Let me just start by saying that before Mighway, campervans were a very foreign concept to us. Don’t get me wrong, we were well aware of the endless possibilities travelling in a campervan could provide but we had never seriously considered it as a travel option, it was just one of those things on our bucket list that we were yet to check off. So, you can only imagine my excitement when the opportunity arose for Simon and I to drive around NZ in the Mighway camper which was immediately followed by concern as there was no way I was going to be able to contribute to any of the driving – at least not legally. Let’s just say postponing getting my driver’s license has come around to bite me. Turns out, not much convincing was needed as Simon gladly welcomed the challenge of solo-driving for 2 and a half weeks around the North Island – bloody legend!
After a much anticipated wait, the time had come for us to come face-to-face with the beast itself – the Mighway campervan. It was a sight to behold and had everything we needed and more. After we were walked through all the features and what-to-do and what-not-to-do’s we were on our way to the northernmost point of NZ – Cape Reinga.
The first few days were somewhat of an… adjustment period. Coming in from -5°C Canadian weather, to 30°C in NZ meant we had to stop many times to cool off in the ocean. The coastal drive from the North Shore to Cape Reinga was perfect for that, with many beaches along the way. This went hand in hand with the overwhelming fine dining experiences of fish, chips and L&P overlooking sunsets on the beach – the ultimate recipe for a kiwi summer.
Having travelled with overly-planned out itineraries in the past, we were excited to experience a different approach by somewhat “winging it” this time around – and travelling in a campervan allowed just that. Leading up to the trip we jotted down some must-see destinations and routes that we wanted to take but weren’t bound by. It was travel freedom.
We didn’t necessarily have a solid plan of which road to take and where to sleep overnight but we did have a target: get to Cape Reinga to capture the sunset. We stopped along the way at the ever so picturesque Whangarei falls (or as Simon likes to call it “Wan-guh-ree”), Waitangi, HiHi beach, Mangonui, Kaitaia and Pukenui; making good use of the freedom campsites along the way.
The road leading up to Cape Reinga lighthouse quickly became an opportunity for us to connect with the van and get to know each other’s boundaries (whilst obeying the speed limit of course). It was a race against time to catch the fiery sunset overlooking the lighthouse, and we managed to make it to the car park by 8:32pm,which gave us exactly 1 minute 32 seconds to grab all the drone and camera gear and run down to the lighthouse before the sun disappeared completely over the horizon. Mission accomplished.
The journey then continued with the next target in mind: Wellington. The highlights along the course included sandboarding down the scorching Te Paki sand dunes followed by soaking up the sun on 90 Mile Beach, an overnight visit to the breathtakingly beautiful Matapouri beach where dipping in the Mermaid pools was a must, stand up paddle boarding in Tutukaki, Spicy House food comas in Auckland, weathering the storm at the Fancy Meow cat café in Rotorua and experiencing the astounding Huka falls in Taupo.
One specific place where not having set plans led to the most unexpected surprise was Matapouri beach. The idea was to hike up to the Mermaid Pools and relax for about an hour or so to essentially check it off the list. But as soon as we stepped foot on Matapouri beach we knew we had to stay. There were no ifs and buts about it – Spicy House had to wait. Little did we know that Matapouri beach was going to provide one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. Equipped with head torches, camera, drone and swimmers we set off for the hike to Mermaid Pools. Turns out we were the only ones crazy enough to hike back at night so we had the whole Mermaid Pools to ourselves!
On the way back, it only seemed fair for us to go for a late-night swim in the water to cool down from the not-so-gruelling hike, which is exactly what we did. It didn’t take long for us to start noticing the twinkling all around us. Every motion triggered an array of what seemed like fireflies in the water surrounding us and we realised that we were amongst thousands of bioluminescent plankton lighting up the water! We’ve always wanted to see bioluminescent plankton but never in a million years did we think that we’d be SWIMMING amongst them!
Now with the memory of a real-life scene from Avatar under our belt and a mind full of wonder we set sail to windy Wellington! Let’s see what unplanned adventures lie ahead!