Category Archives: Northland

With the Green things

We were heading north with no particular destination firmly set except we thought, maybe a night at Waipu and then a night the NZMCA park at Rainbow Falls if there was room.

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The traffic was unbelievable so we left the motorway at Silverdale and headed up Highway 16. I haven’t been up this was for a long time so it was a nice drive through. We stopped at the lookout spot looking out over the Kaipara Harbour just before Wellsford which was nice too.

Rafe at Caledonian park in Waipu

We arrived in Waipu and headed straight for our favorite spot at the Caledonian Park. There are only a couple of spots there where you can get a TV signal next to a power pole and we managed to snaffle one of them.

The next morning, the grounds people were up early to set up for the Scottish Games so we headed towards Kerikeri and after a cup of coffee at the Pear Tree Cafe by the Stone Store, we went to check in to the Rainbow Falls park.

This has to be one of the better parks being right next to a fantastic walking track with the Falls right behind.

Rainbow Falls park with the lighthouse

Just by chance, it happened that old friends Max and Jan were staying opposite us in their new Hobby Caravan so we joined them for a drink outside their caravan.

Max and Jan’s new Hobby with the wrap around sun glasses 🙂

The next day, we went for a walk down towards the Stone Store by the river but got half way down when we realised that we didn’t have a wallet between us for something at the other end so we turned around and headed back to Rafe.

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A fantastic walk with people fishing in the river, lots of people out enjoying the walk and people swimming under the falls. It is really nice to see so many people out enjoying this fantastic park.

Dusk

We had just got back when my old mate Grant rang and he Dani arrived ready for a cold drink. Max and Jan arrived back at the park not long after (Dani’s parents) and joined us as well. Lots of fun and laughs in Rafe in a nice park.

If you haven’t been to this park, it truly is fantastic having some great walks, the falls and public loos just over the fence as well. The park is now at a point where almost half of it now has gravel down with the grass growing through and it looks great.

Rafe’s Track to Rainbow Falls Park

Checking out the Kiwis

Kiwi North which is about 5k’s out of Whangarei on the road from Dargaville is also the home of the Whangarei Museum and many of the local clubs with an amazing collection of things that clubs have.. Stationery Engines, Medical Museum, Radio operators, Cars and Tractors, Railway enthusiasts and the list goes on.

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One of the Kiwis  – pic supplied

The big attraction though is the Kiwi house where you can get up close with them. This is the first time Fiona and I had ever seen one this close and with one of the volunteers close by telling us all about them was amazing.

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They are actively involved with a Kiwi breeding program to try and stop the decline in their numbers and their modern Kiwi House makes it so easy to see them right up close. We were inches away from them!

A Nugget in the museum found in Hukerenui

The park is also currently refurbishing the Clark Homestead along with an amazing Octagonal shaped Chapel and other outbuildings.

See images inside the house from my last visit.

Clark Homestead being done up

There is the old Kauri Train station and the old Whangarei Woman’s Gaol there too.

Whangarei Woman’s Gaol

To make it easier for NZMCA’rs who would like to check it out, they also have parking for up to 4 vans with power, toilets and showers for just $15. There is also a discount for access to the Kiwis and the Museum for NZMCA’rs too!

The parking for Motorhomes

I’ve popped in here before but this was Fiona’s first time and its a great place with plenty to see and do.

Every Kiwi should do this and with international visitors being hard to come by due to Covid, make sure you pop in next time you’re up that way 🙂

Rafe’s Tracker map to Kiwi North – Armada GPS

A Gentleman’s car made by Gentlemen

This is the description of the Packard car by the creator of his Packard Museum, Graeme Craw.

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Graeme started the Museum in one of his farm sheds in Anawhata in the 1950’s. Over the years his collection expanded to Engines, Motorbikes, Earth moving machinery and other interesting stuff.

Lots of Packards

He eventually moved the collection to Maungatepere where it is now. Now run by Graeme’s sons family, it is a not to be missed stop off on the way from Dargaville to Whangarei.

