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While the world waits. Travel during Covid.

July 21, 2020
Travel during Covid Restrictions #vanlife #travelnewzealand

While the world grapples with Covid, New Zealand is breathing a collective sigh of relief, that, so far, we have avoided the worst-case scenario. We have, we believe, stopped Covid at the border. We can only hope it stays that way.

New Zealand had the cases. There was community spread. Then we had lockdown. Level 4 restrictions, level 3, level 2, and now level 1. Level 1 restrictions mean we can get back out and travel in relative freedom. But the borders remain closed to non-citizens.

With our European holiday canceled, we have taken the chance to enjoy New Zealand. To explore the snow-capped mountains, enjoy the empty beaches, the turquoise blue lakes, and breathe the fresh alpine air.

Travel during Covid Restrictions

But there is an eerie feeling about it. It is quiet. The carparks are empty. You can wander around the stunningly beautiful and small township of Tekapo, and you know it is usually packed beyond its seams. There are countless carparks, toilets, and rubbish bins. There are playgrounds. And walks. And they are all but deserted.

In other popular tourist towns there are empty shops. Signs on the windows “closed due to Covid”. The lack of tourists is hurting.

When it comes to the best camping spots, the blogs and tourist guides all say “get in there early to get a good spot”. We wander in late afternoon and are the first ones to arrive. We get the pick of the best campsites, even at the prized freedom camping spot on the shores of Lake Pukaki.

Kiwis have issued a challenge, get out there and see your own country. #travellocal. Support the New Zealand Tourism Industry. And as a country, Kiwis have done a fantastic job. There were rental campers on the road everywhere during the school holidays and kiwi accents at every turn. It was incredible to see.

Travel during Covid Restrictions
Travel during Covid Restrictions

But now the kids are back at school, the place is again empty. Just a few of us vanlifers still wandering, or to ‘coddiwomple’ as the English would say.

Coddiwomple: to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.

When the time comes, we will welcome international tourists back with welcome arms, we definitely need them. In the meantime, the world waits. Waits for a vaccine. And for a time when we can all travel and explore new cultures, to meet new people from faraway places.

And while the world waits, we are loving having this eerie, snowcapped beauty almost to ourselves.

Join us on our adventures xx.

Travel during Covid Restrictions
Mt John, Tekapo

#Lockdowntravel #Travellocal #TravelNewZealand #NewZealand #CovidTravel

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

Vanlife Dreaming in the Year of Covid, time for a reality check?

July 18, 2020

“Let’s not call it dreaming, let’s call it planning”. “Just do it, you won’t regret it”. “Follow your dreams”. I think they call it wanderlust. Well, I’m calling out Vanlife Reality.

I wanted to write about our amazing trip, to share our family’s Vanlife experiences with you. And they have been amazing. Our girls have learned so much already. Already they were starting to “play” again. To talk to each other instead of hurling abuse at each other.

But there have been so many bumps in the road in real life. And as easy as it would be to paint a perfect picture with the stunning photos we have collected along the way, I just can’t leave out reality.

So here is the story. The good, the bad and the ugly. The truth.

Lake Pukaki
Vanlife Reality

Dreaming up Version 2.0

After Covid-19 smashed our dreams of traveling Europe in a campervan with our children, our plans for Vanlife Version 1.0 were dead in the water. 

So we dreamed up our new wanderlust (Vanlife Version 2.0). We changed destination, re-gathered our plans, bought a caravan and hit the road here at home in New Zealand.

#vanlifereality #travel #nomadlife #newzealand #2020
Vanlife Reality

Life on the Road

We have now been living ”on the road” for almost a month.  The freedom is fantastic.  The views are amazing.  And the photos tell a pretty stunning story. 

But I can’t honestly tell you our wanderlust Version 2.0 is the euphoric state of calm family life an Instagram pic will tell you.  You know the one, where my husband and I sit in the sun discussing the meaning of life whilst the girls play in the sand, learn the history of their country and delve deep and meaningfully into their own culture. 

Not when our teenager has left us. 

For some reason, Version 2.0 didn’t work out like we thought it would.

Maybe it was because there were too many escape routes? In Europe, there would be no options for heading home for a bit.

Maybe it was because a chunk of our budget was tied up in a campervan in the Netherlands, so our caravan and vehicle aren’t as ideal as they could be.

Maybe it is because it is winter.

Perhaps home is just not as exciting as Europe.  The photos would challenge this statement.  But our teenager would definitely argue, New Zealand is just not worth being away from her friends. 

So our teenager boarded a plane in Queenstown heading north, back to stay with family, back to civilization.  Away from a caravan, and away from the close proximity it brings to her parents.   

State of Play, Vanlife Version 2.0

Whatever the reason is, our teenager has left us and our dream behind.

Husband is over living in a caravan.

Ironically, Miss M (10), who has been hideously homesick, seems to be settling in. Other than missing her sister dreadfully.

#vanlifereality #laketekapo
Vanlife Reality

Three weeks in a van, how do I feel?

Personally, I’m starting to settle into the new routine. I’m really enjoying homeschooling. Everything is slowly finding a home in the caravan, and the housework takes a total of ten minutes!

I’m loving the slow travel. Getting to see things we would never have seen on a whirlwind “Instagram” trip of New Zealand.

