paka sand dunes, we hired a body board for €15 and took in the mammoth sand dunes, taking it in turns to whiz down the dunes on the board, of course I was scared something terrible would happen to be (like I'd perhaps roll all the way down turning into a big ball of sand) but in the end I loved it, its totally a bucket list thing! Then back to Cape Regina to see the sun set before heading to Tapotupotu Bay where our campsite was, it was a stretch of grass next to the beach and only €6 pp, there was just a box you dropped your money in to. It was such a gorgeous setting, cooking our soup on the stove whilst star gazing. In retrospect we should have stayed there longer!
Other places we visited in Northland were out west in the Waipoua Forest, home to the worlds largest Kauri trees 'Take Mahuta' which reaches almost 58 metres tall and its trunk is almost 18 metres wide, and is over 2000 years old! They were massive!! Can you spot me in the photo?!