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Its an amazing collection of cars, tractors, earth moving equipment, telephones, sewing machines and more. One of the stationery engines there even dates back to the 1860’s.

Phones
Army Indians

Not far from Kiwi North, it is about 5 k’s out from Whangarei and there is fantastic motorhome and caravan parking there too.

Rafe’s Tracker map to the Packard Museum – Armada GPS

Poutu Marine Hall Campground

This is a trip I’ve been looking forward to for several years but have been put off by the roughly 25k’s of unsealed road and I needn’t have worried as its better than most metal roads around NZ and it is being sealed as we speak.

Pouto Marine Hall Campground as its called is beautifully run by husband and wife volunteers John and Janine, who live opposite and is run for the community that own the campground.

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The campground

Its is a fantastic site set up on a hill looking out across the Kaipara eastwards towards Tapora and has easy access to two great beaches.

The hall (villa) was the original Custom House built in the early 1800’s and used to clear the vessels cargo as it came into the wharf that was just down off the beach. The wharf is being rebuilt along with the sealing of the road.

Rafe by the Historic Hall

The Hall houses the Kitchen, Shower and Toilet facilities that are provided for the Campground.

Tent town

The campground is also a participant in the NZMCA Campsaver scheme as well.

The front of the old Custom House

We were lucky to get a park right up next to the Hall plugged in.. lucky as the campground was chocker mostly with families in tents and with only 8 powered sites, it didn’t take much to fill !

The view from the Campground across the Kaipara

On our second night here, we were sitting in Rafe having a glass of something when walking alongside Rafe was an old friend I hadn’t seen for years. I jumped outside and called his name, he was as shocked as I was that we were both is such a small place and that we both knew someone 🙂

The Lounge inside

It turns out that they lived in a Bach they have had there for over 20 years and built themselves (with hand tools!) and were right opposite the camp ground. Our sons used to be at school together and were great mates.

Janine and John couldn’t have been more helpful and with John running a quad bike trip out to the historic lighthouse 7 k’s away, this was one of the reasons we were here.

A neat campground with super nice people in a great spot.

Rafe’s Tracker map to Poutu – Armada GPS

Quad bikes to Poutu Lighthouse

Over the years there was a service run locally in Poutu by a chap called Jock who by all accounts was a real character and one of those really nice people who couldn’t do enough for you. Jocks operation used to run visitors along the 7 km beach to see the historic Lighthouse.

The lighthouse up the top

Sadly Jock passed away and the service stopped so the Poutu Marine Campground managers, John and Janine carried it on and it is not to be missed.

John popped over to Rafe the day before and had worked out the tides so we could get there and back with no issues along the beach the next day… wow we were fizzing..

Odd looking Dunes on the way

I was to drive one quad bike with Fiona on the back and John would lead on the other. I was given a brief driving lesson on the front lawn and we were off to the boat ramp down the road and off down the beach.

Parts of a shipwreck appearing.

The sun was shining but there was a good 20 knot westerly which we were driving into but it added to the fun. We stopped along the way to see a wreck which had just appeared out of sand dune.

Apparently every day is different when the wind is blowing where the beach completely changes and sand dunes appear and disappear. Its amazing.. This has the effect where all the historic wrecks along this coast do the same and when they’re uncovered, they’ll disappear just as quickly !

We moved on to see some really unusual sand dunes that had popped up and a ti tree grove that had been completely covered by sand. A bit further we veered off through the dunes to see a freedom camping spot with about 4 carloads of people enjoying a private little spot in the dunes. After a friendly wave, we carried on.

John about to head up to the Lighthouse

Up came some BIG sand dunes and it was time for another driving lesson to get familiar with the loose sand. These were massive and its huge amounts of fun.. Fiona stayed on the back so I think I passed the test 🙂

On a bit further and it was time to climb up the 80 odd metres to the famous Lighthouse. John was saying that DOC have just replaced the door broken by vandals and given it some paint but it needs much more. The lighthouse was built in the 1840’s as by then there had been nearly 100 shipwrecks with boats trying to cross the bar and sinking in the channel.

