Tiritiri Matangi – Paradise for Campervan Travellers
February 26, 2013
Last week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Tiritiri Matangi. Tiri (as the locals call it) is a wildlife sanctuary located on an island of the same name, just 30 kilometres north-east of the Auckland CBD, in New Zealand’s North Island.
Tiri is a small island with no proper roads, so you can’t take your rental campervan there – but you can do the next-best thing. You reach the island by ferry from Gulf Harbour, located at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, north of Auckland. There are two good things about Gulf Harbour (apart from the fact that it’s your gateway to Tiri!): 1) it boasts fabulous views across the Hauraki Gulf all the way to Auckland City, and 2) if you’re travelling in a self-contained campervan or motorhome you can freedom camp there. So, I highly recommend you arrive in the afternoon (beat the peak hour traffic as it does get quite heavy heading north out of Auckland CBD in the afternoons), find a suitably scenic spot in the carpark for your rental motorhome (hopefully you’ll hire one of the big motorhomes with the huge panoramic windows in the back, from which to enjoy the splendid city vista), and enjoy dinner in your motorhome or alternatively go for a wander to nearby Gulf Harbour village where you’ll find a couple of eating and drinking establishments. The following morning, you can enjoy a walk on the rocks or marina and a leisurely breakfast overlooking the water before meandering off to the ferry just a short distance away.
A tip about the ferry: I recommend you book the ferry in advance as it leaves from Auckland before stopping at Gulf Harbour, and I did speak to a couple of campervan travellers who had missed out on going to Tiri the day before because the ferry from Auckland couldn’t fit them on! Also, do check with the ferry company (360 Discovery) as they only travel some days of the week at certain times of the year.
The ferry trip over to the island was relaxing – I enjoyed the views and fresh sea air from the top deck. Tiri is completely pest-free and there are strict biosecurity measures in place to ensure it stays that way. On arrival all new visitors receive a briefing about the island from a Department of Conservation ranger. If you’re lucky and the guided tours aren’t fully booked, you can join one (to make extra sure, book a guided tour at the ticket office before you depart Gulf Harbour). The guided walks are ridiculously cheap and well worth doing.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and took us all over the island, pointing out lots of interesting flora and fauna. The forest (bush) here is really fascinating. Thanks to a combination of pests and farming, the island was pretty much bare until the 1980’s when it was replanted with native trees by a group of dedicated volunteers. The forest is now starting to flourish and it is interesting to see the ecosystem emerging. A number of unique New Zealand native species have made Tiri their home, most notably the kokako, famous for its beautiful song, the flightless takahe and the tuatara. Sadly we didn’t see any kokako but we saw plenty of other amazing birds including many tui, bellbirds, hihi, kereru and most notably the takahe, which were very friendly and willing to pose for photos!
I should also mention the amazing gift shop on the island. If you are planning to buy New Zealand souvenirs as mementoes of your New Zealand campervan holiday, this is the place to do it! The shop has lots of really unique and beautiful New Zealand-made merchandise and there is something for everyone. I’m going back there to do all my Christmas shopping!
We spent all day on the island and I would have gladly stayed longer. As well as the wildlife, there’s an interesting lighthouse and a lovely beach, perfect for taking a dip after tackling all the bushwalks.
Tiri is a great day out and I thoroughly recommend it for anyone travelling New Zealand by campervan. It’s really great value for money – you only pay for the ferry trip and a little extra for a guided walk, leaving you plenty of money to spend at the shop and/or as a donation to this wonderful project.