Then there is the freedom. The freedom to sit on a beach at 4 in the afternoon with a beer, watching Miss M collect rocks or build a teepee as the sun goes down. Or spending time actually playing, giggling even, with her in a playground after dark when we have it all to ourselves.  Exploring glow-worm grottos.  Climbing rocks and meeting friendly fantails.

We sleep in when it suits us.  I can go for long walks along the beach, or around a harbor.  There are mountains to climb and the feeling of my blood pumping through my body to wake me up.  Alpine mountain air to breathe deeply.

As for that happy ending?

Who knows. But we have had a great trip so far. Here are some of my favorite spots 🙂

#Vanlifereality #travelnewzealand #travellocal #newzealand #covid2020

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

Day One, Family Van-Life New Zealand 2020

July 6, 2020
#vanlifereality #travel #nomadlife #newzealand #2020

When I dreamed of this moment, I thought I would write about the excitement of finally driving out the driveway, the truck loaded to the brim. Ecstatic children in the backseat talking non stop about what they wanted to do. Hubby and I still sharing our dream of traveling the world, spending time with our children.

I’ve been wondering how to write this post. The first post on the road, living our new life.

Well. The reality so far is pretty different from our dreams. And it’s not just the change of destination. So I’ve decided to write this post honestly, warts and all. I only hope there is a happy ending.

Leaving Home

We did finally make it out the driveway.  After months of delays due to Covid flight difficulties, the lockdown, renting the house out, attending to various medical semi-emergencies, and new business deadlines, we finally hit the road!

Leaving our lives behind

How am I feeling? Well guilty probably sums it up. 

Miss M(10), the homebody, had a meltdown this week.  She never wanted to leave home.  She didn’t want to be taken away from her friends.  And she definitely did not want to leave her pets.  She has become such an animal lover.  Hubby suggested we let her bring Gorge, her potted succulent, as a pseudo pet.  But we are still expecting tears this week.

On the other hand, Miss T’s (14) behavior has surprisingly improved.  She is looking forward to taking “Instagram” photos in amazing locations.  But overall she still says the trip around New Zealand isn’t worth it, she would rather be “at home”.  And any joy we feel in finally getting on the road is met with a firm stare, a teenage eye-roll and a snarky remark about it should have been Europe. 

And Hubby.  He has been hit with deadline after deadline and resents the pressure this is putting on him.

So on our first day on the road, on what was supposed to be the start of the ultimate family journey way back in April, the excitement has gone.  It has been replaced with a feeling of ‘blah’.  That’s a slightly technical term I know.  But every plan we have made for this trip so far has been disrupted.  And everyone is over it.  It appears everyone now just wants to be at home. 

What’s next?

I don’t know what I’m waiting on to decide how I feel about this trip.  When will the moment come where we know we have done the right thing?  Or when we say that’s it, we are going home?  Will we give up on Europe and sell the camper?  When?

Are we pushing this dream too far?  Should we have given up and stayed home in our beautiful house, with our comfortable bed, our pets, and our friends??? 

Living in the Moment

2020.  Coronavirus.  We can’t do anything but live in the moment.  And to be fair, this afternoon has been a pretty cool moment. 

We are staying at the Lake Taupo Holiday Resort. The hot pools are great, and you can’t beat a cocktail from the swim-up bar. The girls are excited about this holiday park and seem to be in good spirits about doing a little bit of school work in the morning if they then get to go for another swim before we get on the road to Wellington. 

So fingers crossed ?

New Zealand 2020
Lake Taupo Holiday Resort
New Zealand 2020

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

East Coast Roadtrip – A New Zealand Travel Blog

June 6, 2020 #travel #NewZealand #Campervan

As much as we love to travel, both New Zealand and the world, we call New Zealand home. So to us, it has been important that our children see the real New Zealand. We have traveled with them extensively throughout New Zealand and will continue to do so throughout the rest of this year.

And when we do make it overseas again, after this global pandemic, we know that we will be able to proudly show off our homeland. We have been tourists in our own country. And we can make recommendations about the real New Zealand. Beyond the mainstream travel brochures.

The East Coast of New Zealand is one of those regions. You will not find it in your travel brochure alongside the glitz of Auckland and the kapa haka performances of Rotorua or the crisp blue lakes of Queenstown. You will find real New Zealand here.

Travel around the East Coast is usually broken down into multiple trips to the different regions, i.e. the Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, and Wellington. Although we did complete this all in one road trip, I’ll break it up for the purpose of this blog. There is just too much to see and do to fit into one blog!

This blog post is a highlights roll, each of these regions will have a blog post of their own over the next few weeks. That way I can give you all the hot spots and best tips for each destination in glorious detail.


The Coromandel, whilst arguably not the East Coast, was the start of our East Coast trip. The Coromandel has a special place in our hearts, thanks to my husband’s family history. His family has a bach (or a crib if you are from the South Island, both mean a holiday home) at Waikawau Bay. Waikawau Bay is a beautiful white sand surf beach, the Bay is complete with an Estuary, beautiful bush, a DOC camp, and native birds. It is a place my husband has spent every summer holiday since he was born, as have our girls.

We were married on the beach at Waikawau Bay, and our children are named after its beautiful coastline.