Fiona nd John with Lighthouse behind

At the top there is more evidence of attempts to plant some trees covered by sand. The sand up around the back of the lighthouse is all quite new.

The Quad with sand covered trees.

After a trip further around to another vantage point for a piccy, we set off back to the Poutu Camp.

A person we saw clamber up the sand dune to take a pic.

The whole trip took about 3 hours and was just fantastic.

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A day or so later in the afternoon, John popped over and offered to show us up the inner harbour which has a completely different look to it. That was great too and its amazing how much of the beach and cliffs have eroded up there. There was a pipe of a bore right at the water line where a village once stood but had to be abandoned.

Fiona nd John on the inside of the Harbour looking back to Poutu

Another great trip and well worth doing.

As far as we could go.. close to Kelly’s Bay

Convoy in Russell

Leaving Rawene early, I headed out through quite thick fog towards Russell. “The Maui Convoy” was due back today from a quick 24 hr excursion through Manganui, staying overnight at the Hihi Holiday Park which they all raved about so I must do a trip up there sometime soon.

The guys on the ferry did a great job on trying to get Rafe over to Russell without scraping the back but getting off was a big long scraping metal sound…. horrible but there was no damage.. just a cleaning of some dirt off the chassis.

My sideways park up the top

Once I was happy there was no harm done, I set off to Russell and checked in at the Top 10 who are doing quite a good off season rate if you give them a few days notice.

Great view.. taken the next morning.

The parks are a bit smaller but they found one that suited Rafe’s nearly 8 metres and the view was spectacular. All the parks have a grey water waste gully trap and everything is absolutely in tip top order.

I plugged in, opened some hatches for some fresh air and set off into the town which is just a few minutes walk. Its a special place here with the History and the old buildings.

Looking across towards Paihia

I wasn’t long down there when one in the convoy Grant rang to announce his arrival and was on his way down to set up a tennis game. All those in the convoy are members of the Ngataringa Tennis Club in Devonport.

Grant .. all concentration

So we sat in the plastic chairs (the Grandstand) on the court for a Wimbledon experience 🙂

The fans In the Grandstand

I didn’t catch who the winners were but we were then off to the Duke of Marlborough to watch the rugby being played at Eden Park. Great game..

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One of the drivers Malcolm who was travelling with his wife Bonny is a real gem on the piano. They live in Whitianga. Malcolm found a grand piano in the bar and off he went. Everybody was hugely impressed and with a few glasses of wine behind us, it was a whole lot of fun !

We were all starting to get a bit hungry and there was no food left at the Duke so we adjourned to the Sportfishing club next door where they whipped up some fantastic meals for us.

The Duke !

This was the last day of the Convoy. All the vans had to be handed in at 2;30pm in Mangere the next day!

Grant off for a shower

A bit of pool playing and then we walked back to the Holiday Park.

A great day and a lovely town. Coming here for just one day as we did is not a very clever idea, I’ll have to come back for more 🙂

Rafe’s tracker map to Russell

Those lovely old Buildings

There is something about Dargaville

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The famous bridge behind the band rotunda

It has a special feel to it. Maybe the old houses and the history but it definitely has a vibe all of its own.

Plenty of room

Having a great NZMCA park here so close to town is great too and it is full of character just like the town with the old buildings.

The main street of Dargaville

I was last here just after it was first opened and I think I commented then what a special place it was.

Now there is fresh water and I noticed from around by the band rotunda that there is a seat out on the point off the end of the park.

The special NZMCA seat on the point

A great effort from those involved in putting this park together as it is definitely one that stands out!

This has grown !

Historic Rawene

This is an amazing little town with some of it built out over the water.

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The supermarket !

This is where the car ferry leaves for Kohukohu on the northern shores of the Hokianga Harbour.

