| Mar 01, 2015
Recently my two daughters and I were lucky enough to experience a short campervan trip with Wilderness Motorhomes. With limited time and with a feisty preschooler who doesn’t particularly like travelling, we decided to base our trip around Auckland and focus on quality of experience rather than quantity of kilometres travelled! Having lived in Auckland for many years, we planned to combine our brief holiday with visits to a number of old friends. Here’s an account of our adventure.
The Wilderness depot is easy to find and super-convenient to access (especially travelling from the airport or the south, as we were). It’s beautiful and modern, with plenty of parking, spotlessly clean facilities and friendly, efficient staff. We were met by the lovely Monika, who handled our paperwork and showed us around our campervan.
Our campervan (which quickly became known as Fifi, due to the Fiat engine) was a Freestyle 2 - a 6-metre motorhome for up to 2 adults and 2 children. It had a shower and toilet, a roomy double bed which easily pulled down from the roof, and seating underneath which transformed into another double bed. It also featured an oven and grill and fridge/freezer which we put to good use!
We loved the fact that the motorhome was an absolute dream to drive – easily as comfortable as my car. Visibility was great, and the reversing camera was very handy. I felt very comfortable and confident driving it – my main problem was keeping an eye on the speedo as Fifi had a tendency to want to go fast! We also loved all the windows and vents which made the vehicle feel really light and airy. The beds were really comfy (especially the top bed with snuggly memory foam mattress) and there was loads of storage, with shelves, pockets and cupboards in every available space. Our favourite feature of all was the flyscreens – letting fresh air in and keeping creepy-crawlies out!
We weren’t crazy about having to make up the lower bed each night (it’s a ‘put the table down and make the bed up with a variety of squabs’ type affair). Plus, with the little one tucked up in bed there wasn’t a lot of living space for people who wanted to stay up later. Having said that, by the third night we had the bed system (what cushions went where) nailed. And if you’re a close-knit family used to camping and being in close quarters, or if it’s nice weather and you can use outside space too, the lack of living space when the beds are in use wouldn’t be such an issue. We felt the Freestyle was OK for a small family, but would be AWESOME if there were just two of you.
The first night
We picked up the motorhome in the afternoon and weren’t keen to travel too far on our first night, so we headed into Auckland city and spent the night at Remuera Motor Lodge and Camping Ground. This little gem is located smack bang in the heart of central Auckland – a most unlikely spot for a camping ground! We only found out about it because a friend mentioned she had always driven past and thought it was an unusual place to camp. We were pleasantly surprised at the beautiful tranquil location, nice pool and clean facilities, all in the heart of Remuera just a stone’s throw from so many of the city attractions. It’s a fanastic spot – a real oasis in a busy Auckland suburb, and an easy walk to a main road to hop on a bus into the city. We had a fun dinner with friends in a city restaurant before enjoying a great night’s sleep in our apartment on wheels.
The second day of our ‘roadie’ saw us heading into the city to the wonderful Auckland Zoo, where we spent most of the day! Highlights were the giraffe feeding (they have a programme of events during the day, check out their website www.aucklandzoo.co.nz for details) – the kids actually got to feed a giraffe which was really cool. It all happened really fast so if you do it, have your camera ready as you only get one shot! There were so many people there and it was a scorching hot day but the zoo is well
equipped to handle large volumes and the crowds were managed very quickly.
Outside the zoo is a tram which is run by Motat. The kids were dead keen to go on the tram, we will definitely do that next time! The Zoo does have a carpark but that fills up quickly, however there’s a huge carpark just across the road with plenty of nice big spots for motorhomes.
Hot, tired and happy, we said goodbye to the Zoo and headed north to the seaside town of Orewa. The Orewa Top 10 Holiday Park is situated at the south end of Orewa Beach. It’s a family-friendly park in a beautiful beachside location with a good amenities block, friendly staff and really large sites. Even though we were a few rows back from the beach, we had a nice view of the ocean through leafy pohutukawa trees.
After an exhilarating swim near the Surf Club, just a stone’s throw from our camping site, we spent the evening relaxing over pizza from a local gourmet pizzeria before having an early night. The holiday park was busy and we were alarmed when we saw the occupants of a backpacker bus unpack their tents and prepare to camp for the night on a site right next to us, but they were very well behaved and we had a great night’s rest, lulled to sleep by the sounds of the ocean.
Orewa is a small town with a fantastic safe beach, numerous kids’ playgrounds and some great cafes and restaurants. In the interests of spending time in all these places, we decided to stay put and spend a second night at the Holiday Park. This was a relaxing day spent exploring, playing in parks, catching up with friends and of course walking along the beach and swimming.
Having lived in Orewa several years ago, we were happy just relaxing and spending time in town. But if you’re staying there and feel a little more adventurous than we did, there’s loads to do. Bush walks, great golf courses, Tiritiri Matangi ecosanctuary, Waiwera thermal pools and Snow Planet are just some of the attractions a short drive away.
Leaving our beachside camping paradise, we headed south through Auckland, travelling mid-morning to escape the peak hour traffic. We headed to Howick, south-east of Auckland, to catch up with some friends at Howick Historical Village a fascinating colonial village depicting life in the fencible period. The kids enjoyed experiencing a little ‘living history’, and we enjoyed the hearty food in the café and the wide green spaces to run around in. Best of all, there were plenty of spots to park a motorhome!
In the afternoon we continued to head south-east, to the small town of Miranda, set on the picturesque Auckland/Coromandel coastal road. We set up camp at the Miranda Holiday Park. We’d stayed here many years ago on a previous motorhome adventure, and had fond memories of it. We weren’t disappointed – our camping site was quiet and picturesque, the facilities were large, clean and well-maintained, there was a fun playground and a trampoline for the little ones, and best of all, the holiday park has its own thermal pool! Miranda is renowned primarily for two things – the Shorebird Centre, a really interesting visitor centre devoted to the various shorebirds which migrate to this area for the winter, and the Miranda Hot Springs, right next door to the Holiday Park. Many people freedom camp in this area, though we recommend staying at the Holiday Park and enjoying the use of the lovely large thermal pool there!
The evening was spent enjoying fish and chips from nearby Kaiaua, a fishing village close by, and watching a DVD that we had borrowed from Wilderness (just another of the many extras they offer!).
The last day of our short escape. After a morning dip in the thermal pool, we sadly packed up the motorhome and headed off, taking the scenic road north to the rural town of Clevedon. The drive up the coast is gorgeous. I’d been a little nervous about travelling this road by motorhome (it looked a little windy on the map) but it was fine, and well worth it, with a mixture of beautiful rural scenery, native bush and picturesque coastal spots. We stopped in Clevedon, a prosperous suburb to the south of Auckland, for lunch at the Clevedon Café – the perfect way to end our few days away. It was then an easy drive through the southern suburbs of Auckland back to the Wilderness depot, where we reluctantly unpacked the motorhome and were on our way back to reality.
Although ours was only a short break as I couldn’t take much time off work, we were so glad we went. Basing ourselves around Auckland and keeping our travel times short was a great way to introduce the kids to motorhoming. We can’t wait to try it again soon!
As a woman travelling alone with two kids, I had been nervous about the logistical side of travelling by motorhome – managing the emptying of waste, water etc. My previous motorhome holidays were in much older vehicles, where this process was messy, heavy and complicated. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and hassle-free it was to empty the waste cassettes and generally use the motorhome. It’s definitely something I encourage more women to try!
We stayed in camping grounds mainly because we wanted the extra facilities like swimming pools and playgrounds, and also because I was feeling a little nervous about travelling as a solo woman with two daughters and thought the safest option might be a commercial camping ground. In hindsight, we drove past plenty of places where we could have stayed and been perfectly safe and happy! Wilderness have a network of ‘Wildernessts’ – camping spots which only their customers know about. Next time, I would plan my trip around those places.
Finally – a big thanks to Mary and the team at Wilderness Motorhomes for our motorhome hire. We’re definitely keen to try it again, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Wilderness for anyone wanting a fun and relaxing holiday in an upmarket, comfortable home-on-wheels.