Week three in the camper van saw a bit of city, more countryside and a lot of beach. Best of all, we found the sun—and what a difference it made! We also made wonderful new friends… and Michael and Easton graduated from foam surf boards to the real deal! Woohoo! Here’s a recap of the week:
Day 1 & 2: Our third week started with the 3-hour ferry ride across Cook Strait from Picton (top of the South Island) to Wellington (bottom of the North Island). It’s a gorgeous journey but better with motion sickness tablets if you’re missing your sea legs like me. We arrived to Wellington in the late afternoon and, of course, ended up at the Lyall Bay Surf Club so Michael and Easton could test out the surf. Leaving the beach late and wanting to stay near Wellington, we drove to the nearest campsite we could find — one block removed from an industrial park. Ughh…
Luckily for me, the campsite was so uninspiring I convinced Michael to let us go out for coffee and breakfast— a rare treat! We headed back to Lyall Bay and ate a yummy breakfast at the Maranui Café. After breakfast we drove over to the Te Papa Museum, stopping en route for a beard trim (Michael) and fringe cut for me. There is something about being in a city that suddenly makes you conscious of your camper van look!
The Te Papa museum was as incredible as Marlow’s behaviour was terrible! (I apologise to anyone misfortunate enough to have visited at the same time as us.) Still, we all enjoyed the exhibits about the formation of the NZ islands and the Maori people, but left with much we still wanted to see.
After the museum we walked over to Cuba Street to grab an early dinner at Loretta, a restaurant recommended by locals that did not disappoint. It was delicious! We took advantage of a mostly sunny evening to meander back along the harbour, watching fearless (and fearful) swimmers jump off diving platforms into the sea, and Seven Series Rugby fans in fancy dress stumble aimlessly around the streets.
Wanting to explore Wellington further but contented from a wonderful 24 hours in the city, we decided to get back on the road. We drove north out of the city and spent the night in the small town of Masterton.
Day 3: Back in Matakana (pre-camper van) I met a lovely family from Napier, Rebecca and Ollie Powrie, and their two adorable daughters, Sophia and India. The Powries invited us to stop by their house for dinner should we pass through Napier–so we made sure we did. Day three we drove from Masterton to their hometown, stopping for lunch at Ocean Beach, a local beach recommended by Ollie. That night we enjoyed a really great evening in the garden of our new friends. Our kids got on so well, playing all sorts of imaginative games together, that they could hardly fall asleep that night. They amused themselves, and us, with hours of dressing up in outrageous costumes. That night we camped in the Powries’ driveway, a fun alternative to campsites and one all the kids enjoyed immensely.
Day 4: After dropping her girls off for the first day of the new school year, Rebecca popped into our camper van (still in her driveway) to join us for our morning coffee. Later, after we spent a couple hours doing homeschooling, she took our whole gang into Napier for a guided tour of her charming city. We grabbed donuts from Mister D, took a short stroll through the pretty Art Deco centre, and then took in a panoramic view of Hawke’s Bay from a hilly overlook in Napier.
Rebecca suggested we check out nearby Waipatiki Beach, so that afternoon we drove forty-five minutes north for what we thought would,d be a few hours on the beach. When we arrived, we discovered a charming campsite nestled alongside a gentle river leading to a golden beach. The sun was shining and the campsite was quiet, so we decided to stay for the night. One night became four as we could not leave this special spot.
We set out our table and chairs and ate dinner under the stars. That night I left our windows open and the blinds up so I could be lulled to sleep by the sound of the breaking waves and awoken by the rising sun.
Day 5: As I hoped, the sun and waves woke me up! From the window in the back of our camper I took in the sunrise from one of the first spots in the world to welcome each new day! After 15 days in the camper, this was the first morning we awoke to blazing sunshine and it felt like an entirely new world. We ate breakfast and enjoyed a relaxed morning outside, then made our way to the beach. Lucky for us, Rebecca, Ollie and their girls joined us that evening for dinner at our campsite. Such a fun and memorable evening!
Day 6: Again, we awoke to sunshine and ate breakfast outside. We enjoyed another day at the beach, with Michael and Easton surfing for a few hours (on new boards!) while the other kids played in the river. That evening, we drove back down to Napier to meet up with Rebecca and the girls. We grabbed pizza from Pipi’s pizza truck and took it to a nearby beach for a picnic and play that lasted well past everyone’s bedtime. We said goodbye to our new friends with heavy hearts. Ivy was especially sad – I watched little tears roll down her cheeks as we drove back to our campsite. It’s not easy to make such wonderful friends only to say goodbye a few days later.
Day 7: We packed up camp at Waipatiki Beach and drove a few hours north to the East Cape, Gisbourne area. We found a relaxed campsite in Tatapouri, just north of Gisborne, that was near to a beach with great surf, Makarori. We spent the evening on this beautiful beach, one of just a handful of people along the long stretch of sand. Michael and Easton surfed for a couple hours while the others dipped in and out of the water. I did a bit of yoga from my beach towel and then played football with Ivy and Quin. It was a lovely evening, and the perfect end to a happy (and sunny!) week.
Highlights of the week:
- Maranui Café
- Te Papa Museum
- Napier Town Center
- Waipatiki Beach
- Surfing on Macaroni Beach near Gisborne
What we’re listening to this week (a new feature I thought would be fun to add to the bottom of our posts):