Adventures in a campervan: Week Three

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:

Marlow at Maranui cafe

maranui cafe wellington

Loretta in Wellington

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.

Dressing up with Sophia and India

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.

eating donuts at Mister D

Mister D in Napier

running to the beach at Waipatiki

arms up

Waipatiki beach

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.

sunrise at Waipatiki

Waipatiki beach campsite

camping at Waipatiki

feeding goats at Waipatiki

laundry drying

beach set-up at Waipatiki

playing in the river at Waipatiki
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!

Pipi's pizza truck Napier

beach picnic

beach pizza picnic

kids playing on Little Bondi, Napier

playing on little bondi in Napier

sand castles on Little Bondi Napier

seagulls at dusk

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.

Ivy in neon

ivy in waves

ivy playing in water

girls in Makarori

Ivy and Marlow in Makarori beach

post-swim at Makarori

silly girls

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):

11 thoughts on “Adventures in a campervan: Week Three

  1. dear courtney, your stories and photos warm my heart. I really can feel the warming sun in the morning, stretching out around you, the slowly waking up, sitting on the steps of the van, cherishing just the moment as it is and soaking all up in its perfection.
    thank you so much for sharing this special and precious time. with the warmest regards from graz, austria, lola


  2. So inspiring to read you, your adventures…. i always start dreaming if i have the courage to embrace such a journey with my family (me and Rui we have two beautiful boys, aged 7 and 3)… maybe someday. For now, let me continue to dream reading you here and on Instagram * be happy, be safe, be free🙂 thnkyou for sharing with us *


  3. Dear Courtney, your stories and photos warm my heart. I can feel the morning breeze, slowly waking up, having the coffee on the stairs of the van and let the rising sun warm every bone in the body. Embrace every moment, soak it all up. Thank you so much for sharing this year’s path and your precious adventures with us. Warm greetings from Graz, Austria, Lola


  4. Courtney,

    We are headed to NZ for only one week in March, post a week in Tavarua. Do you have a favorite spot on the North island we should not miss? The first half of the week will be spent in hawkes bay! We Are looking to stay in one spot for the last three days of our trip.

    We have our three girls with us (6, 4 & 2).

    I’m loving your blog. My husband and I hope to travel the world for a year with our children in a few years.


  5. Just beautiful posts and writing Courtney! It looks like you and your family are doing a wonderful job living your dream! Enjoy it! I look forward to reading about your other adventures.


  6. A completely idyllic adventure. I find myself relaxing just reading your words.
    Great idea to include audio books. My boys love their R. Dahl and David Walliams collections.


    • Our kids love the Roald Dahl and David Walliams books too! We have now listened to all of them – the kids are sad there are no more lined up. We’ll have to wait for David Walliams’ next one! Thanks for your sweet comment. x


  7. I discovered Babyccino Kids & it led me here!! I’m binging on your blog & beautiful photos!

    Your sweater coat has been in my mind – it would be the perfect gift for my daughter starting university. Please, please share where it’s from, I know she would love it!


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