Leaving New Zealand’s kauri country and following Hwy12 south to Dargaville and Matakohe, we’re on our way back to Auckland. Both towns have museums with history of the Hokianga including early day use of kauri timber and kauri gum. The Dargaville Maritime Museum also has a large display of maritime relics. Hwy12 cuts into Hwy1– the route we took north from Auckland– at Brynderwyn. This time, we’ll cut around Kaipara Harbour and get back to Auckland by a less traveled route– a route Dave and I took north our first year when we got lost and figured sooner or later we’d end up where we wanted to go.
Before we get too far out of kauri country, we’ll stop by the Kai Iwi Lakes about 34 kms north of Dargaville. These three fresh water lakes with their white sandy beaches and sheltered bays are a good place to swim, fish or camp. Turn off Hwy12 at Omamar Road to these dune lakes filled by rainwater– they have no natural inlets or outlets. Although they’re close to the Tasman Sea, pines have been planted in some areas. You’ll find sheltered camp and picnic sites. Camp sites are at Promenade Point and Pine Beach. Every once in a while, the New Zealand Water Ski Championships are held here. The local ski club has a ski jump and slalom course on Lake Waikere. Only 5 small ski boats are allowed at a time. These are not large lakes. A gum digger’s hut once located on Lake Kai Iwi was moved to Dargaville Maritime Museum. If you want to explore around Kai Iwi Lakes, there are several walking tracks. You’ll find walking access to Ripiro Beach on the Tasman Sea. Vehicle access to the beach is at Omamari about 8 kms south.
Ripiro Beach is New Zealand’s longest driveable beach, stretching 100 kms from Mauganui Bluff north of Kai Iwi Lakes to Pouto Point at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour. If you have the time and energy, rent a 4WD and explore the beach or drive your own vehicle to Pouto Point and take a tour of the old lighthouse which overlooks the entrance to the harbour and the sites of around 150 shipwrecks. We won’t be going that way. We’re staying on Hwy12 to Dargaville then swinging inland to Matakohe.
At one time, Dargaville on the northern end of the Wairoa River was a busy kauri timber and gum trading port. The Wairoa was used to transport logs downstream to ship builders. Today, this small town surrounded by dairy farms is best known for the Dargaville Maritime Museum overlooking the town. In addition to information, photographs and artifacts from kauri logging and gum digging days, the museum has the largest pre-European Maori canoe exhibit in New Zealand, relics from several shipwrecks, and masts from the Rainbow Warrior. You’ll also find that gum digger’s hut moved from the shores of Lake Kai Iwi. About a half hour drive beyond Dargaville, the Kauri Museum in Matakohe has the largest collection of kauri gum in the world and antique kauri furniture, as well as information about the early pioneers who settled around Kaipara Harbour. If you want to dig deeper into the early kauri logging history, Kauri Country Safaris will pick you up at the museum for a guided eco-tour into the forest where you can learn to hitch up a team of bullocks– not oxen as used in early day logging in the Cascade Mountains, neutered bulls.
It only took two years, but I got you back to Auckland– not close enough to the airport if you have to catch an early morning flight and return a rental car or RV. You’re still on the north side of that Nippon Clipon. If you don’t want to fight early morning traffic, spend the night at Manukau City, find a motel in the low rent district where we started, or have a fling in a fancy downtown hotel. If you missed a few sights your first time in Auckland, stay at Manukau City and catch the bus or try a downtown hotel.
We’ve traveled the twin coasts of Northland and Far North from the Hibiscus Coast to the Kauri Coast. Next, we’ll be catching up on things to do around Auckland then heading for the Coromandel.
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand