Updating my Far North and Northland camping blogs from Summer 2017.
We recently returned from a road trip to northland which included a night in both Ahipara and Matakohe. See: northland road trip travel guide
I’m happy to say that both places are awesome as always. in two years the changes have been minimal while the pricing remains the same.
AHIPARA HOLIDAY PARK (previous blog)
The road to the upper terrace where we usually camp has been cemented. This makes it accessible for campervans and caravans and some of the sites up there now are powered. Our bamboo grove is one of these and although we were disappointed by it’s 'upgrade' and spruce, we found another fab unpowered site on the other side shaded by pines with a peep of the sea.
The new paddock area is now a fully functioning addition to the park, although the trees are small and the campers (on the night we stayed there) partied up a storm. It has no appeal at all.
What hasn’t changed: They haven't relocated the ping pong table.
New discovery: The 24/7 piped music in the ablutions is streamed from the internet, see: TuneIn
The meet ’n greet at reception says it all. This Holiday Park seems to employ young international backpackers, perhaps offering an exchange of board and lodging for a couple of hours work? The result is that you are attended to by young, fresh faced travellers with strongly accented English, huge enthusiasm for where they are and first-hand experience of dune surfing at Cape Reinga. It makes you feel like you’re on an OE in your own country.
Until you ask a question they can’t answer. Such as: what is that music in the loos at 3.00 am? Then you’re introduced to the owner, a not-so-young but equally helpful Kiwi, who takes you back of house to show you the link on his computer.
Finding yourself camped next to a group of young travellers and a bunch of tiny tents sounds warning bells (see our night with the Nomads tour group). What we seek out is a single tiny tent with one or two bicycles. The owner/s invariably are too exhausted from peddling all day even to talk, let alone party. When it comes to packing down, their set up is lightweight and quiet, and there’s no way to rev a bicycle. Snoring is the biggest risk here.
MATAKOHE HOLIDAY PARK (previous blog)
Wifi is available at the park, free, in the vicinity of the main house.
What hasn’t changed:
The welcoming, down-home country feel.
New discovery: For the first time we camped on a different site (the one behind our favourite Number 30) because it offered more shelter from the strong westerly wind. Still a good an experience, and as there were no cows or sheep in the paddock, we didn't feel as though we were missing out on our farmyard fix.
Again, the meet ’n greet instantly conveys the feel of the place. It's as though you're arriving at a homestay. The office is small and personal, fronted by the owner or her rellies. Their house overlooks the park, and the cottagey style of it is echoed in the motel units and camp kitchen. There's this blend of things being clean and tidy, at the same time they're relaxed and friendly. Love it.
MATAKOHE HOLIDAY PARK
Location: Matakohe, Kaipara, behind the Kauri Museum
- Powered and unpowered sites for campervans and tents. The tent sites are grassy and either bordered by plants to provide privacy and shelter, or they back onto a paddock populated by cows and sheep with views across to the Kaipara. Motel units and cabins are also available.
- Clean ablutions with free hot showers.
- An immaculate, country-style kitchen, dining and living area. Stoves, fridge, sinks, toasters, kettles, all the utensils you need to cook and eat with are provided, plus convenient extras like dishcloths and condiments. A couple of sofas, flat screen TV and dining tables and chairs, add to the homey feel.
- Laundry with a sink, coin operated washing machine and dryer.
Down-home country in a lace and lavender kind of way. I can see why European visitors (usually touring in campervans) love this place. It feels like the quintessential kiwi home stay with some sheep and cows thrown in for good measure.
Cost: NZD 40 for two people (non-powered site) in high season.
Matakohe Holiday Park is a happy surprise. We're utterly charmed. The tranquil, picture-postcard setting, friendly owners, best-ever campsite . . . We didn't realise we were stressed-out city dwellers until we arrived here.
Wind rustling the poplars. Bird calls and cicadas. Sheep baa-ing, cows moo-ing and chewing.
Getting the primo tent site in the park, Number 30, which is extra spacious and private. It's shady with expansive rural views and backs onto the paddock. A bunch of friendly calves settled in and spent the night next to us.
Having to leave to go home.
The only potential downside is that because it's a smallish park, the spaces are quite intimate. When it's busy you find yourself sharing the kitchen with other travellers in a way that makes it impossible not to interact. Depending on who they are, that's either a good or a bad thing.
There's often a heavy dew fall overnight here. Our big canvas tent is fine, but the lightweight one can be quite drippy by morning. We've found covering it with a tarpaulin helps.
Wifi is available from the Gumdiggers Cafe, over the road from the Kauri Museum.
In the Area:
The Kauri Museum, Gumduggers Cafe, Fried Earth Petting Farm and the Kaipara. A short cut across the paddock next to the campground (the cows will ignore you) gets you to a dirt road which leads to the water's edge.
That's just in the immediate vicinity. The staff in the office will be able to give you additional info on local attractions.
AHIPARA HOLIDAY PARK
Location: Ahipara, Northland, at the start of the Ninety Mile Beach
- A wide choice of powered and non-powered sites, level, spacious, mostly shaded. Some are bordered with plants for privacy, others have outlooks through pines. (Also caters for campervans and offers a selection of cabins).
- Great ablutions, super-clean with fiesty, hot, free showers.
- Large, welcoming communal space that has indoor and outdoor dining areas; a well-appointed kitchen (stoves, ovens, fridge/freezers, kettles, microwave and some utensils); comfy sofas, fireplace and flat screen TV.
- Fast free wifi, accessible from most places in the campsite.
Feels like a festival campground. Backpacking at its best. Family and pet-friendly. Good for hippies / surfers / international travellers.
Cost: NZD 40 for two people (non-powered site, high season)
We keep coming back here, this is our favourite Northland place to stay. It has the best amenities of any campsite we've been to in New Zealand and we love the location. The site itself is picturesque and it's always possible to find a private space and outlook, even during the busy times. Best of all, it's situated less than ten minutes walk from the start of the Ninety Mile Beach. Kiwi summer camping doesn't get better than this.
Surf breaking on the Ninety Mile Beach and wind in the pines. Bird calls.
So many . . . great value (free wifi and showers), great location, great amenities. Love the smell of the pines on a hot summer's day and the wow views of the Milky Way at night. No light-spill here.
Getting hit on the head with a ping pong ball while sitting in the communal area waiting for my computer to charge. Not fatal of course, but annoying after the third time it happens. Please relocate the ping pong table.
Vacate, if possible, on holiday weekends. All the usual issues. Fellow campers not respecting your space, door slamming, yelling into the night, queues in the ablutions while bunnies spend hours hogging the basins and doing their makeup. . .
Always pack earplugs and eye sleep masks (fortunately we did). You might look like Batman's Robin without the eyeholes, but at least you won't be blinded by the next door idiot's super-duper gas light. And you'll be able sleep in after a fretful night of doof-doofing while getting-to-know-your-neighbour-at-the-top-of-your-voice. Grrr.
Shopping in Ahipara:
Honestly, there's not much. What there is, is all grouped together: BIDZ Takeaways, a G.A.S Service station with attached superette, a liquor store and the North Drift Cafe around the corner opposite the school. Aunty G's Takeaways is run from what is basically her backyard in Takahe Street.
A very limited selection of crisps, lollies, tinned and packet food (possible at a push to make a meal of it) is available at the camp reception. It's worth trawling through the "Free Stuff" bin in the kitchen. Less loot to be found here than in Auckland campgrounds, but we did score a pumpkin, a can of bug spray and some Weetbix.
Things to do in Ahipara:
We don't care about surfing, golfing, horse riding or quad bikes, but for those that do, all these activities are available. Beach walking is our favourite thing to do here, and this is a long, long beach.
Things to do in the area: