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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

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.


Happy Monday!

August 19, 2018

I am the first to dread Mondays in our house.  I suffer horribly from the “Monday Blues”. But I’m done with it.  It’s not helping me or anybody else, so I’m turning over a new leaf.  Welcome to POSITIVE MONDAYS!

This week it’s back to work as normal.  I’m slowly recovering from the flu, and my brain is almost functional again.  I just got a pay rise (not sure if that is a good thing, or if it just adds to the handcuffs, but an interesting topic to explore later…).  And, if all goes to plan, we may even buy a house this week!

I wish you all a fantastic week, with whatever it is you are doing.  Remember:

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love – then make that day count!“
Steve Maraboli

Have a great week!


#mondayblues Monday Accounting 4 Chaos

Parenting, Travel

The Beartooth Highway Photo Diary – An Amazing Journey Series

August 3, 2018
Beartooth Highway

The Beartooth Highway is a 68 mile All American Road that winds its way through Montana and Wyoming, leading its travellers to the iconic Yellowstone National Park.  At 3,337m high, there is some serious elevation – a bag of chip bursting elevation in fact!  Starting from around 1,600m in elevation, you start your climb starts in grassy meadows, travelling through switch-backs and steep zigzags, past banks of snow, and skiers blasting past your window.

The Itinerary

We flew into Billings Airport, as the closest airport we could find to Yellowstone National Park, that didn’t cost an extremely exorbitant amount (i.e. Jackson Hole).  Billings turned out to be a great place to pick up a rental, stock up the car, and find cheap accommodation.  I have to provide a recommendation here for the Hilltop Inn.  This was the cheapest hotel accommodation in our entire trip, and it provided free breakfast.  The room was huge, and to top it off there was a microwave and a fridge so we could self-cater a family dinner (with the help of a hot chicken from Walmart!).  Would love it if they didn’t use disposable plastic for EVERYTHING though, a little better for the environment if they used glasses, plates, knives, forks etc instead of the single-use plastic variety – wrapped in another layer of plastic for hygiene.

The Beartooth Highway

We had three amazing All American Roads on our bucket list for our US Trip – the Beartooth Highway, the Big Sur Coast Highway, and the Tioga Pass (technically a National Scenic Byway).  Unfortunately for us, a storm took out a key bridge on the Big Sur Coast Highway, and the snow didn’t clear from the Tioga Pass by the time we travelled through in early July – which left only the Beartooth Highway.

Even then, the Beartooth Highway was CLOSED the day before we left Billings.  Hubby was devastated, knowing the Big Sur was closed, watching the snow reports daily for the Tioga Pass, and refreshing the Beartooth Highway website hourly for updates to see if it was going to open.   In the morning when we were due to leave Billings the hotel staff gave us the good news – it was open.  For now.  Get moving… We knew we were still hours away from the start of the Highway, but we took the risk.  We were very lucky.  It was closed again the next day!

Beartooth Highway Accounting 4 Chaos

Continue Reading…

lifestyle, Parenting

Blogging failures – when a Technophobe tries to blog!

July 27, 2018

It’s Friday and it’s time to celebrate the weekend!!  Unfortunately, I’m still doing Dry July so I won’t be seeing in the weekend with the traditional Friday night glass of wine (OK, the reality is it’s probably more like a bottle!)

I’ve been back at work this week after our beautiful holiday in Taupo.  Here’s a little snapshot (proper blog to follow shortly):

Accounting 4 Chaos #travelblogging

Miss M and I exploring Taupo whilst Hubby and Miss T are off skiing without us…

I’ve also been a bit quiet on the blogging side.  But truth be told, there is a reason for that!

Continue Reading…

lifestyle, Parenting

Parenting failures – when things don’t go to plan

July 17, 2018

If you’ve been following along you will know that it is currently school holidays in New Zealand.  If you’re new to this blog, welcome!  Anyway, it is currently school holidays, and I’ve got a week off work to spend with my girls.

It all started out great, with traditional hut making and sleepovers, and a touch of roller skating…  And that is where it started to go wrong (unbeknown to me).  Miss M was complaining of a sore wrist after a fall on the roller skating rink.  She could still move her wrist in all directions, bend her fingers, and do everything else a wrist is supposed to do.  So we decided to put an ice pad on, and give it a day or so to settle down.

A few days later and the wrist was still sore.  The X-Rays revealed a sprain.  The Doctors were a little more concerned.  And this is the result:

Accounting 4 Chaos Parenting Failure #parentingfailure #parenting #rollerskating #failure

(She is not in pain by the way).

Continue Reading…

Food, lifestyle, Travel

It all starts now – an Amazing Journey series – part 2

May 12, 2018

Five years ago we re-evaluated our lives and our goals after the sudden loss of my mother in law.  We vowed to slow down and to enjoy life with our small children.  We got outside and explored.  And we travelled.  This Amazing Journey series documents our journey through Canada and the US, provides an insight on travelling with children, local destination tips and tricks, and, of course, gives an Accountant’s perspective on making the most of your holiday dollar.

The day we left New Zealand was crazy! We had been cramming everything into a short period before our departure – I’d been on the road most of the month, my mother was leaving for three months, we worked right up to the last day to maximize our annual leave – and we had to get our house ready to rent out on AirBNB while we were away. By the time we reached the airport that evening, I collapsed with the shakes. I hadn’t eaten all day and have a habit of fainting – so my husband promptly left me there to find food and something to drink. Give me half an hour, and a bit of sugar – and it’s time for the adventure to begin!

A year in the planning – it all starts now. Continue Reading…

Parenting, Travel

The Mickey Mouse guide to the value of money – saving for the dream family adventure

May 9, 2018

So we want to meet Mickey Mouse, but meeting Mickey and all his friends is not cheap. We were dreaming of an amazing family holiday – but how do we save for it?

First of all – we needed children buy in.

We started the discussion with the girls around where they wanted to go, and they each nominated two or three places in Canada and the US before voting for their favourites.

Now we had the girls “on board”, but it’s important to us that our children learn the value of money. So we started a conversation with the girls about saving money as a family. Continue Reading…

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