So given this was a summer holiday trip, we started our journey in the Coromandel, camping at Waikawau Bay. Every morning I’d go for a walk along the white sandy beach. We took the girls down to the Estuary to kayak. They would play on the rope swing at the DOC camp. Or slide down the rock slide at the freshwater swimming hole. There are bush walks to do and fish to catch off the rocks or the boat. Rockpools to explore. And day trips to Coromandel town, or north to Port Charles. Campfires and marshmallows to roast in the evenings.

Bay of Plenty and East Cape

Whereas the Coromandel has earned a place in my heart later in life, the Bay of Plenty is home. I grew up here, at the beach. I fell asleep at night listening to the sound of the waves crashing. As a teenager we would hike over the hill to the surf beach and fall asleep on the sand, waking up burnt to a crisp. East Cape New Zealand Travel Blog
Pacific Coast Macadamias, a New Zealand Travel Blog

East Cape

If you are traveling the East Cape you will go through Whakatane and Opotiki. It is after Opotiki that you seem to step back in time. This is the East Cape in all its beauty and character.

At its most Eastern tip, you can climb the 800 steps to the East Cape Lighthouse and watch the sun come up. Until recently, this was the first place in the world to see the sunrise! (this changed when American Samoa changed its timezone and claimed the title to the first place in the world to see the new day’s sun).
East Cape
A New Zealand Travel Blog
Our first caravan, Noma (named after my late grandmother)
A New Zealand Travel Blog

Along the way, there are historic churches and penguin colonies to visit. Macadamia ice cream to try, New Zealand’s largest Pohutukawa Tree to visit and New Zealand’s (second) longest wharf built in Tolaga Bay in 1929. There are wineries and rock slides, empty surf beaches, and great coffee. There are hot pools, friendly people, and a satellite launch site. And New Zealand’s best pies, although that is a hotly contested title!.


The Gisborne area is a great wine-growing region thanks to the dry, sunny climate and rich soil. We were lucky enough to visit the Matawhero winery on a Saturday afternoon where we could sit outside on beanbags, taste wines, and listen to live music. Matawhero has a particularly yummy rose and a divine chardonnay. You can often find these wines in restaurants throughout New Zealand, I definitely recommend you try them if you have the chance.
New Zealand Travel Blog

Hawkes Bay

The land of wine, food and art deco. What is not to love? There are amazing wineries. Parks, and cycle tracks. And if that is not enough, the entire city was rebuilt in Art Deco style after the 1931 Earthquake and fires, making it a rare gem to explore in style.

The highlight of this trip was the tractor ride along the beach to Cape Kidnappers to visit the world’s largest, most accessible mainland gannet colony with Gannet Beach Adventures.


Wairarapa is another unique wine region! The Wairarapa is more of a boutique wine region, it makes up only 3% of New Zealand’s wine-growing land, and produces only 1% of its wine. But the wine it does produce is unique in flavor, particularly its renowned pinot noir.


We stayed in Martinborough. Martinborough is an idyllic little town with fantastic cafes and wine bars. Our campsite was within walking distance of the township, and surprisingly, wineries! In fact, there are more than 20 wineries within cycling distance of the village itself. No driving required.

As we were a bit over moving the caravan by this stage, we stayed camped at the Top 10 in Martinborough and used it as a base for day trips.

Cape Palliser

Cape Palliser is one of those worthwhile day trips. Not only is there another lighthouse ( at the most South East Cape of the North Island… we are ticking them off), there is the North Island’s largest fur seal colony, and the Pinnacles Walk (Lord of the Rings filming location…).
Pinnacles Walk
A New Zealand Travel Blog
Pinnacles Walk
A New Zealand Travel Blog

There are many little towns to explore in the region. Greytown is a quaint little town, with antique stores to explore, old fashioned bicycle shops, and a chocolate boutique. Ngawi on the other hand is a little fishing village complete with a row of diggers to safely launch fishing boats. The diggers were a unique solution to a windswept coastline and a rough swell. Now the colorful lineup has also become a unique tourist attraction.
Cape Palliser
A New Zealand Travel Blog
A New Zealand Travel Blog
Cape Palliser
A New Zealand Travel Blog
Seal Colony at Cape Palliser
A New Zealand Travel Blog


Martinborough is also within reach of Wellington for another day trip. We spent a stormy, rainy day down in the Capital at Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand. We got to enjoy Sir Peter Jackson’s incredible Gallipoli exhibition. Entry is free for the museum. It’s well worth spending the day there and wandering along Wellington’s waterfront.


Although we originally wanted to complete our circumnavigation of the North Island by traveling back up along the west coast, we were tired of the caravan and yearning for our own bed. So we cut through the middle of the Island, stopping for dinner on the lakefront at Taupo on the way home. The West Coast is still on our bucket list for another day.
Lake Taupo
A New Zealand Travel Blog
Cooking dinner on the lakefront, Taupo. The truck is a bit dirtier by now!
A New Zealand Travel Blog

Taupo is another place that keeps a little bit of my heart every time it turns on a stunning day, whether in the height of summer or on a crisp winter’s day. There are things to do here all year-round. I’ll expand on these in a more focussed Taupo blog, but in the meantime, so you know how much there is to do, here is a snippet!

