First Impressions Of Campervan Life In NZ

First impressions are lasting impressions” so the saying goes. If that’s true we’ve absolutely made the right decision! I looked out of our camper van, named NZareandare by Barry, on Friday morning, and said: “It’s like my dream come true.”

Having lived aboard NBAreandare since April 2013, life in a camper van in New Zealand is fairly easy to adjust to. True, space is even tighter than in a narrowboat, but that’s not unexpected.

Our inaugural journey is from Auckland to the tip of the North Island at Cape Reinga, then back down and around to Gisborne via Tauranga. We’ve got almost three weeks to enjoy a variety of places along the way. Many I visited in 2002 with mum and dad, most Barry has never experienced.

Tui Glen Reserve

Our ‘virgin’ night was spent at a New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) site at Tui Glen, in north-west Auckland. I wanted to visit a dear friend, Edna, who I’d lodged with from early November 2001 to January 2002, when I worked for Geneva Health agency as a midwife in Gisborne. Edna, and her late husband Les, had built a one-bedroomed unit above their garage at Wainui Beach for the Millennium celebrations. Gisborne being the first city in the world to see the sunrise brought many people there. I have heaps of happy memories of my stay there – including when my younger daughter Kim stayed for three weeks over Christmas and New Year. I lived with Edna again when I emigrated to NZ in January 2005.

Edna’s now in her 90s, still sprightly, always cheerful, and continues to volunteer – currently at the ‘Church Op Shop’. An ‘Op Shop’ is the NZ equivalent of a charity shop in the UK. Op=opportunity.

Tui Glen Reserve was a gentle introduction to camper van life for us. We entered via a padlocked gate, with two tarmacadam areas available to park for the night. There was a comfortable lounge that could be accessed if you felt like more room, and rubbish facilities. It cost us just $3 per person for the night.

The following morning, a helpful chap called Rex gave us brilliant advice for that night’s park-up – a place not listed in the NZMCA Travel Directory. But I’ll come to that in a while …

Kitting Out NZAreandare

Since taking ownership of our cute campervan, we’ve just about kitted it out with all we need (and admittedly some things that are just ‘pretty’ like the fairy lights) through a combination of gifts from Arti at Wenderkreisen Auckland, donations from Bev and Blair, a few purchases in Briscoes, and lots of amazing bargains at the Hospice Op Shop in Helensville and the Maungaturoto 2nd Hand Shop today. Oh my goodness! The ‘op shops’ here are incredible. Full of useful things. Barry was ecstatic to find some essential tools at the latest one, including a manual drill and bits.

Shelly Beach Campground

Rex advised us to venture to this place and boy, were we thankful to him! It was fantastic. I had to catch up with some work on Friday, so we chose to stay for two nights. We booked in at the shop/cafe, choosing the electric hook up. It cost us $23 for two nights, including toilets and showers on-site, and places to dispose of our ‘ grey water’ and ‘black water’. Yes, folks, we’ve finally had to succumb to a cassette toilet!

Barry informs me it wasn’t too difficult to empty the aforementioned tanks – I’ve no doubt I’m going to have to take my share in the not too distant future!

The view from the van in our ‘spot’ was amazing. Not a bad vista for a day working on the laptop!

I woke up early each day to gaze at the sunrise, and we watched the moon come up and shine on the water each evening.

Yesterday morning we watched in amazement as a steady stream of cars with boats on trailers drive onto (literally!) Shelley Beach, depositing said boats into the sea. Sea fishing is a huge hobby in New Zealand, and the day was fine with hardly any wind, blue sky and sunshine – perfect conditions and a weekend to boot.

Fortunately, there are strict rules and regulations about which fish, their size, and how many are allowed to be taken from the ocean.

After gawping at the dozens of vehicles and boats surrounding us, we treated ourselves to a delicious cooked breakfast at the ‘Sandbar’!

A Long Drive To Almost Nowhere

Instead of turning left to Helensville, we thought we’d head to the tip of the peninsula. It’s unlikely we’ll do this trip again, we said. After driving for about half an hour (the final ten minutes on an unsealed road) we discovered we couldn’t even get to the end! Hilariously we met a number of other people who’d had a similar idea and were similarly disappointed. Ah well. If you don’t take the road less (though it turned out it wasn’t so less!) travelled how will you know what’s there?

Actually investigating after the trip I discovered there are a few things to see on the peninsula. Like Lake Ototoa, Te Pau Puriri National Park, and the walk Barry did a tiny bit of – the Mosquito Bay Coast walk (just below Woodhill Forest in the map below). The road was so steep and stony it seemed too dangerous to venture far. Lesson learnt – next time aim to do more research!

Where Aotearoa Began

Last night we parked up at the Kauri Museum Matakohe car park, which is a POP – Park On Property. As we’re Certified Self Contained (CSC), we’re allowed to do this for free which is amazing. We’re heading into the museum this morning to discover more about the early European settlers. It won’t all be positive that’s for sure. They decimated the native forests in this area chopping down the huge kauri trees to make things such as ship masts.

Northland is the landing place of Kupe (over a thousand years ago) and the first European settlements of New Zealand.

Using the stars and ocean currents as his navigational guides, he ventured across the Pacific on his waka hourua (voyaging canoe) from his ancestral Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. It is thought that Kupe made landfall at the Hokianga Harbour in Northland, around 1000 years ago.

Settling Into Campervan Life Easily

We’ve already met lots of lovely people already in the first two campgrounds. Some with their own camper van, Motorhome or Caravan. Others in hired ones. I’ve no doubt we’ll meet many more. It’s reminiscent of the type of camaraderie we’ve (mostly) encountered during our eight years of living the cut in the UK.

We’ve everything we need ‘onboard’ now, including a heater for the cooler nights, and settled into this life on the road surprisingly easily so far. It feels like a long way from the chaos of the UK and the pandemic – that’s because it is – in more ways than one!

18 thoughts on “First Impressions Of Campervan Life In NZ

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  5. Great to see you are enjoying our motorhome life. Although I loved your other life too, I still love my home country.
    Great chance to see all we have to offer. Your new home is so similar to mine and glad to see you have joined NZMCA, it has so much to offer us. Take care both.

  6. I have been trying to find one of those hand drills, (and a hand mixer) in thrift stores here and I can’t find a single one! Next time, I’ll know where to look. : )

    • It was the only one! A rare find. I know the hand whiskers you mean yes I’ll look out for one of those it’s be perfect! The thrift stores here are incredible. Full of hidden treasures. The settlers brought all their best china and silver with them 😉

  7. Looks like you are both enjoying our beautiful country as we do. Such a great way to really see the areas you don’t see in a car. Enjoy

  8. Sandra it’s so lovely to see you and Barry enjoying yourselves and the beautiful scenery in NZ. It really fills my heart with happiness reading about your adventures. I must start paying more attention to your blog. My wife and I have been caravanning for a few years, but Scotland is the furthest we’ve ventured. I’m inspired and in awe of you two. I look forward to reading more of your adventures. And how funny that they call it “black water”. I guess it depends on what you’ve eaten!

    • Oh how lovely to hear from you. I think of you often. It truly is magnificent and magical here. My soul is at peace and at home.

      I know! Should be more brown and yellow water aye? That’s what I thought 😂

  9. Pretty much non-stop rain here in Derbyshire today, although it seems we got off lightly, with floods in the south and west. 13 degrees and dark before 7 o’clock, varying degrees of lockdown, I have to confess to some degree of envy at your current situation. Thankfully we have the grandsons to keep us young!
    It sounds to me as if a return to the UK may be some considerable time in the future. x

    • Hm, I’m not envying you 🥺
      Keep well both. Those grandsons will help!
      No plans for a return for a while …

    • It is wonderful indeed. Months ago I was afraid it wouldn’t happen. Perseverance and patience prevailed 💜

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