Oh if only we had more time.. How often does one repeat this when on holiday? If you're running to a travel schedule New Zealand will be no different. You might have to chose between routes to take. We've planned 2 possible trips traveling Auckland/Wellington. If you're in a hurry to get to your rental campervan drop off point both routes can be done in just 3 days! Hopefully you'll have more time!
PATH #1 Auckland - Hot Water Beach - Taranaki - Wellington
Day 1: Auckland To The Coromandel 2hrs 55
A campervan journey of just under 3hrs from Auckland will get you to the Coromandel. But be prepared for some windy roads between Thames and Hahei.
Hahei is the gateway to the very famous Cathedral Cove. On the way there a stop at Hot Water Beach is a must! Dig your own thermal spa in the sand and relax!
Note: Take insect repellent, if you haven’t met the NZ sandfly already, you will do here!
There is a very nice Top Ten Holiday Park at Hot Water Beach. Only 10 minutes drive from Hehei.
Where to Stay in a Campervan at Hahei
At Hahei, the holiday park is right on the beach and has a general store and café. Hahei is a quiet place in winter but in summer it's full of tourists. A lot use Hehei as a base to get to Cathedral Cove.
The only place close enough to Hahei to freedom camp is on the reserve at Cooks Beach which is only 12 minute drive from Hahei. For a full list of freedom camping spots in the Mercury Bay area download this PDF.
Cathedral Cove is one of the most photographed places in NZ. It’s a great big cavern of white rock which has been formed naturally by the sea into a cathedral-like archway. It divides the headland and on both sides of the archway are pristine beaches of white sand and ancient Pohutukawa trees to line the cliff tops and offer the best shady spots for relaxing.
The crystal clear waters are perfect for swimming in and Te Hoho’s rock, a large pinnacle of pumice just off the beach, provides a great platform from which to dive or jump off. Take a cold water shower in waterfalls that fall from the surrounding cliffs. This place has it all and is a must visit especially in the summertime!
To get to Cathedral Cove on foot, count 1.5 hr return starting from the car park at the end of Grange Road in Hahei - turn left just after the Hahei shops. If you have a bit more time on your hands (and money) you can access Cathedral Cove by kayak or boat either with a guided tour or hire kayaks.
Where to eat at Hahei
Apart from the local fish n chip shop there are only really a couple of choices
The Pour House – A family owned craft brewery, bar, and restaurant. They have an awesome beer garden and pizzas are their specialty. Pizzas and beers, need we say more...
The Church Restaurant – Ever had a meal in church? Here’s your chance! Fine dine in a converted 1916 Methodist Church!
The Coroglen Tavern (approx 16 mins drive from Hahei)
The 'Coro' is a good place to visit especially if you like music and concerts. In the summer many big-name New Zealand artists as well as internationals play here. At the time of this blog, the new owners were planning to provide an area for campervans to park up in overnight for no charge. If you want basic facilities however, try the quiet Riverglen Camping Ground 3 km away. They offer shuttle rides to and from the tavern.
Day 2: June 26th - Hahei To New Plymouth - 5hrs 25 mins
This campervan drive will blow your mind especially when you hit the west coast highway from Awakino onwards. From there, It’s yet another dreamy drive in a motorhome.
Heading straight across the country from east to west will take you about 5 hrs and you probably won't have much time for pit stops along the way but here are our 3 top recommendations..
1) Hobbiton Movie Set (count 1-2 hours)
2) Otorohonga Kiwi House (count 1hr)
3) Waikato Caves (count 2-3 hours)
After you hit the coast at Awakino, your drive to New Plymouth in your New Zealand Motorhomes rental takes you through a number of small fishing villages and coastal houses tucked away in spots sheltered from the harsh west coast wind. It’s a very enchanting drive with glimpses of the snow-capped Mt Taranaki in the background. All along this coast, there are several rivers and tributaries which feed into the sea. These are important whitebait fishing rivers and during the season locals spend a lot of time staking their claims. You will easily spot the local's Whitebait shelters as you reach Awakino.
Whitebaits are small transparent river fry and a well-known delicacy in NZ. If you see signs out advertising Whitebait for sale pull over and grab some. Then cook them up fresh in your campervan. The best way is to make whitebait fritters - a Kiwi classic!
How to make Whitebait fritters - The Kiwi Way!
- Beat the eggs in a bowl until they are light and frothy. Add the whitebait with a generous pinch of salt and plenty of fresh pepper. Mix well.
- Take a large heavy frying pan and heat the oil and butter together over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble and spit, add the egg and whitebait mixture in even tablespoonfuls (about five-six at a time) and cook for one-two minutes, then flip each fritter and cook the other side.
- Immediately remove to a warmed plate. Continue cooking in batches of about five fritters until the mixture is finished. Serve at once with fresh lemon wedges, as finger food or for an entrée for four people.
New Plymouth is very lucky to have the choice of both mountain and sea within a short drive of each other meaning residents and visitors to New Plymouth can literally snowboard, ski, water ski and surf all in the same day.
There are many worthwhile spots to visit in New Plymouth depending on your travel timeframe and be warned it is the type of place that’s easy to spend another day in.
Things to do in New Plymouth
- Walk, cycle or run some of, or all of, the 11km Costal walkway which offers spectacular coastal views and crosses the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge.
- Visit Pukekura Park (home to the world music festival WOMAD)
- Climb Paritutu Rock for the most amazing views of the sea and mountain.
- Spend time at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery or the New Plymouth Observatory.
- Play a round of golf at Ngamotu Golf Course - A top quality, very challenging links golf course right on the coast.
- Soak and relax in the Taranaki Thermal Spa
Where to stay in a motorhome in New Plymouth
Our personal recommendation here are...
Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park ** SPECIAL OFFER (ENDS SEPT) STAY 3 NIGHTS PAY FOR 2 **
Fitzroy is right on the beach and opposite the surf club. There are good waves to be had here. Ask at the camping ground the best place to hire a board!
Where to eat and drink in New Plymouth
It’s very easy to get around in central New Plymouth and most of the best bars are either on Devon St or Courtney St. Here’s our recommended pub crawl...
Start at Peggy Gordons Celtic Bar at the bottom of Devon St East. Here they have an awesome selection of British beers and ales on tap, great pub food, live music and a bit of a gamble on the slot machines. Head up Devon St but take a slight detour down James Lane and find The Good Home for a decent sports den and an extended outdoor yard. Back along Devon St at the top end is the popular with locals ‘Crowded House Bar and Eatery’
Day 3: June 27th New Plymouth To Wellington 5hrs
Lions Vs All Blacks kicks off at 7.35pm. Leave yourself enough time to get to a motorhome park in Wellington comfortably. There's not that much to see along this road but a recommend place for a break is the rugby museum in Palmerston North and/or if you want to do a bit of outlet shopping, Otaki has become a hub for all of New Zealands big brand stores to put their end of line outlet stores - bag yourself some bargains here!
Places to stay in a motorhome in Wellington
For overnight parking right in the heart of Wellington try Barnett St Carpark where self-contained campervans can park overnight for a fee (It's also walking distance away from Wellington’s very famous Te Papa Museum)
(Note: No overnight parking here on Saturdays due to restrictions and electricity and toilet facilities are not provided at this carpark)
If you require a serviced campervan carpark in Wellington City, visit:
- Capital Gateway Motorhome Park, 1 Newlands Road
- Cuba Street Motorhome Park, 25 Garrett Street (electricity only)
Freedom camping in Wellington (self-contained campervans only)
Restricted camping on public land is allowed in Wellington City for self-contained campervans at the following two sites:
- Southern end of the Marina car park at Evans Bay
- Te Kopahou Reserve entrance car park at Te Kopahou Reserve
You can camp at either of these sites for a maximum of four nights in any single calendar month. If you stay longer, you can be fined. Make sure you only park within the areas designated for self-contained campervans.These sites are not suitable for tents.
Where to eat and drink in Wellington
Wellington is not lacking in nightlife and there are many great places to eat and drink all within the central city. Stick to Cuba and Vivian streets and Courtney place for the most choices but here are 3 of our favourites.
Laundry bar - Cuba Street’s Newfangled Juke Joint & Freehouse
Little Beer Quarter in Edward St - Wellington's beer geek heaven, with 14 rotating taps, 2 hand pulls and over 100 beers in the fridge
The Leuven on Featherston - A Belgian bar serving good strong Belgian beers and European style food. This is a great choice for a pub to be at just before a rugby match as it's within easy walking distance to the stadium. Just take the Fran Wilde walkway, an elevated 650m long walkway with harbour views that will take you directly to the Stadium entrance. There are three access points to the walkway.
- from Thorndon Quay just north of the railway station
- from near Shed 21 on the port
- directly from the railway platforms (8/7, 6/5, 4/3)
How to get to Westpac Stadium
Getting to the game is not going to be hard and mostly free. Check with your motorhome park or local bar to see if they offer shuttle services to and from the game or if you are out in the city there are buses that run every 10-15 mins and from several pick-up points for a full list of these visit https://www.westpacstadium.co.nz/visiting-us/get-to-the-stadium/
What to do in Wellington
Weta Workshop - Take a tour of the studio responsible for such films as The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia, Avatar and much more or if you don't want to pay for a tour just visiting the Weta Caves is a fun thing to do. Entry to the caves is free and there is also a free 30 min documentary screening,and a mini museum with lifesize sculputres, props and artefacts from films. Photography is encouraged and it's your chance to snap a sellfie with some of your favourite Lord Of The Rings characters.
Cable Car - The Wellington Cable Car on Lambton Quay is widely recognised as a symbol of Wellington. Take a ride on this 100 year old funicular railway all the way to the top for the best views over Wellington, easy access to the Botanic Garden, Cable Car Museum, Space Place (at Carter Observatory) and Zealandia (via free shuttle) New Zealands most ground breaking conservation projects.
Te Papa Museum - A visit to Te Papa (container of treasures) is a must. There are six floors of engaging, interactive displays. Māori and Pacific cultural treasures, New Zealand’s extraordinary natural life, its most important works of art, and its unique history. Get shaken up in the Earthquake House or come face to face with a colossal squid, then explore its life through 3D animation.
PATH #2 Auckland - Taupo - Wellington
If you're looking for a faster and more direct route to Wellington from Auckland then it's best to travel right through the centre of the North Island. The road to Taupo or Rotorua is an easy drive in a motorhome.
Day 1 & 2: Auckland to Taupo 3.5 hrs
Auckland via Taupo is the most direct and shortest route to Wellington and Taupo is a great spot to stop at and visit and, if your time allows, we would recommend 2 nights here. There are lots of freedom camping choices, secret thermal hot springs, a great nightlife and of course a ton of action activities you can do here like skydiving, bungy jumping, jet boating and more!
To read ALL our tips on what to do, where to camp ((including freedom camping) and where to eat and drink in Taupo, OR Rotorua, read our Lions Tour Blog #5
Try skydiving at Lake Taupo
Day 2 or 3: Taupo to Wellington 4.5 hrs
COMING UP NEXT: Lions Blog #9 the last in our series of Lions Blogs. LAST GAME Lions Vs All Blacks 3rd Test in Auckland. If you enjoyed reading this blog and don't want to miss the last episode, don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
Thanks for reading our blog we wish you a safe journey in New Zealand