We came back from the South Island the last weekend of October, and Katy had three shifts before we started our next adventure. Katy had 14 days off to take a licensure exam in Hawaii, which was a one day exam. We decided to make a road trip out of it, getting to Hawaii via Auckland and then again getting back home. One thing that I am noticing is that it is hard to get into a routine when we are never in New Plymouth for more than four nights at a time. That is not something that I anticipated prior to this year. I imagined that I would have a steady routine, and it would feel like there is a lot of spare time, and I would be able to get done every thing that I want. That is not the case.
We left in the evening heading up to the Waitomo region and planned to do some camping. We discovered that the site we thought we were going to camp at only allowed campervans, and there were not any cheap campsites in the area. We discovered on CamperMate that the Oparau Roadhouse, which is basically New Zealand’s version of Woody’s, had free camping, and we were very hesitant at first but decided to give it a go. We were very pleasantly surprised at the nice campground with picnic tables they had setup outside of their shop and decided to camp there instead of heading to our fallback fallback plan, which was still an hour away. Topping it off, the owner gave me a free meat pie since they were closing and were just going to throw them away. We set up the tent and then cooked dinner. We have a new semi default camping food, which is a pack of pre made Indian sauce (assorted flavors, depending on what’s on sale at the time) and adding in veggies, chicken, paneer, and/or beans.
We woke after a good night’s sleep and then headed off to Kawhia, a sleepy beach town. Like all towns in New Zealand, they take their coffee seriously, and it seemed like a third of the businesses were selling coffee as we drove through. Our goal was to get to a hot water beach. There are multiple beaches that are hot for some (geothermal) reason, and they are all called hot water beaches, which can get confusing since the term replies to multiple different spots. This is a lesser touristed beach, and we got there and could not find any hot water. You need to go at low tide, and the step that we missed was bringing a shovel and seriously digging down to expose the hot water. Even though we failed to find the hot water at the beach, we did discover one of the best seashell beaches that I had been to. It is up there with Sanibel Island in my opinion. We spent an hour or two moseying down the beach picking up assorted shells (which of course all had to go into my jacket pocket).
Our next day consisted of taking back roads along the coast to Raglan, which is known for its surfing scene after being featured in a popular NZ movie some years back. It was a really nice drive, mainly on 1.5 lane dirt roads. There was only one time when we were not sure if we were in a farmer’s field or on the actual public road. We had a picnic lunch next to a waterfall and then continued on. We had a couple more stops and ended up at our campground on a hill overlooking the town and ocean. Unfortunately it started to rain, and we brought our settlers game into the tent. We decided that the next night we should get an AirBnB to repack for Hawaii and let our stuff dry out. We brought two tents to New Zealand, and with the amount of rain here we think that we might start bringing them both with us when we go camping, so they can dry fully between uses. The day stayed pretty rainy, and so we toured the Hamilton Botanical Gardens, which were actually pretty impressive, even in the rain. That night we went to a couple breweries before calling it a night.
Auckland was then our next stop on our road trip. We had a flight that left around midnight, so we figured that we would explore Auckland for a day. Since we flew into Wellington and not Auckland we had missed our chance to see Auckland when we arrived in the country. Auckland is a real city. It feels like a real city. You can tell that a quarter of the population lives there. They even have multiple lane true highways that goes for more than five miles. The highways even have a shoulder. We found a cheap parking garage and explored the city for most of the day. There is a lot to see and some good museums, but I would not make Auckland a large part of any dedicated trip to New Zealand. We were able to snag some of the best oysters that I have ever had during happy hour for $1.40 USD each. One thing that going to Auckland really cemented is that New Zealand is a really new country. People have only been here for about 900 years, and Europeans have only settled here for roughly 200 years. We ended our Auckland day by heading to the airport for our flight to Honolulu.