Tuesday, December 8, 2009

South to Hokianga Harbour

November in New Zealand can be wet, even where we’ve been wandering around north of Auckland. Wet is not fun if you’re traveling in an RV, small van, or tent camping with an auto. Who wants to spend their day ducking wet clothes in a movan or reading three-year-old magazines in a Laundromat while waiting for the dryer to cook your sleeping bag? Even if you’re on a tour hopping from heated resort to heated resort, you’ll never see the scenery your tour director wants you to believe lurks behind the clouds. In New Zealand, December and a whole new season of summer weather is here. Each December, I was always impressed to leave California and the shortest days of the year, spend a night watching movies on the plane, then step into Auckland’s flower season and long daylight hours.

Hokianga Ferry

Photo By: Greenstone Girl

We last stopped in Kaitaia. Now, we’re headed down Hwy 1. We’ll be leaving Far North and drop back into Nortland about 25 kms south of Kaitaia. If you booked a short tour to Cape Reinga, you’ll zip south on Hwy 1 past Omahuta Forest and Puketi Forest and cut back into the west side at Kawakawa a little south of Opua where we caught that ferry to Russell in the Bay of Islands. We’re taking the road less traveled as usual, so we’re going down the west side of the North Island towards Hokianga Harbour, more water, and a vehicular ferry. We’ll end up around Opononi near the entrance of Hokianga Harbour on the Tasman Sea. There’s never a lot of travel time when wandering around New Zealand. It’s not like trying to drive across Texas or across and down Florida. From Kaitaia to Kawakawa is around 100 km. Exact mileage for any driving day can be found here.

Manginangina Kauri Walk

Photo By: cmcfall

If you came to New Zealand to hunt, mountain bike, camp, or just wander around in the bush, there are several tracks and walks in Omahuta Forest & Puketi Forest. Kauri Sanctuary Walk, a short loop that takes about 30" to walk, can be reached from Hwy 1 just a little south of Mangamuka Bridge– where we’ll be turning west. If you’re not much of a walker, the Manginangina Kauri Walk has a boardwalk built through mature kauri and a swamp forest. Omahuta Forest is managed by DOC. They recommend “high degree of skill and experience as well as route-finding abilities” on Pukatea Ridge Route.

Mountain biking is popular on old logging roads. There’s a DOC campground in Puketi if you want to mountain bike through this native forest, or think chasing down a wild pig without having him chase you down sounds like a dream vacation. Hunting permits are available from DOC. This is a dense rough area even with a map and permit. You need a guide that knows the area. I don’t hunt. I do hang around with pig hunters and have one in my family. Wild pigs are big, mean, and smelly. New Zealand’s “Captain Corkers” are feral pigs supposedly released by Captain Cook.

Wild Pigs

Photo By: f.lee42

At Mangamuka Bridge, we’ll turn south a short distance to the small village of Kohukohu, an old timber mill town, and the Hokianga Vehicular Ferry about 4 kms beyond this small town. The Kohu-Ra operates daily between The Narrows and Rawene. Crossing takes about 15 minutes. Also called Te Kohanga o TeTai Tokerau– the nest of the northern tribes– Hokianga Harbour cuts almost halfway across Northland. Surrounded at one time by kauri forests, ships maneuvered the sandbars while loggers stripped the land. It’s quiet now with few roads through the mangroves and sand dunes. Clendon House, part of New Zealand’s Historic Place Trust, is in Rawene– the third oldest European settlement in New Zealand. Built in 1860 by shipowner/trader James Reddy Clendon, this home is open to the public.

Rawene Home
Photo By: PhillipC

Nearby Opononi is a good place to stay and explore Hokianga Harbour, sand dunes, Horeke– an old ship building town, or the Koutu boulders along the beach. One of the best and easiest ways to explore the harbour is by boat. The Information Center in Omapere can help you book a cruise. If you don’t have time for a boat trip, at least turn off Hwy12 just south of Omapere on Signal Station Road and drive to South Head for a view of the Harbour.

Horeke Road Church and Graveyard

Photo By: Tony & Leah

A little over three hours drive from Auckland, you’ll want to spend time around Opononi or its sister Omapere. If you’re RVing, camping, or backpacking and looking for something a little different, The Tree House Eco-Lodge– north of the ferry landing is suitable for small movans. No cats allowed– it’s a bird sanctuary. You’ll find many accommodations in and around Opononi and Omapere– resorts, campgrounds, B&Bs, or Farm Stays. Check here, or ask at the Information Center.

Many Maori trace their ancestry to Hokianga Harbour. If your time is limited, Hokianga Harbour is not far from Auckland. Squeeze in some time to explore this area some consider the “Birthplace of the Nation.”

Lyn Harris

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


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Anonymous said...

Are there many of those pigs in the forest? Are they dangerous? Also wondering if your relative is a New Zealand guide?
Very interesting blog. I've never been to New Zealand, but I'm saving and plan to be there next year. You make it sound easier than I imagined.

Lyn said...

I wouldn't worry about the wild pigs.
My relative hunts in northern California.
I'm in Arizona. There are javelinas here-- they're native, so we can't blame Captain Cook. They look like wild pigs and are called pigs, but they're collard peccary. Javelina tusks grow downward. Wild boars, upward. Javelinas have no tail.
It is easy. You can save money and stay longer if you plan ahead.

Anonymous said...

Our plans are to spend almost 3 weeks in northland during late January to Feb. We will stay at Holiday parks when we can and want to camp as much as possible to save $$. Are there any DOC campgrounds around Rawene?

Lyn said...

There's a DOC camp south of Opononi in Waipoua Forest.

Anonymous said...

I come from the Hokianga and was born in Rawene Our farm was at Horeke and now is a famous tourist resort called the Wairerei Boulders.Did you visit this place when you passed through horeke. NZ is a very beautiful country and now my husband and I leave in Brisbane Queensland where we get the beautiful Sun. Have you travelled Australia yet. All the best with your journey. Rae

Anonymous said...

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