After eighteen days traversing New Zealand’s South Island by campervan, we caught the ferry to Wellington, eager to explore the North Island. We spent ten days driving around in search of sunshine, good wine, and more outdoor adventures.
These were the highlights of our North Island trip, complete with our favorite campsites and other recommendations:
- Wellington – After disembarking the ferry we visited the Botanical Gardens. Hungry for lunch, we quickly popped open the trunk and made sandwiches, sliced some apples and carrots, and headed into the park for a sunny walk, a picnic, and a view of the city. Later in the afternoon we took a stroll down Cuba Street and stopped for coffee and ice cream.
- Martinborough – Eager to taste some New Zealand pinot noir fresh from the vineyards, we headed to Martinborough for two days. We stayed at Martinborough Top 10 Holiday Park, which was in the perfect location for exploring the town and nearby wineries by foot. Though quite small, the town is really neat – it has several well curated shops and a few great bars and restaurants, including Martinborough Brewery and The Martinborough Hotel. The wineries in the area are also fabulous, and many are within walking distance of each other – our favorite was Margrain.
- Napier – On our last day in Martinborough the weather radar predicted rain for most of the surrounding area, except for Napier. So we headed straight there. We stopped for lunch along the way at Yummy Mummy, an incredibly delicious bakery with the friendliest staff. We each had a meat pie and we picked up a caramel brownie to go. They’re well-known for delicious cheesecakes, which we tasted and thought were wonderful, too. When we arrived in Napier we walked along the beach and into the town to see the art deco architecture and design it’s known for before heading to our campsite for the night. After settling into the site our neighbor paid us a visit to say hello and bring us fresh peaches and nectarines from his orchard. He ended up joining us for a few beers and staying for dinner (mushroom risotto, yum!), and we had such a nice time talking to him about his life and family. At the end of the night, he gave Jeff a jacket from his hometown of the Chatham Islands and Jeff gave him a shirt from Northern California in return.
- Taupo – Our stop in Taupo was pretty quick, but we had a chance to check out a nature reserve where we had lunch and went for a short hike. After checking into our campsite, Jeff went for a run while I did some planning for our South America trip.
- Rotorua – Unfortunately our time in Rotorua was centered on a visit to the doctor, but once we accomplished this task we had time to visit the nearby Whakarewarewa Forest for a nice walk. The trees here are actually native Californian redwoods that were planted within the last hundred years. We stayed the night at Willowhaven Campsite where we parked right at the edge of the Bay of Plenty and ordered pizza for dinner (a luxury!)
- Raglan – We had heard great things about Raglan and were excited to visit this little bohemian town on the west coast of the island. Although the weather wasn’t ideal during our visit, we really loved our time there. We visited many of the shops and galleries and had lunch at The Shack on our way into town, and then we made our way to Solscape where we stayed for two nights. This was another one of our favorite campsites, mostly for the great views and proximity to Ngarunui Beach.
- Northlands – Our last stop before heading to Auckland. We stayed at Bethshan Campsite, a relaxing site right on the water. The perfect place to run, read, write, and watch Christmas movies before a whirlwind week of travel.
- Auckland – We explored the Ponsonby neighborhood of Auckland and had a great dinner at The Occidental for Belgian beers and green lipped mussels before heading to the airport to cross the Pacific Ocean in search of the Americas.