  • Dig a hole in the hot water beach to bathe, or spend some time in the hot springs at Spa Park, all completely free. Spa Park also has an awesome playground for kids, complete with a flying fox. Or if it’s raining, try the water slides at the AC Baths.
  • Play mini put. Take a soak in the hot pools at either De Bretts or Wairaki Terraces (complete with a massage if desired).
  • Walk around Craters of the Moon, visit Huka Falls, watch the rapids at Arohina as they release the water from the Dam (do not climb down to the water’s edge)… Take a boat ride out on the lake.
  • Ski on Mt Ruapehu. Have high Tea or cream and jam on scones at the Chateau, with a picture framed view of the snow-capped mountains.
Lake Taupo
A New Zealand Travel Blog

And once again, time to come home to our comfortable bed!
New Zealand Travel Blog
East Coast

The Place I call Home Series

This article does not contain affiliate links. Any recommendations are my own honest accounts. I will not receive any commission from any of the recommendations I have made in this article. However, I will have helped support the New Zealand tourism industry post-Covid-19 lockdown.

This blog is part of The Place I call Home Series, a #NewZealandTravelBlog. Earlier blogs in this series include:

#travellocal #supportNewZealand #tourismNewZealand #NewZealandTravelGuide

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

Northland, Part Two, a New Zealand Travel Guide

June 3, 2020 #travel #NewZealand #Campervan Otamure Bay

Northland, unsurprisingly, comprises the uppermost tip of the North Island of New Zealand. Northland is perfect for exploring in a campervan. It is long and narrow, and the drive takes you through ancient forests and along stunning coastlines. Northland is rich in history and culture, both Maori and Pakeha (European), and it has its own micro-climate.

In Part One of this Northland Travel Blog, we headed north from Auckland along the Kauri Coast Highway. We stayed overnight at the stunning clear freshwater Kai Iwi Lakes, we visited a local chesery, discovered unique New Zealand history and slid down the giant Te Paki Sand Dunes.

In Part Two of our Northland Travel Blog, we leave the uppermost tip of New Zealand and head back down south. We visit fantastic wineries, stunning beaches, see Kiwis in their natural environment, explore underground caves, and discover plenty of history!

Karikari Peninsula

Heading south from Cape Reinga, our first stop was the Karikari Peninsula. As you leave the Highway and turn off into the Peninsula, the view is drop dead gorgeous. This really is a piece of paradise, in the “tropical north”of New Zealand. No wonder so many Kiwis holiday here!

The Peninsula is home to more amazing white sandy beaches with clear water. A glitzy golf course. And a winery. Which of course is where we were headed first :).

Northland is actually the birthplace of viticulture and wineries in New Zealand. We spent the afternoon tasting wines and enjoying a platter at New Zealand’s most northern winery, Carrington Estate. The kids ran around outside, playing on the grass and climbing boulders.
New Zealand Travel Guide
Carrington Estate
Carrington Estate, Karikari Peninsula
A New Zealand Travel Guide

We camped overnight at the Matai Bay DOC camp, right on the waterfront. We ventured out early in the morning for a spot of fishing straight off the beach, and to watch the sunrise.

Ironically, this is where I discovered taking an electric toothbrush camping is not a great idea, particularly when you are not hooking into power to re-charge it! We learnt quite a few good lessons on our first campervan trip….

This is the stunning scenery, right in front of our campsite.
New Zealand Travel Guide
Matai Bay
Early morning fishing in Matai Bay (Karikari Peninsula)
A New Zealand Travel Guide


Mongonui is a historic fishing town, now home to a collection of charming 150-year-old buildings that house cafés, art and craft shops.  Another main attraction at Mongonui is the legendary fish and chip shop on the wharf (which also serves wine!).

Our favourite surprise though were the visiting stingrays. The girls (and us too to be honest) were amazed to see locals feeding the huge rays straight off the wharf! What an unforgettable experience!

Matauri Bay, Rainbow Warrior Memorial

Matauri Bay is another long white sandy beach with crystal clear water. It is stunning. But the real reason we detoured here was to visit the Rainbow Warrior Memorial on the headland above the Bay.

The Memorial to the Greenpeace Flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, points to her final resting place near the Cavalli Islands. The Memorial itself sits atop a sacred Maori Pa site, the fact it was placed there shows its importance to the people of New Zealand, and the sinking’s place in our history.

The New Zealand people as a whole are proudly Nuclear free. And its journey to become Nuclear free was a key part of developing who we are as a people.

In 1985 the Rainbow Warrior was moored at the Port of Auckland, on its way to protest against a planned French nuclear test in Moruroa. The ship was bombed by two French DGSE officers, one crew member was killed. Although the attack was on Greenpeace, rather than New Zealand itself, most kiwis did not make this distinction. The fact that the bombing was committed on New Zealand territory by a supposed ‘friend’ produced a shared sense of outrage.

The attack was credited as fueling an upsurge in New Zealand nationalism at the time. The failure of traditional allies to condemn this act of terrorism hardened support for a more independent foreign policy line. This all lead to our ‘Nuclear-free moment’ in 1987 when New Zealand legislated to enforce its Nuclear-free stance. New Zealand remains Nuclear-free today.

Kerikeri, Bay of Islands

We were lucky enough to stay at Aroha Island in Kerikeri. Aroha Island is a 12 ha eco-sanctuary just north of Kerikeri, and accessible by a causeway. This is a really special spot with native bush, native birds and an estuary to explore.
New Zealand Travel Guide
Aroha Island
Aroha Island
A New Zealand Travel Guide

Remember to bring a torch, and pick up a piece of red cellophane from Reception before they close. After dark, you can head out with your torch through the native bush tracks. Move really slow, and stay quiet. You should be lucky enough to spot Kiwi in their natural habitat. It was a surreal experience for both us and the girls, and we were lucky enough to see four.

In the morning you will be woken up by a majestical Bird Song, the sound of native birds chirping and singing at sunrise.

We spent the morning exploring the native bush tracks, completing challenges with the girls, and kyaking in the harbour.

This place was a gem, not featured in your standard tourism guides.

The Bay of Islands is also home to a fantastic self-drive wine trail. We tend to pick one winery to try wines and enjoy lunch at the same time. This time we chose Marsden Estate Winery, mainly for its stunning surroundings both inside, and out. Great wine, great food, great views. We also managed to pick up a few bottles from smaller wineries to enjoy on the remainder of our trip.

Paihia and Waitangi

Paihia is a town with the glitz and glamour, but also the history. This is the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between Maori Chiefs and the British Crown, at Waitangi. The Treaty is the founding document of colonial New Zealand and established British sovereignty. However, its interpretation has long been established to differ in terms of what sovereignty, amongst other key terms, meant.

If you are visiting New Zealand, I strongly recommend a visit to the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi. Entry is by donation, however, you will need to pay the donation if you want to access the magnificent meeting house and the cultural performance, which you will definitely want to do.

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds will give you a better understanding of New Zealand, how it was formed, and why there is an ongoing tension still today.
New Zealand Travel Guide
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
A New Zealand Travel Guide

Otamure Bay

And this is the moment we became hooked on mobile homes.

This is our campsite at Otamure Bay. A DOC Campground. No hotels. No motels. Not even any hookups. Just beachfront campsites.
New Zealand Travel Guide
Otamure Bay
Our campsite at Otamure Bay, complete with a tree monkey…
A New Zealand Travel Guide

The girls played on the beach and in the giant Pohutukawa Trees. We chilled out in the shade with a glass of wine collected on our travels.

If you are travelling with children, I would recommend taking a ball to kick around, a kite, and a couple of sand toys to keep them entertained. As the girls have gotten older we have added tennis rackets and balls to our list, as well as devices unfortunately.

Waipu Caves

Miss T had been studying Stalactites and Stalactmites at school, so exploring the Waipu Caves was a special treat for her. We also managed to find fossils in the limestone rocks

If you are lucky enough you might also spot glowworms, although you may need to wade through waist-deep water to get far enough into the caves to reach the main cavern. We weren’t going that far with children in tow…

Need to know: The caves are a short, easy walk (2 km) from the carpark. The caves are free, as are almost all DOC run sites in New Zealand. However, please remember these caves are unguided, you need to take care of your own safety. Also, the inner chambers are suitable for experienced cavers only.

Goat Island Marine Reserve

We spent our last night in Leigh. We chose Leigh because it is also home to the Goat Island Marine Reserve. As a marine reserve it is a remarkable place to snorkel, and to teach children to snorkel. The fish will swim right up to you, and it is always fun following a cray along the bottom of the ocean.

On this visit, we also visited the Marine Discovery Center. This was phenomenal for learning about the ocean and conservation. The kids loved the interactive displays. A perfect cold-weather option.

In the past, we have also gone out in the glass bottom boats which take you on a guided tour around the reef. These are a fantastic experience. Unfortunately, I was two months pregnant at the time, and I ended up feeding the fish myself. Hmmmmm.


We spent our last night freedom camping at Leigh, or ‘boondocking’ as the the Americans would call it. This was our first time freedom camping, and we were nervous! This was a beautiful park, right on the beachfront. We chose a park next to another RV to make sure we had company on our first night freedom camping.

Unfortunately there were a few people partying in the reserve. They lit a fire, and made plenty of noise. But the worst they did was swear. And they headed home at a reasonable hour.

Overall we got a good night sleep, and we were pretty happy to wake up to this sunrise on the last day of our trip:
New Zealand Travel Guide
A New Zealand Travel Guide

And then, unfortunately, it was time to start heading home. Time to start planning our next big adventure!
A New Zealand Travel Guide
Part Two

This article does not contain affiliate links. Any recommendations are my own honest accounts. I will not receive any commission from any of the recommendations I have made in this article. However, I will have helped support the New Zealand tourism industry post-Covid-19 lockdown.

This blog is part of The Place I call Home Series, a #NewZealandTravelBlog. Earlier blogs in this series include:

#travellocal #supportNewZealand #tourismNewZealand #NewZealandTravelGuide

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

The Place I call Home – A New Zealand Travel Blog – Northland in a Campervan Part 1

May 29, 2020

Northland, unsurprisingly, comprises the uppermost tip of the North Island of New Zealand. Northland is perfect for exploring in a campervan. It is long and narrow, and the drive takes you through ancient forests and along stunning coastlines. Northland is rich in history and culture, both Maori and Pakeha (European), and it has its own micro-climate.

