Caravanning across New Zealand I: Beaches and the Wine Trail (2015)

Maneuvering a high roof camper van on a mountain road with strong crosswinds makes for a nerve wrecking drive; I learned this lesson the hard way, holding the steering wheel at almost 90 degrees just to keep driving straight, crossing the Pakuratahi mountains in New Zealand’s North Island. The saving grace in all of this was the stunning views, in fact the scenery throughout the Island is spectacular from beautiful shores to rugged mountains, from rolling hills to the amazing volcanic regions, New Zealand is truly an adventurers paradise. I had the good fortune of visiting the country for the first time in fall (in the Southern Hemisphere) of 2015.

Arriving in Auckland after a 43 hour journey from Lahore, due to a last minute ticket change, I was pretty exhausted by the time I checked into the Oakwood Manor Motel. After a short nap I picked up my Camper Van from Wendekreisen Caper Rentals, a company I would highly recommend based on my experience. Got myself some roast chicken dinner from a restaurant in the nearby Mangere Town Center before calling it a day.

The next morning after a quick breakfast, I was on the road. My first stop on the trip was the Coromandel Peninsula, around a three hour drive from Auckland. The drive was very picturesque, specially when driving up the peninsula on Highway 25. I made several roadside stops to take in the views, had lunch on the way at the (rather interestingly named) Bugger Cafe. I pulled into my RV site at the Top Ten Holiday Park in Coromandel early afternoon, and after checking in I headed into town. As I had yet to stock up for the trip I made a beeline for the Four Square in town to get groceries, also got a bite to eat at the UMU cafe. After loading up the groceries in the camper, I went exploring, Coromandel has a rich history as a mining town and there is a Museum of Mines one can visit. Towards the evening I came back and grilled some steaks and had a good nights sleep in the camper.

After a hearty breakfast I headed towards Papamoa beach near the town of Tauranga. The area is very well known for its pristine beaches. I reached my campsite early afternoon and had a relaxing day cooking and lounging about on the beach.

The next day after an enjoyable breakfast on the beach, I packed up and headed towards the town of Taupo, my next stop on the road trip. The area has many adventures to offer from geothermal pools to hiking to fishing, I decided to use the little time I had there to hike up to the Huka Falls. A couple of hours hike from the Spa Park leads to the falls, the hike is easy very picturesque, the falls themselves came highly recommended but this was one of the rare times when nature in New Zealand failed to amaze. Having seem many waterfalls around the world including the Niagara Falls, the Huka Falls were rather underwhelming. However the enjoyable hike was worth the trip here.

From Taupo it was on to the Wine Region of Hawkes Bay, the first stop was in the town of Napier. Napier is know for it well preserved Art Deco buildings from the 1930’s. I took at leisurely walk around town, following a self guide map I picked up. Had a very nice lunch at Cafe Tennyson, before heading to my campsite in the nearby town of Hastings. I had decided to stay here for a couple of days and explore the many wineries in the area. Being on the road you run into interesting people, met a dad and son duo, who were sheep farmers, and would help with grape harvesting to make ends meet, it turns out that sheep farming is not as profitable as it used to be, they invited me to help them the next morning to harvest grapes at a vineyard.

I also had the chance to visit a the wineries in the area and sample some good NZ wines. I had rented a bicycle, got a map of the various cellar rooms and spent a delightful day riding from vineyard to vineyard visiting the tasting rooms. Two days were definitely not enough to take in the area and all it has to offer, but I had to move on to my next destination, the town of Masterton……..but that’s a story for another day.

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