Revisiting Waitangi again – next month

New Zealand’s birthplace is a must visit.


One of the motivators for my 2012 road trip around Northland was to revisit the birthplace of New Zealand – the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – and in particular be there for our annual public holiday (Waitangi Day, 6th Feb.) that commemorates the 1840 event.

I’m thrilled to be going back again in about 6 weeks, not for a road trip, but for a few days staying in the hotel beside the Treaty Grounds and which I’ll visit again.

In the meantime, read some of my two weeks road trip blogs (and photos) written while travelling around New Zealands beautiful Northland – here’s one to start you off 🙂

NOTE: For more information about Northland check the official tourism website and to hire a rental car in Auckland I can recommend the company I use:  Rental Cars NZ.

Road trip – Otago Peninsula, Dunedin NZ

watermarked-use Bus IMG_1106


John Noakes, the bus stop artist of Dunedin, New Zealand started the idea of painting bus shelters after seeing children hiding from the rain in dark bus stops. He painted about 65 of them – a fine legacy and makes for attractive driving along, and around, the Otago Peninsula.

The New Zealand rental car company I used around Dunedin  was  New Zealand Rent A Car  (branches all over NZ)




See what locals say about him

Photo of the day: Otago Peninsula.

Hoopers Inlet. Otago Peninsula. Dunedin New Zealand
Hoopers Inlet. Otago Peninsula. Dunedin New Zealand

The New Zealand rental car company I used all around Dunedin  was the  New Zealand Rent A Car  (branches all over NZ)

Freedom camping in New Zealand

After two young German travellers were attacked in their tent in New Zealand a few days ago I thought it was timely to repost this.

When travelling in any country, always use the same care you would do at home. Would you camp in your town centre? IF yes, then do so in other places: if you wouldn’t don’t.

This brutal attack of teenagers by teenagers is a warning we are not safe anywhere and need to be prudent.

My best wishes to a quick recovery, and I’m happy the police were able to arrest the offenders very quickly.  Read more about camping/ tenting campervanning here in New Zealand

Freedom camping in New Zealand.

The night sky, NZ’s longest drivable beach, and a kauri pen!


Continuing my trip around Northland, along the Twin Coast Highway, which was taken in my favourite car rental company NZ Rent A Car I leave the Hokianga and head South on SH12 to check out the night sky and the wild west coast.

I stop again at Waipoua Forest to see Tane Mahutu in the daylight and it’s a popular site with a number of tour buses in the car park. The road winds its way through the forest of kauri and other natives making for pleasant driving. Heading north on the same road are many campervans and I know the travellers in them will have a great time here in the north of New Zealand.

Kauri Coast road - beautiful.
Kauri Coast road – beautiful.

I eventually turn off the main road towards Baylys Beach and the vast Ripiro Beach – the longest driveable beach in New Zealand – I don’t drive on it but take a walk instead!

This west coast is lined with spectacular beaches and petrified forests: 157 sailing ships were wrecked here which lets us know just how wild the Tasman Sea can be.

Checking in at Sunset View Lodge I have great rural views and can even hear the sound of the waves.

???????????????????????????????The Lodge has free Wi-Fi J and an honesty box in the bar – I’m sure some people would be happy with that but also suspect many travellers choose a B&B so they can spend time with their hosts – however with the honestly box I guess the choice is yours! With only 3 suites, this is a relaxed place to stay and the heated pool is an added bonus  . . .  especially after horse-riding as Pam, the owner, operates a horse trekking business but I’m not doing that but will be gazing skywards tonight. (Note – The Baylys Beach Horse Treks run from 25th October to 25th April.)

Rural areas in Northland, because of the lack of light and pollution, are good places to check out the night sky – and Astronomy Adventures is the place to start. (You can even stay here too)


The charity side of this observatory – the ‘Skydome Observers Group’ – is made up of locals and I get to join them at their Valentine’s Day meeting where the focus is on Venus – after the goddess of love. In the lounge of our host, I learn Venus is the hottest planet and so not surprisingly has the most volcanoes of any planets. Named after the Roman Goddess of beauty and love, Venus, and other planets or stars, were not visible to us because of the clouds. If you like the night sky, this would be a great place to visit – as is Tekapo just south of Christchurch, and the Carter Observatory in Wellington.



???????????????????????????????Next morning I head for Dargaville and stop at the Kauri Coast Info Centre and Woodturners Studio and Gallery on Murdoch Street – just north of Dargaville town-ship.

I meet award-winning carver Rick Taylor (and his wife, Sue, who runs the info centre) and I hear that Rick harvests ancient Kauri from swamp land on the Kauri Coast and creates it into the stunning pieces that surround me in the gallery – no wonder he wins awards!???????????????????????????????

They show me how the kauri is recovered from local swamplands and then the Kauri paper (and soap) is handmade from the kauri shavings. Along with beautiful kauri lidded treasure boxes and bowls rick also turns pens on his lathe. I watch as he goes through the many processes and at the end of the demonstration, when its’ been sanded and oiled many times, he gives me the pen! I was (am!) thrilled with it, and have had many, many comments on my fabulous reminder of his skill and the fabulous kauri coast. The kauri he uses has been taken from an area of swamp which has been carbon-dated as 3860 years at which means my pen is about that old too!

My father was a hobby wood-turner and I know he too would have loved visiting this gallery. Rick is appalled that NZ kauri is sent to China to be made into products for the New Zealand market. “Make sure your things are  made in New Zealand’ he said. “Get something that’s good stuff, cheap, not cheap stuff cheap!”

