For our 2016/17 summer holiday road trip my family headed north – to one of the most popular, least known camp grounds in the country.
Having bought The Matamata Camper only a couple of months ago, we decided to relive a part of Jean’s childhood with a week at Waikawau Bay. Well, Jean decided and I pretty much went along for the ride because, you know, that’s what I do.
This time I had no such safety net.
It took a while to get there – a leisurely five hours with several stops. That allowed me to torture everyone with some of my old CDs – The Cars, New Order, Pink Floyd… even Led Zeppelin got an airing. Yep, I’m secure in my middle age.
The week went surprisingly well. Look, I’m still a bit of a reluctant camper but I think I’m getting somewhere close to being won over (don’t tell Jean though – it would probably do my ongoing campaign of stubbornness terminal harm).
Once I’d got past the trauma of limited cell phone coverage I started to settle down a bit.
I’m not a total Facebook addict or anything like that so that wasn’t my main drama. No, it was the football. The Christmas/New Year period is massive in the English Premier League and Spurs had a couple of games scheduled while we were away, including a big visit to Watford (my brother’s team).
I had planned to hook the laptop up to my phone’s connection and try to find a dodgy stream to watch the games. As it turns out, the only dodgy stream I could find was the one that ran through the campsite, with a boil-water-before-drinking disclaimer.
I ended up following the games via Twitter and the Premier League app, moving around the campsite to find spots that would allow me to hook into Vodafone’s signal to get the updates I needed. Thankfully Spurs won both games 4-1 so the holiday could carry on with a happy Dad rather than a grumpy Dad.
As for the holiday stuff, we had pretty much everything you need for a Kiwi family escape. The beach is slung out in a pristine sandy arc around Waikawau Bay. Spectacular, yes, but when you live in a country full of similarly supreme beaches it was tough to get excessively excited. Or maybe that was just me… It was nice, though.
We spent most of our time at the southern end of the beach, which is the main access point from the camp ground. There were enough rocks to keep the boys happy and there was nice little mini-peninsula formed where a little estuary flows into the sea for Siena (our two year old) to get covered in sand on. It was pretty windy most of the time but we did have one properly hot day, which reminded us that it was, indeed, summer.
Little Bay (pictured below), the next bay around the coast, is flanked by a good number of beach houses – some of which were pretty flash. You just need to look down from one of the beach access points to see why.
We made several trips out in the camper while we were there. Twice we headed back to Colville for supplies. Food was the excuse but beer was the actual reason. The selection was limited so we tried several Boundary Road Brewery Originals (their pilsner was solid) along with Monteith’s Bohemian Pilsner. Somehow the beer kept disappearing. Sitting by the camper in the Kiwi sun will do that, I guess.
Possibly our best excursion was over the hill to the north, past Port Charles to Sandy Bay. It felt like it took an age to get there, but we parked up and spent several hours in another little estuary at another cool Kiwi beach. Definitely worth the effort dragging the big old camper over the hill for that one.
As always with holidays like this the days pretty much merged from one to the next. I don’t think we quite lost track of time but it was a bit of a jolt when leaving day arrived. At the start, seven nights with limited facilities seemed a little daunting, but I made it though okay.
My previous visit to Waikawau was 20 years ago. Back then, not long after Jean and I met, we were tenting, which wasn’t something I’d done much of. We pitched up at Waikawau in my old canary yellow Ford Laser after having tried (and failed) at several spots up the west coast of the Coromandel. We had a night there and I remember the next day, after spending a good couple of hours in the tent, er, reading and relaxing, poking our heads out to find a deserted paddock, which had been fully stocked with tents just that morning.
A tropical cyclone was on its way so we packed and left too, to the much safer climes of Jean’s Aunt and Uncle’s house on the beach at Cooks Beach. That was more my style.
So it was nice to head back and make some proper family memories at one of Jean’s favourite places. The kids enjoyed it, although they all had at least one monster meltdown. They each have their signature style, which can be both fun and disturbing to watch. We failed pretty miserably to enforce Siena’s usual mid-arvo quiet time so Mum and Dad were pretty much on duty all the time. We made it work.
We had a variety of neighbours during our week on site. One couple with an eleven year son arrived for a couple of nights midway through our stay. Despite the difference in ages all three boys got on immediately so both sets of parents pretty much left them to it.
A European family (from Germany but living in China) also had a couple of nights next door. We never really saw the kids (teenagers…) but I had a couple of good chats with the Dad. Tell a tourist you’re from Matamata (Hobbiton) and you’re away.
There were also several family groups with kids Siena’s age all dealing with the same challenges and having the same fun we were.
Now that I’m getting into this camper thing (remember, don’t tell Jean) I’m looking forward to heading back to Waikawau. It probably won’t be every year – there are so many other places to explore – but it will be soon.