While the convoy was doing the tourist thing at Opononi, I headed off and got checked in at the Rawene Holiday park which is right up on the top of the hill. Its about a 20 minute walk down to the town and bit longer to get back 🙂

Parked with a great view

I got Rafe settled and headed off down to the township to have a look around. I found a café and sat down in the sun with a coffee while I waited for the “Convoy”. About 20 minutes or so later, they rolled in one by one.

Most of the crew.. L to R Grant, Paul, Pete(standing), Malcolm (crouched in front), Craig, Cathy and Bonnie.
and theyre off.

Its a fascinating town with the supermarket and several shops all built on piles over the water.

On the corner

As the mid day ferry arrived, they all boarded and were off.  After getting a few piccies around the town, I headed off back to the camp and had a quiet time listening to some music.

Amazing place and loaded with history.

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About 7pm, 3 Motorhomes turned up from the ferry and maneuvered their way around me to park in. It all seemed quite close but when I saw it in the morning, I could get out easily. It would have been awkward with any more. I think this is definitely a 7 metre limit camp unless there is no one else there.

The view
Some of the unusual cabins

A really nice helpful crew with some amazing quite unusual looking cabins and great view down the Hokianga from the parking area. The loos, showers and toilets are really good and close to the parking.

Rafe’s tracker map to Rawene

Sandhills at Opononi

The Maui convoy arrived in Dargaville at about 4pm at the Dargaville Countdown supermarket. There were provisions to be bought and then we were headed together to Opononi.

We all convened in a street opposite the supermarket and then set off towards Opononi. They were going to stop in and check out Kai Iwi lakes and then head on up through the Waipoua Forest.

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From the top of the Hill looking out to the entrance to Hokianga Harbour

Its a twisty windy 80 odd k’s but quite a neat drive and after stopping up at the top of the hill of Omapere to get some piccies. I rocked on to the Opononi Beach Holiday Park.

Looking down to Omapere

The park is made up of terraced parking areas with some cabins as well all looking over the lovely sandhills at the entrance of the Hokianga harbour. Great views.

Out to the heads

I checked in casually mentioning that there were 5 Maui campervans about half an hour behind me !

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As they’ve had so much rain, we were to park on the road along the top terrace instead of in the park “otherwise we’d be there there for weeks”! So I was pleased about that.

Looking up at the road.

This campground had some awful reviews on the app but to get here and dealing with the owners who were fantastic, you would think you were at another Motorcamp.. so don’t believe the reviews.

Some cabins too

The troops turned up in the Maui vans just as it was getting dark and we were all parked one behind the other on the road with extension cords out for the power.

The crew arrives. Check out the view
The convoy arrives!

Rafe was host to a bit of Happy Hour before we all walked about 100 metres around the corner to the Opononi hotel for tea and a cold one as you do.

Great Harbour

A lovely spot and I imagine it would be great in Summer.

Breakfast time between the vans

In the morning we all got under way and headed to Rawene just a few k’s along the road so they could get the ferry further north.

Rafe’s tracker map to Opononi

That West Coast feeling at Bayleys

What a great spot. The Bachs are slowly turning into great houses, the colours are just magic.

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Good Colours

The Bayley’s Beach Holiday Park is the perfect spot there to stop the night with Sharkies Fish & Chip shop (and bar) just up the road. It is also taking part in the Camp Saver program.

A little mud but pretty good really given the huge amount of rain.

Unfortunately with all the rain, it was a bit wet but there was no danger of getting stuck.

The loos with the best view

An easy 15 minute walk out of a back gate takes you down to the amazing beach which goes for miles in each direction. After parking Rafe, I went for a walk down to the beach and then onto Sharkies for tea.

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I was following some friends of mine who had all hired a Maui Motorhome for the 3 day special and were doing a frantic 800 k odd trip around Northland. I was going to catch up with them the next day in Dargaville and then follow them through Opononi and onto Russell.  They were heading further North and catching up later.. a fun trip but lots of driving.

The Campground
Good for the kids

It was actually quite windy down at the beach but the campground was well sheltered.

In the morning I headed back into Dargaville to wait for the Maui Convoy 🙂

Rafe’s Tracker map to Bayleys Beach