As mentioned our very kind and generous friends lent us their super awesome Holden V8 Sandown and two man tent so we could go camping in the northlands of New Zealand.
A lovely country house, looks like an old English country estate!
Then driving about 3 ish hours from Auckland we arrived in:
Kawakawa and found some free camping.
We experienced the Hunderwasser toilets and behind these is a car park and small patch of grass where you can freedom camp. Simple camping!
We also experienced a local Sunday night in the only bar in town: cheap bourbon and cola and free pool tables with lessons from the local kawakawa billiards team.
(1 hour ish drive from kawakawa)
From Paihia where we took the ferry (return for $24) to Bay of Islands (Russell). Very cute seaside like village. We Camped in Russell at top 10 holiday park which was not the cheapest site ($42 for two adults) but was the nicest and closest to the pier where we were getting our dolphin boat trip from the next day.
We Booked the boat trip where you can swim with dolphins (if you see them). We were told this trip doesnt always spot let alone swim with dolphins so everyone had their eyes peeled. However, if you don’t get to see the dolphins don’t worry because seeing the beautiful bay of Islands by boat is still a wonderful trip and they give you a voucher to come back again.
Use the money saving site bookme.co.nz in NZ and AUS to save money off loads of activities.
In the last few minutes of searching for dolphins (its a four hour trip), we were so, so lucky and two very playful adults appeared jumping beside the boat!!! So after lots of screaming we all grabbed a snorkel and jumped in.
The water was so cold it was difficult to even breathe but made for an exhilarating swim and well worth it. The dolphins swam with and around us for at least 30 minutes. WORTH THE SPEND.
BONUS; if you don’t get to see or swim with them you get a lifetime ticket to go back. Maybe organise your trip to pass by on way up to the cape and back again just in case.
Sadly, we lost a lot of our photos and vids from the trip (memory card crashed) but we did have some decent footage of the dolphins swimming towards us unerwater, im sure you can find some on youtube just type in Russel eco dolphin trip.
From here we headed for Cape Reinga, stopping at some beautiful beaches along the way, including 90 mile beach!
(Five hour drive from Russel)
Cape Reinga has a great little free camp area and an honesty box camp site for campervans and tents. Be warned its down a very long windy and dusty road so be mindful of the vehicle you’re in. You get to camp right next to the beach which is beautiful and there are lots of other campers. This is quite nice if you have been driving without seeing another human for hours. Some people were out surfing so take a board if you’ve got one!
In the morning we took the short 20 mins drive to the cape Reinga lighthouse which is a great walk and awesome views.
We then drove to the sand dunes surfing spot which is an hour or so south from the lighthouse.
Hire your board before you get to the dunes (if youre coming from the south or just after if youre coming fron the north) for $10 as it is $15 when you get to the dunes.
Be prepared for the best work out of your life in order to get up the dune.
It’s worth walking all the way to the top, taking in the spectacular view of 90 mile beach and doing the smaller dune a couple of times before attempting to throw yourself down the huge dune. Definitely worth another slog up to get the amazing adrenaline rush on the way back down.
We drove back down to Paihia and camped at a little hostel /campsite called the pickled parrot which was a sweet little spot.
On the drive back to Auckland we stopped to see some glow worms;
FREE glow worm caves. This was a great find using AA new zealand (great book) and maps.me (Cave Entrancege0://4deX9ZZjAz). This app is fantastic as uses a fraction of the storage than Google maps and can download vast areas. Downside is navigation is more challenging and the detail of the maps is limited, however if you don’t have a data plan it’s great.
We then got back for our final night in Auckland before starting the bus tour, stay tuned!