This New Zealand campervan trip around Northland marked our first family adventure in a campervan. This trip gave us a taste of the freedom a campervan can offer us, and the beautiful spots we could discover only in a home with wheels. We were hooked.

In this blog post we travel North along the West Coast to Cape Reinga. In Part Two, we head back down the East coast.

The Kauri Coast Highway

We picked up our Maui campervan in Auckland and headed north. A helpful hint here, if you are spending your first day in a campervan, don’t plan to travel too far. Limit yourself to a few hours of driving, planning for stops, and schedule plenty of time to set up for your first night in the new campervan.

Our first break was at Kaiwaka. This charming little town is definitely worth the stop. To stock up on cheese from the Kaiwaka Cheese if nothing else! A creamy blue to accompany a cold glass of wine with a beautiful view at the end of a day’s travel?

We continued to follow the Kauri Coast Highway, a scenic detour from the main Twin Coast Discovery Highway. Heading off the main highway is our modus operandi. Throughout our Northland trip, we managed to spend only a few hours on the main four-lane highway. By staying off the main highway we could stop in the little Bays for lunch on the waterfront, explore ancient Kauri forests and stop at roadside stalls for fresh fruit and vegetables, artisan sausages, and cheese tasting of course!

We spent our first night at the Pine Beach campground at Kai Iwi Lakes, parked up on the waterfront. We could make dinner whilst watching the girls played on the sand. There are also fantastic walking tracks, including a walk around the lake (30 – 45 minutes) or a walk across the dunes to the surf beach. Unfortunately, we only planned to be here for a night, so we didn’t get a chance to explore the area. It is a common theme of this trip that we should have doubled the amount of time spent in every location.

Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest

The next day we followed the Kauri Coast Highway through the ancient and stunning Waipoua Forest, home to the famous Tane Mahuta. Tāne Mahuta (‘Lord of the Forest’) is New Zealand’s largest known living Kauri tree at over 51 meters high!

According to Maori mythology, Tāne is the son of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatuanuku (the earth mother). Tāne was the child that tore apart his parents’ parental embrace. His growth broke apart the embrace of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, to allow space and light in between them for life to flourish. Tane Mahuta is regarded as the parent to all living creatures of the forest.

Logging of native trees drastically depleted Kauris from the 1820s until its ban in 2002. Kauri Dieback Disease now threatens the few giants that remain. For this reason, when you enter a DOC managed forest in New Zealand you will be asked to clean your shoes.
Tane Mahuta
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Hokianga Harbour and a history lesson

The Kauri Coast Highway then took us through to the Hokianga Harbour where we stopped at Opononi. Arriving at Opononi is like stepping back in time. A place where the pace is slow and the people are down to earth. There are amazing views, wharves to fish off, and stunning picnic spots.

Next, we headed to Rawene to catch the Rawene Ferry. My husband appears to love ferries and will schedule them in wherever he can. Its all part of staying off the main Highway I guess…

Rawene is one of the oldest European towns in New Zealand. Unfortunately, this charming and quaint historical village was not built for campervan parking…

Rawene is however home to excellent cafes, galleries like the Boatshed Gallery, and the historic Clendon House. Clendon House is a heritage house where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The Treaty is the founding document for the New Zealand settlement by Europeans. The Treaty traveled throughout New Zealand and was signed in numerous locations. 

One surprising thing I learned on this trip is that one of my ancestors actually signed the Treaty of Waitangi (as a settler), and potentially acted as an interpreter. Maybe not something to be proud of given the interpretation issues with the Treaty, but still fascinating history.

Ninety Mile Beach, the beach that is not ninety miles long!

We spent our second night in Ahipara, staying at the Ahipara Holiday Park. This wasn’t our first choice, but it was a lovely, clean holiday park. And the girls had a surprise the next morning with an Easter Egg Hunt in and around the campervan (we were finding Easter Eggs for days… silly Easter Bunny didn’t count how many eggs she hid!).

The main attraction at Ahipara is Ninety Mile Beach. Which, incidentally, is not ninety miles long! Ninety Mile Beach is a renowned surf beach, and famous for its sunsets. The beach itself is actually an official highway. As novel as it is to take a drive down the beach (which we couldn’t do in a hired camper), I didn’t enjoy the vehicles roaring past whilst trying to explore the beach with two young children.

Although Ahipara is an adventurer’s paradise, it wasn’t somewhere I’d rave about for a family with young children. However, as a gateway to the Far North, it was worth the stay.

The Far North, lighthouses and spirits
Cape Reinga
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Cape Reinga, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

The Far North is where it gets really fun! We headed to Cape Reinga, the (mostly) northernmost point of New Zealand. The Cape is home to the famous landmark, the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, and a lone Pohutukawa tree. It is also (arguably) the most significant spiritual area for the Maori people. The Cape itself marks the departure point for Maori spirits, the point from which Maori wairua (spirit) return to their traditional homeland after they die.

I cannot stress enough how sacred this area is. It is well marked. Yet when we were there a tourist was assisting her son to pee in the bushes. There are public toilets. Please don’t be that tourist.

We spent the night in the appropriately named Spirits Bay at the Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) DOC conservation campsite. To get to the campsite we had to detour down a long dirt road, but it was well worth the extra drive. This is one of those areas we would not have been able to explore without a camper/mobile home.

Spirits Bay had an eery (yet comforting?) feeling about it. Oddly, I’m not the only one to think so. When researching for this blog, I found an article that included Spirits Bay in a list of New Zealand’s eeriest spots. Legend has it that, at night, spirits can be seen moving down the beach toward that lone ancient Pohutukawa tree on the tip of the Cape, and then suddenly disappearing. I didn’t see any spirits, but I certainly didn’t like being out on that (beautiful) beach on my own!
Spirits Bay
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Spirits Bay, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Te Paki Sand-Duning Adventures

Time for a bit of fun? How about sandboarding down the GIANT Te Paki Sand Dunes? The sand formations, vegetation and continually moving sand really make you feel like you are heading into the desert. Hire the boards on-site. Don’t bother trying your bodyboards. Pay the $10 for a specially designed and waxed board… it is worth the money.
Te Paki Sand Dunes
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Next, it is time to head south again. Where there are plenty of adventures to be had, wine to be tasted, wild Kiwi spotting, and stunning scenery to enjoy. In Part Two of this Northland blog we will be enjoying Matauri Bay and the Bay of Islands… more to come!

This article does not contain affiliate links. Any recommendations are my own honest accounts. I will not receive any commission from any of the recommendations I have made in this article. However, I will have helped support the New Zealand tourism industry post-Covid-19 lockdown.

#travellocal #supportNewZealand #tourismNewZealand #NewZealandCampervan

This blog is part of The Place I call Home Series, a #NewZealandTravelBlog.

lifestyle, Parenting

Life-changing Lockdown Lessons

April 29, 2020

New Zealand has been in Lockdown for 38 days as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. We have been at Lockdown Level Four, one of the stricter Lockdowns across the world. Essentially – stay home. But along the way, there have been a number of life-changing Lockdown lessons.

The easing of Lockdown

We are now on the eve of the Lockdown easing to Level Three. This will mean a few more freedoms. Some can go out to work if it is safe. You will be able to get takeaway food and real coffee! Retail remains closed, and many businesses will continue to struggle. If you are not at work, getting essentials, or exercising locally, you must remain at home. In your ‘bubbles’.

New Zealand has done well. Our “team of five million” has drastically cut the number of cases, our death toll stands at 19 to date.

But on the eve of easing Lockdown, its a time of personal reflection for me. I wanted to write not about the virus, and the terrible things it has caused. Instead, I want to remember both the time we spent in Lockdown and what I have learned. To consider how the Lockdown has changed me personally, for the better. About how it has been a period of personal growth. And about how those lessons learned in Lockdown have been life-changing.

A Life-changing Lockdown Journey

Lockdown has been a strange time. A time with highs and lows.

The low points came quickly, with my teenage daughter’s confusion and stress at being forced into a different life. A new and different routine caused her anxiety to spiral. I know in my heart that inside is a scared little girl, but on the outside she was an out of control teenager, taller than me, breaking things and threatening to kill her little sister.

Then she settled down. Settled into a new routine. A relaxed routine. Away from the pressures of her normal life.

And our family started to settle into lockdown life. Sleeping in, every morning. My morning run. A lazy coffee in the sun. Breakfast around 10. Work and school for a few hours. Lunch. Yoga or a bike ride. Free time. Wine time. Dinner. Netflix or a family movie. Sleep. And repeat.

The nightly driveway wines, our neighbors in their drive, us in ours. The kids playing in the culdesac. Tennis, riding bikes, skates, scooters. Reading books.

Board games. Teddy Bears in windows. Exploring the golf course. Collecting pinecones and mushrooms.

Starting a business.

Celebrating milestones

Along the way we celebrated and remembered life’s milestones. We celebrated my birthday. Remembering a year ago the amazing time we had with our closest friends, touring wineries in the Hawkes Bay.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary with a vintage pinot we had collected from a small Queenstown winery. With a cheese board. In front of a roaring fire. life-changing lockdown lessons

Easter arrived and we made hot cross buns and had an Easter Egg hunt around the garden. Miss M’s pet rabbit Minty decided her Easter Egg (rabbit) smelt pretty yummy. And ate it. With the family in fits of laughter, we decided Minty had a streak of cannibalism in her when it came to chocolate bunny rabbits.

Then there was Anzac Day. A day of remembrance for those that fought for our freedom in the World Wars. To remember those that did not grow old. And to be grateful to those veterans, now the most at risk in this pandemic. I rose at 6 am, stood in the driveway, and watched the sunrise as a Bugler in our neighborhood played The Last Post. Along the street, our neighbors stood in solidarity. We will remember them.

Lockdown Life Lessons

Before Lockdown there were two main pressures in my life. Work was the first. The second was my daughter’s behavior, and the stress it put on the family.

Whether it was leaving work, my daughter’s unexpected relaxation, or being forced to stay in one place, I have remembered how to stay still. I have found peace. And contentment.

I am present in the ‘now’. I no longer half-listen to conversations going on around me. Nod, aha, yeah, yup, ok. Until someone asks me a question. Usually my husband. And I can’t remember having the conversation.

I am happy. I’m content. And relaxed. I can enjoy the company of my husband. And love being around my children.

I feel confident again. The anxiety has gone. I can breathe.

Lockdown has been life-changing.

Take care.


#Lockdown #NewZealand #Covid19 #Aspergers

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

Life in lockdown – the end of a dream?

April 4, 2020
NZ in lockdown

If you have been following this blog, you probably know that late last year my husband and I made a big brave life decision. We resigned from our jobs. Sold a rental property. And purchased a campervan that is sitting waiting for us in the Netherlands. Then there was the lockdown.

We were set to fly to Europe in April. The plan was to travel for the rest of the year and return in time for Miss T to start her High School exams next year. Really now or never on the timing.

Then the world started to fall apart. Just as I was finishing work, the kids were enrolled in the correspondence school, and our house was listed for rent, Coronavirus started to hit hard in Europe. The borders started closing.  

With a campervan in storage in the Netherlands, we started looking for a backup plan. We worked through our budget and started looking at caravans to travel around New Zealand. Although we have traveled much of the North Island, traveling around the South Island was definitely on our bucket list. We were grateful and excited to have such an amazing ‘backyard’ to explore in our own country.


Then, quite unexpectantly, and with only 100 coronavirus cases in New Zealand, we were all put into lockdown for at least a month. We must stay at home. Although my husband had work lined up (he is now self employed), with the lockdown in place he cannot go out to work, and cannot get paid. We can only leave the house for exercise, to get food, and for essentials.

When we dared to follow our dreams, when we decided to quit our jobs and travel the world with our kids, there is no way we could have ever guessed this could happen. A global pandemic. That we could end up both unemployed and stuck at home. A recession kicking in. Not even able to travel our own country. Living on our savings for our European dream.

The end of a dream?

So what now? We can only take this day by day. It is ultimately going to depend on how long this lockdown lasts, and how far our savings can take us.

I remind myself daily, it could be much worse. I am grateful we live in an Island nation, where we have managed to keep the virus out long enough to learn from other countries. Whereas other countries have suffered immense losses to human life, we have entered lockdown to regain control of the virus, hopefully before it is too late. My family is healthy and happy in our lockdown paradise.

Will we get out on the road? I doubt we will get to Europe anytime soon. But hopefully, we can get out of lockdown in New Zealand, buy a caravan and travel our own backyard.

As for Europe? Well, we own a campervan in the Netherlands. I hope one day we can get there. However, first, we will need to come up with a way of working while we are traveling. And we will need to find a way for our daughter to complete her High School exams from Europe.

One of my clients said to me when we first verbalized our European dream – when you get back, you will fall back into work and the chaos that is life, it won’t take long, but the thing that will change in you permanently is when you look at that horizon. You will look at the horizon and you will know you can pack up and reach for that dream, you will not be stuck in the everyday rat race. You will know you can walk away, you can achieve it. And that is what will stick.

That is what I want to learn, and for my children to learn. To be brave.

And in the meantime, I remind myself that when we traveled to Canada and the US for six weeks, people asked me what my favorite part was. My answer was ‘spending six weeks continuously with my children’. And I can do that right here at home.

Parenting, Travel, Uncategorized

A catch-up Update, our new direction is North

January 24, 2020

So I’ve been noticeably absent from this blog for quite a while. I recently published a post, that I wrote in March last year. A lot has happened, and we have made a couple of BIG decisions in the last 12 months. Once again, we are heading off in a NEW direction. So the purpose of this post is to fill you in on what has been happening and enlighten you as to our new direction!

If you have been following this blog, you have probably worked out I was a stressed-out mother and career woman. The classic ‘rushing women syndrome’ type.

With our girls growing up fast the chaos all got too much. My husband gave up his job in May last year so that he could help out more with our girls, and at home, and generally support me in my career. It has worked wonders with the girls, Miss T’s behaviour has improved remarkedly, and Miss M’s enthusiasm for school and learning has returned. My husband has loved the new lifestyle and has started his own part-time business. On most accounts, it has been a success.

However, I’ve remained stressed. I felt stuck. And my health has deteriorated. Being the breadwinner wasn’t working for me. With Hubby not wanting to go back to work, we started to seriously think about our dream of travelling with the children. A dream that we had put to one side as ‘unrealistic’, while we continued to focus on our careers, paying off our mortgage and saving for retirement … the safe, the normal.

We thought about our parents. My father who passed away at 52, and my mother ín law who died at 59. Neither of whom reached retirement. Sitting here, working hard and saving ‘life’ for retirement wasn’t sitting well with us.

So again we thought of taking some time out for travel.

If we were going to travel, it had to be now. Before Miss T’s High School exams next year.

We made a decision. We are doing it.

I have officially resigned from my job. We have sold an investment property to fund the trip. In two months’ time, we will both be unemployed! Our home will be rented out. And we will be on a plane heading for the adventure of a lifetime with our children in tow!

Budgeting, lifestyle, Parenting

Stressed is just Desserts Backwards!

September 24, 2018

I can be a bit of a stress junkie.  I have a bad habit of overloading myself, and then turning into Mumzilla.  Not exactly conducive to a calm home environment.  Our lives can be a little chaotic.

However, this year we have been doing pretty well.  And although the year started out at full noise, as it progressed, work-life balance was coming back.

The problem being, as you may know, that we have just started a major new project.

The Project

We have purchased an investment house.  And it is in dire need of repair. Continue Reading…

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