Monday, April 28, 2008

Huraki Gulf Islands

Yacht Racing

From the Ferry Berth of Quay and Hobson Streets in Auckland or anywhere else along the waterfront on the east side of Auckland, you can look east to the Hauraki gulf. Auckland has more boats per person than any city in the world. If you’ve watched America’s Cup sailing in New Zealand, the yachts were in the Hauraki Gulf.

If you’d like to charter a yacht, the two best places to cruise in New Zealand are the Hauraki Gulf and the smaller Bay of Islands farther north. The Moorings has been in business many years and has a great reputation. I’ve chartered from them several times and always liked their service. Hauraki Gulf sailing is more open and challenging than the Bay of Islands. The Moorings doesn’t want you or their expensive yacht on a reef or at the bottom of the Gulf. They’ll check out your skills before turning you loose from their dock.

The Hauraki Gulf has 47 or 50 islands– depending on who’s counting. Many are reserves for day trips. Some offer snorkeling and diving sites. The inner islands are easy to reach and you can picnic, camp, or just poke around. The outer islands are mainly closed nature reserves for endangered bird species.

Great Barrier Island, 90 km northeast of Auckland is the largest island in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park. This partly forested island on the edge of the park has a population of 1100 in settlements around the coast. Residents provide their own power with generators. On Great Barrier Island you’ll find walks on good tracks, rare birds, long white surf beaches, fishing, and diving– there are two wreck dives. Port Abercrombie, Port FitzRoy, and Whangaparapara are sheltered anchorages. If you want to stay a while, there are holiday lodges, motels, camp grounds and DOC huts. Ferries depart for the island several times weekly. You can cruise the coastline or take a bus trip on a metal road from Port FitzRoy to Tryphena. You can also fly to Great barrier Island.

Only 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland, Waiheke, the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf has a population of 7000. Waiheke means cascading waters. There are waterfalls in the Whakanewha Regional Park near Rocky Bay. From the "Stony Batter" where a maze of tunnels and concrete gun emplacements were built for defense by the army during World War II, you have a view of the southern end of the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheka has 22 vineyards, swimming beaches, and restaurants. You’ll also find sea kayaking, golf, diving, a large sea cave on Gannet Rock, a museum and a Forest and Bird reserve at Onetangi. If you’re staying over, you’ll find a variety of accommodations from resorts to backpackers lodging.

Rangitoto, a circular island visible from most parts of the mainland, appeared around 700 years ago during a series of volcanic eruptions. Connected to Motutapu Island by a causeway, Rangitoto has many species of plants and trees including the largest pohutukawa forest in the world. There are no overnight accommodations on Rangitoto. Adjoining Motutapu is a farmed reserve in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park.

There are many more islands south off the Coromandel and also north as we travel up the east coast into Northland. Hauraki Gulf Islands provides a good map of the Gulf and more island information.

Lyn Harris
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

New Zealand's Electrical Power

New Zealand

We'll get to the tiki tour of New Zealand's Northland yet. You probably learned more than you really wanted to know about toilets in a previous post, but if you're RVing or traveling by auto, you won't be snoozing while the driver and tour guide worry about getting you to your next fancy hotel. And, you'll want to take photos.

New Zealand electrical power is 230 volt, 50 cycle. If you rent an RV, a certified official has checked the switches, hot points, mains and anything else electrical in the movan. Hot points have switches, but they're reversed. ON points downward...because we're below the equator? Most cameras and other electronic toys use power chargers with built-in dual-volt compatibility for 110 and 220 volts. Check first before you plug your toy in and fry either it or yourself. You'll need a plug adaptor which can be bought at most New Zealand chemist shops or hardware stores. I've always carried a dual-volt hair dryer purchased on a US military base. It folds up and runs normally in the states then runs like that striped ape when I'm in New Zealand. Military bases, truck stops, and AAA travel stores are good places to shop for travel electronics and outlet adapters. also carries universal outlet adapters and voltage converters.

On a Northland tour you won't be traveling far each day. While planning your trip, use Mitsubishi Motor's driving distance calculator to figure driving distances-- not just in Northland, but anywhere in New Zealand.

Any questions? If not, let's head north to Orewa and start that tiki tour.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Meet a Kiwi


Often our best travel memories are about the people we meet along the way. That's why I like to travel by auto or RV when I'm in New Zealand. The best way to spend time with Kiwis is to stay in campgrounds or motorparks. You share kitchen and lounging facilities in motorparks. Eat in your own rig if you want, then hang around and visit. Youth hostels and backpacker accommodations are located throughout New Zealand, or you can plan a pub stay-- you're only limited by your imagination.

If you'd like to contact a Kiwi ahead of time, maybe find someone going your way you can share travel costs with, or meet someone who can show you the local sights, join the Hospitality Club, an international online hospitality organization. Membership is free and there is no obligation. Their aim is to:

"Bring people together - hosts and guests, travelers and locals. Thousands of Hospitality Club members around the world help each other when they are traveling - be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town. Joining is free, takes just a minute and everyone is welcome. Members can look at each other's profiles, send messages and post comments about their experiences on the website.

The club is supported by volunteers who believe in one idea: by bringing travelers in touch with people in the place they visit, and by giving "locals" a chance to meet people from other cultures we can increase intercultural understanding and strengthen the peace on our planet."

If you're young, a fulltime undergraduate student, have some free time this summer, and still have a lot of bounce in your butt, Roadtrip Nation and Tourism New Zealand will be sending teams of two or three people on a New Zealand roadtrip to interview Kiwis. Teams will book interviews, plan their trip, and film and blog along the way. If you can pull a team together in a hurry, give it a go. Deadline for applications is April 30, 2008.

Remember-- you're only limited by your imagination.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Freedom Camping

The Cassette Toilet

Slides Out

In RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand, I spent a chapter on freedom and low cost camping. I also covered Park Over Properties (POPs) which can be anything from a farm on the beach to a parking spot in someone's back yard. While RVing in New Zealand, we often stayed in or near the top tourist spots free or almost free. But, we had a self-contained movan. It's very unlikely anyone will invite you to stay if they think you'll be using their potato patch for a sewer.

In the South Island, which is often less strict than the North Island, local governments have voted for a system that will require motorcaravans to have a sticker registration to freedom camp:

1) Green stickers for movans with both toilet and kitchen/shower waste water in holding tanks...self-contained movans. These campervans can stay overnight anywhere freedom parking is allowed.

2) Orange stickers for movans with only kitchen/shower waste holding tanks. These campervans can stay overnight only in areas with toilet facilities.

3) Red stickers for "sleeping vans" with no waste facilities. These vehicles will be required to stay in campgrounds with full cooking, shower and toilet facilities.

If you're planning to rent an RV and freedom camp, be sure you read the vehicle specs and understand what you're paying for. The first year we rented a motorcaravan, I was afraid to ask, "Why the bucket?" It wasn't as bad as I thought. The toilets are cassette type. It's the grey water that can be a problem. Shower and sink water drains into a bucket that you haul to the nearest drain. Most rentals are self-contained now, but there are still "bucket vans" around.

If you're tall, check the bed specs, too. Rentals are pricey and we wanted to save money on a smaller vehicle, but the bed was 5' 10". Dave is 6' 1". There was no way two of us would fit in that bed.

Freedom camping saves money. Just plan ahead. You don't want to get nicked and end up in the nick.

Lyn Harris

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