Rather than easing ourselves back into the campervan lifestyle, we decided to spend our first full day in the van taking on the ambitious drive to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the New Zealand mainland and around 6 hours drive north of Auckland.
Thankfully, having lived in Australia for two years we are well accustomed to long drives, although usually on very straight and very flat roads. It didn’t take us long to realise driving conditions in New Zealand would be a little different, with steep climbs and tight corners seemingly the norm.
After powering through the first few hours of the journey, we made our first stop at Rainbow Falls, which was just a short detour from the highway, near the small town of Waipapa. We made use of the picnic facilities for a quick lunch, before beginning the short walking trail to the waterfall.
The trail took us through thick forest, before the stunning waterfall appeared before us. It was a warm day and there was plenty of swimmers cooling down in the vast pool below. We continued to several viewpoints before ending the walk at the top of the falls and making our way back.
Back on the road, we continued north along the coast before making our next detour onto the Karikari peninsular. Although we were originally planning to visit Rangiputa, I was let down by my navigator and we missed our turning. Thankfully, this meant we instead ended up at the beautiful Maitai Bay, on the northern tip of the peninsular.
We strolled down to the secluded and almost empty bay, and found ourselves a nice spot on the edge of the crystal clear water. While Rachael had a power nap, I dived straight in for a quick swim. The water temperature was perfect, and it was the ideal way to wake myself up after a long day of driving.
As we continued along the State Highway 1, the landscape around us became even more barren and the passing traffic became few and far between.
We finally arrived at Cape Reinga in late afternoon, and with no time to spare we immediately set about exploring the rugged coastline. We began along the winding coastal path which took us slowly towards the Cape’s iconic lighthouse. The weather had suddenly become stormier, and it seemed the perfect match for the landscape around us.
We walked down the steep path to the much smaller than expected lighthouse, which was originally built in 1941. It was fully automated as recently as 1987, and I imagine this was much to the relief of the resident lighthouse keeper.
Taking a closer look at the signpost next to the lighthouse, it was clear we were a very long way from everywhere!
After a very tiring first day of driving we were thankful to find a campsite just a short drive away at Tapotupotu Bay. Even better, it was reasonably priced and located right on the beach. We found ourselves a good spot for the night, ensuring we could see the ocean from our bedroom window!
After enjoying some dinner, we decided to explore the campsite further, and found a great boardwalk which took us inland and along the edge of a shallow estuary.
It was definitely worth the long drive to Cape Reinga, and we were pleased to have included it on our itinerary. From here we could only go south, and we were ready for plenty more driving the following day as we continued to our next destination – the Bay of Islands.