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Archive for December 2012

Sometimes I am a little unfair about State Highway One – particularly that ‘main drag’ that takes travellers between Auckland and Hamilton in the North Island. Once upon a time (showing my age here!), that road was winding and single lanes in each direction for most of the way. These days the majority of the route is a roaring expressway travelling pretty much in a straight line. Great if you want to get between destinations quickly – as many commuters, business travellers and locals want to do – but not so interesting for the tourist. Never fear, intrepid tourist, all is not lost! Here are some much more interesting ways of travelling between the Waikato region and Auckland (or vice versa).

1. Go west in your rental campervan

Sunset at Port WaikatoThis is a good way to go if you’re travelling from Waitomo. From here, it’s an easy drive to Raglan, well-known as an international surfing destination but also worth visiting for beach and bush walks, local arts and crafts and great cafes. Spend a night free camping within view of the beach (check on the Rankers map or with the local Information Centre to find out where you can freedom camp). The following day, head north along the not-often-travelled road to Ohautira (take a detour to the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls on the way). From there, continue north and then west to Waikaretu to visit the gloriously non commercial Nikau Cave to view stunning formations and glow worms. Nikau Cave has its own website where you can find out more about the cave and the beautiful café, perfect for lunch or a coffee break.

Further north on the Waikaretu road is ‘Weathertop’, a film site for Lord of the Rings. It’s located on private property so you’ll have to view it from the road – if you’re not sure where to find it, ask a local. Then keep going to the beautiful beach of Port Waikato. Only one hour from Auckland’s international airport, Port Waikato is a great place to spend your last night in New Zealand before dropping off your rental campervan. Check out the art studios and galleries, go for a surf or a coastal walk to look for fossils or visit the seal colony, or if you’re travelling with kids you’ll find plenty of calm shallow water to play in just inland in the tidal estuaries. Best of all, Port Waikato offers spectacular sunsets – spend the last night of your NZ campervan rental holiday enjoying fish and chips on the beach as the sun goes down over the Tasman Sea. Now that’s a memory that’ll last a lifetime.

2. Meander your campervan east

Say you’re planning a visit to Hobbiton in Matamata, that tourist mecca for Tolkien fans, before heading back to Auckland Airport to drop off your campervan and depart. You can head up the Eastern side of the North Island all the way to Auckland. Start by heading to Te Aroha, famous for its naturally hot soda pools – make sure you stop for a soak. From there, continue to Paeroa, home of the giant L&P bottle, monument to the Lemon & Paeroa soft drink, ‘world famous in New Zealand’. Grab a bottle of the real thing from the local dairy (NZ slang for corner store) while you’re there! More typically Kiwi things to try. You can then head north to Thames, a quaint gold rush town situated at the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula. Spend a night in the amazing bush of the Kauaeranga Valley before heading to Thames for morning tea and a browse in the art galleries, or get a taste of history at one of the town’s museums.

From Thames you can meander your way around the Firth of Thames, a network of shallow tidal flats which cover around 8,500 hectares. This is a great place to spot a huge variety of sea and shorebirds (you’ll find lots of information about wildlife in the area on the DoC website). I recommend you spend the night in Miranda, well known for its hot mineral pools. You can visit the mineral pools, or if you stay at the Miranda Holiday Park (one of my favourites!) you can bask in their fantastic hot pool as much as you like!

The next day, meander your way along the coast beside the Firth of Thames, perhaps take a walk in the Hunua Ranges before heading through the beautiful farming region of Clevedon. Enjoy some local gourmet produce or sample some of the area’s boutique wines before dropping your rental campervan off at Auckland Airport.

More about planning your trip

a-and-p-showRecently I took the kids to the local A&P show. A&P show stands for Agricultural & Pastoral show. They are, and have been for over 100 years, an annual event in many communities all around New Zealand. A&P shows encompass all aspects of rural life, and as well as traditional agricultural things like displaying livestock, they’re a fun day out for the whole family. We enjoyed checking out (and patting) all the different types of animals, munching on locally made treats, watching a show jumping competition, doing arts and crafts and jumping on the bouncy castle (that last one was the kids, not me!).

An A&P show is a really typically Kiwi thing to do, and if your New Zealand campervan rental holiday coincides with an A&P show in any part of the country, I encourage you to go along and see what it’s all about. You can find a list of all shows around New Zealand on the Eventfinder website.

NZ campervan holiday activities

An A&P Show is probably not something you’ll find mentioned in a touristy guidebook, and you won’t find many tourists at the shows – they’re predominantly attended by locals. But that’s precisely why you should go! One of the great things about a campervan rental holiday is that you can get away from just doing the tourist activities, explore some off-the-beaten-track places, and meet some of the locals.

Here are some other typically kiwi activities to include in your New Zealand campervan rental holiday.

Things New Zealanders do that you can too!

Eat fish and chips on the beach – with thousands of kilometres of coastline, there are plenty of gorgeous beaches to enjoy in New Zealand – and you’re never far away from a kiwi fish & chip shop! The really authentic fish & chip shops (or ‘takeaways’) still do their fish & chips in newspaper. Grab a lemon wedge or some tomato sauce, settle down on the beach under a pohutukawa tree, rip a hole in the newspaper and enjoy!

Get yourself some jandals – even in winter it’s common to see a kiwi in their jandals (also known as thongs – check out our Kiwi slang page if you need more help with NZ words!). If you don’t have jandals, grab yourself a pair – many shops sell them. Wear them anywhere – you’ll fit right in!

Go barefoot – still on the foot theme: Jandals are considered dressing up for many of us! Lots of tourists are amazed at the number of New Zealanders who walk around in bare feet. It’s common for kids to be in bare feet at school, and you’ll see people at shops and all kids of places with no shoes on. Why not give it a try?

Try hokey pokey – the icecream, that is! Hokey pokey is New Zealand’s most popular ice cream flavour, and you must try at least one while you’re here in NZ. What’s not to love about delicious vanilla icecream studded with crunchy morsels of hokey pokey? Yum!

Get a feed of pipi – If you are on the beach you may wonder why the locals are walking around in knee-deep water at low tide. The reason is simple – they’re getting a ‘feed’! Anyone can dig for shellfish such as pipis or tuatuas, though it takes a while to master the skill of digging with your toes. Steam them open in your campervan kitchen and eat them with vinegar, or make pipi fritters. The locals might be able to show you where you can get some ‘puha’ (native green vegetable) to go with them. (Note: there are limits to the quantities each person is allowed to collect, and there may be some beaches at certain times of the year when collecting shellfish is not permitted. Look for signage on the beach or ask at the local information centre if you’re not sure).

Go skinny dipping – It’s not hard to find a beach, river or lake in New Zealand where you have the whole place to yourself. So strip off, get wet, and enjoy the isolation and sense of freedom that’s all part of the fun of a Kiwi campervan holiday.

Head to a wine and food festival – particularly if you’re travelling in summer, you may come across these by accident, but they’re such good fun we think you should plan to include at least one in your campervan rental holiday. Our delicious local cuisine is a source of great pride for New Zealanders, and many towns and cities have festivals to celebrate fine local food and wine. As well as yummy treats you’ll be treated to local entertainment and get a chance to mix with lots of the locals. Check out our events page for more information about wine and food festivals and other New Zealand events.

Call someone ‘bro’ – you will hear this all the time, it’s our Kiwi alternative to ‘mate’. Read more about New Zealand slang words

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