He’s a perfectionist and his work reflects that and he suggests to travellers that NZ-made kauri products are the perfect gift for yourself or friends. Wood-turning for over 30 years Rick is arguably NZ’s leading artist and has travelled to many parts of the world to demonstrate his skills and offers individual tuition. (email him for details –  kauri4u AT


Tonight is the last of my two-week Northland road-trip and I cannot believe that so many spend so little time in the area – even with my 14 nights up here I have had to miss out on much the area has to offer.

But now, onto my last bed for this wonderful trip – at the heritage-listed The Commercial Hotel, Dargaville.

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Italy: 38 road trips planned for you!

Lonely Planet has just released its first European guidebooks for its successful Best Trips series, with the publication of France’s Best Trips, Ireland’s Best Trips and Italy’s Best Trips which has 38 road trips planned for you.  

These Best Trips are ideal for travellers who want to explore a specific region by car and each guide is packed with more than 30 road trips; inspirational trip ideas; exciting regional detours; and detailed directions and map – including a pull-out map.

I have a copy of Italy’s Best Trips and am sure we would have discovered more had I had this when exploring the non-tourist area I stayed in a few years ago, on my last trip. (We stayed near Fabro Scalo in the hilltop hamlet of Carnaiola, Umbria.

Many travellers restrict themselves to Italy’s star cities, but with a car you’ll discover there’s more to the country than Michelangelo masterpieces and Roman ruins. The 38 trips in Italy’s Best Trips run the length of the country, from the northern Alps to southern Sicily, and cover a range of experiences.

On my travel bucket list would be Route# 35: the Sicilian Island Hop which starts at Mt Etna and ends at Salina and which it seems has jaw-dropping views and homes that climb the hill side … ‘steeply stacked” is how the book describes them.

Of course I also want to add Historic Sardinia (#38) to my bucket list with its ‘isolated towns known for feuding and bandits’.

So, if you are heading for Italy (or elsewhere) check out this latest offering from Lonely Planet.

My copy will be available for viewing (to dream over  before you buy your own) while you have real coffee at Caffe Italiano – in the Plaza, 719 Whangaparaoa Rd. (NZ of course)

Make sure you tell them the ‘kiwitravelwriter’  sent you!

Whangarei, Northland: a photographic tour of the Town Basin

I didnt have much time in Whangarei, Northland, so here’s a little photographic glimpse of the Town Basin and the local waterfalls.

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Grab a  rental car from  Rental Cars New Zealand, look up  Destination Northland  and create your own special Northland road trip

Freedom camping in New Zealand

Each district in New Zealand has different rules about freedom camping and parking of campervans. Sometime places it’s permitted, and in others  it will result in a fine and you being moved on.

The best place to find information about where you can camp and what rules to follow is from those who know the area. Ask locals for information:

  • i-SITEs
  • Holiday Parks
  • Department of Conservation  (DOC) Visitor Centres and offices

The impact of freedom camping on our environment, as well as safety concerns, means Tourism New Zealand does not recommend freedom camping in New Zealand. Use the camping grounds unless you are in a fully equipped campervan with its own toilet.

Note: these on-board toilets can only be legally emptied from motorhomes into Dump Stations, which are normally found in holiday parks: these are free to use even if you’re not staying in that camping ground. See more tips  here about travelling in a campervan – Loved my time in the Backpacker van I travelled in recently.

Seals … cute but dangerous

The New Zealand fur seal

are …  fin-footed carnivorous marine mammals and are distinguished by visible external ears and hind flippers which rotate forward.

This pointy-nosed seal has long pale whiskers and a body covered with two layers of fur. Their coat is dark grey-brown on the back, and lighter below; when wet they look almost black.

Kaikoura, New Zealand is a good place to see seals easily: read here  to see what the  NZ Dept of Conservation says about not harassing these (and other) mammals in NZ.  Dont get between them and the sea, and keep your dogs on a lead.

As you can see I was travelling in a Backpacker campervan

Keep 10 metres between you and the seals
Watch for seals all along the Kaikoura coastline
I'm so cute!
Just pull over and see the seals!

Surf highway #43 New Zealand

Before going to WOMAD 2011 New Plymouth, I drove from Christchurch, via the Cook Strait on the Interislander, to New Plymouth. I spent the night before WOMAD at Oakura camping ground just south of New Plymouth … after WOMAD I continued on highway 43 AKA the surf highway

Seems all surfers have great bodies!

But more of the road trip on future blogs. Freedom campers – please use our camping grounds and don’t pollute our clean and green country – we want to keep it that way!

riding the waves as the sun rises
Vans of all sizes: I was in the centre one from BACKPACKER
NZ has wonderful campgrounds with great facilities

These    photos are from part of a series about my recent  road trip to WOMAD 2010 held annually in New Plymouth: I was travelling in a Backpacker campervan, and on the Interislander ferry over Cook Strait – from Christchurch  to WOMAD and back again. for more information check out these links  (above) and the categories on the right.

WOMAD New Zealand Read more here on WOMAD NZ and other parts of the world

WOMAD New Zealand completed the Southern Hemisphere’s WOMAD experience. Dub Colossus had the crowd swaying to the beautiful sounds of Ethiopia mixed with 70’s influenced dub, the graffiti wall filled with brilliant art as the weekend continued and the Taste The World stage were entertained with accordions, tasty tips and tales and De Stijle, the Dutch street performers who popped by for an impromptu beer.

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