White sand beaches, sheep and Maori culture – a motorhome adventure through North Island, New Zealand
In this Guest Post, Allison MacLaughlan shares her journey through the North Island of New Zealand by motorhome in which she found stunning white sand beaches, dipped into Maori culture, passed thousands of sheep and kayaked in the waters of the Tasman Sea.
This past winter my partner and I set off for the amazing adventure of traveling through New Zealand. The plan was to do two weeks on the North Island and then two weeks on the South Island. After much research, we decided to explore the whole North Island by motorhome.
Starting our Motorhome adventure
Both of us love to travel but neither one of us had ever driven or gone anywhere in a motorhome. The idea sounded convenient and fun. So we did our research, chose the motorhome we wanted to rent and flew off for the adventure of a lifetime. We met up with the owners of our big 2-bed motorhome at a large parking lot close to the Auckland airport. We loaded in our stuff, got comfortable, pulled out our maps and headed out for the open road.
As we navigated our way down the busy Auckland highway we realized that driving our new camper was going to be a bit of an adjustment. For one we were driving on the opposite side of the road than we were used to and for another this motorhome was big! In fact it seemed far larger in person than it did on the website and the streets felt very narrow.
In hindsite taking our first drive in rush hour traffic was probably not the brightest move. We left the busy streets of Auckland as fast as we could.
Once we hit less populated roads we began to relax, get into the groove and enjoy the scenery. We headed first to a little town called Tutukaka on our way towards the Northern tip of the North Island. I loved the name of the town and it was to be our first stop over.
Tutukaka is a gorgeous little fishing town right on the ocean with stunning white sand beaches and a vibe that says “welcome, come chill out with us”. The holiday park bordered on a farm that had hundreds of cows who at some point during the afternoon all ventured by to take a look at our home on wheels. We walked the beach, ate some particularly good food at the Oceans Resort Hotel restaurant, had a mediocre first sleep in our motorhome and took off the next morning for more adventure.
Heading Towards Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga is at the very northwestern tip of New Zealand along the Aupouri Peninsula. It is literally 100km from the nearest town and is home to a stunning 90-mile long beach, warm sunny weather and loads of spiritual folklore. The locals quickly informed us that the native Maori of New Zealand named this cape ‘Reinga’ which means the ‘Underworld’. They believed that the cape is the point where spirits of the dead enter the underworld.
The drive to Cape Reinga took us through a lot of farmland with tons of sheep… and I mean tons of sheep. I learned that New Zealand is home to over 4 million people and over 30 million sheep! As you can probably imagine there were fields and fields of them. Eventually we arrived at a town that quickly became a favorite of ours called Paihia. Paihia is a funky little town on the ocean with lots going on. The Maori culture is very prominent which is reflected in the artwork and architecture of the buildings.
Paihia is rich in history and a fascinating stopover. It is well worth a visit to the grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between various Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown.The grounds are stunning and have a sprawling view of the turquoise colored ocean. The design and architecture of the Maori treaty building are unique and beautiful. We enjoyed Paihia so much that we stayed for three nights and really took full advantage of the nice weather and abundance of sightseeing.
Later that week we finally made it up to the Northern tip of Cape Reinga. This area of New Zealand is particularly hot and we found that although the 90-mile beach was gorgeous, it was far too hot to walk on with bare feet. After removing our sandals we could not walk for more than a few seconds without scorching the soles of our feet! We took it all in, admired the beauty of our surroundings then decided to quickly move on and continue our journey.
We began to make our way back down the other side of the North Island. Driving narrow and winding mountain roads with a large motorhome was an experience I will never forget and not likely ever do again. Gorgeous scenery but a bit too nerve racking to fully enjoy it.
New Zealand Hospitality
At the end of our two-week North Island trip and after many crazy driving experiences, both my boyfriend and I decided that we would never rent a motorhome again… at least not in a place where we have to drive on the opposite side of the road. We found it to be fairly exhausting and the gas was extremely expensive. However I have to admit that it did allow us to see a lot of New Zealand that we probably would not have even realized existed had we traveled another way.
With a motorhome we found that we explored back roads, tried out different campsites and met a lot of very happy and friendly New Zealanders. We heard much about the endangered and flightless Kiwi bird – which we never once saw. We tried all kinds of interesting food, walked countless beaches, kayaked in the waters of the Tasman Sea, explored the wineries of Napier, survived the toxic smells of Rotorua and braved the crazy wind ripping rain of Wellington.
We ended the trip in what turned out to be our absolute favorite town, Mount Maunganui. This is a small surfing town in the Bay of Plenty with a little mountain at its far edge. The beach, the mountain, the great food and the surfing vibe made this place electric and I could have stayed for a month. It was the perfect place to chill for a few days before leaving the North Island.
We dropped off our motorhome back at the Auckland airport parking lot, breathed a sigh of relief and headed to our next destination… the South Island of New Zealand. It was hard to imagine topping this amazing experience but we were going to give it a try!
My thanks for this Guest Post to Allison MacLaughlan from Inflatable Kayak World who loves to take her kayak along with her on her travels to explore new destinations and waterways. You can follow Allison on Twitter @IK_World and on her Facebook Page Inflatable Kayak World
More tales from New Zealand
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