62nd NZMCA National Easter Rally & AGM: Like Nowhere Else
With the NZMCA’s 2018 National Rally and AGM due to be held in Whangarei at Easter (March 29 – April 2) next year, the Northland Area is urging members to maximise your trip north before and after the event.
Northland, with a sub-tropical climate, offers visitors tremendous natural beauty and warm temperatures even if it’s raining. It comprises four sub-regions; Whangarei and Tutukaka Coast, Bay of Islands, Top of the North and the Kauri Coast and Hokianga. Northland has spectacular coastline and bays, marine reserves and kauri forests. With four big events around the time of the 62nd National Rally; the Covi Motorhome, Caravan and Outdoor SuperShow, Northland Fieldays, the Fritter Festival and 90 Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza, there is a real opportunity for those members coming north to connect into these events. With the annual Covi SuperShow to be held at the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland two weeks before the National Rally, members will have ample time to have a good look around the region.
And as the Whangarei District is a motorhome friendly area there are lots of opportunities for overnight parking. Here’s just some of the multitude of attractions on offer as you head north from Auckland to the country’s northernmost region:
Departing Auckland there is an opportunity to snorkel with the fish at the Leigh Marine Reserve. You simply walk off the beach and enjoy the marine life. For those not wanting to snorkel there is a glass bottom boat tour. Heading further north a must do is a visit to the Kauri Museum at Matakohe. This very popular attraction offers a fascinating insight into the history of the kauri tree, its timber, gum and the early pioneers to the region.
Climbing over the Brynderwyns offers spectacular views of Bream Bay and Mount Mania and the Hen and Chicken Islands. The settlement of Waipu has a museum that focuses on the Scottish settlers, while nearby Ruakaka Beach is great for swimming, fishing or just sitting and enjoying the views. Not much further on is the Marsden Point Oil Refinery. It has an excellent visitors’ centre which will be offered as a half day tour at the National Rally along with a visit inside Northport to see a working port. From here, only 30 minutes away is Whangarei, the host City for the 2018 National Rally. Whangarei has been going through a significant transformation over the past decade and offers a number of walking and cycling opportunities around the Harbour.
The Town Basin Marina is a waterside haven for all visitors with cafes, restaurants, craft and art galleries, Claphams National Clock Museum, a Heritage Trail and Art Walk, specialty shops and an artisan fair market. The quirky Te Kakano building in the Town Basin exhibits the Hundertwasser construction style and is a pre-curser to the controversial Hundertwasser Arts Centre project. The Hatea Loop is a fully accessible 4.2km shared path that crosses the elegant footbridge ‘Kotuitui Whitinga’ and the impressive international award winning ‘Te Matau a Pohe’ Bascule Bridge that opens to allow boats into the inner harbour Marina. It also opens daily at midday to allow visitors to see its operation. Other attractions which are either no-cost or minimal cost include Botanica, Abbey Caves, Parihaka Lookout (an awesome view over the city), A.H. Reed Kauri Park tree top walk, Whangarei Falls, Quarry Art Centre, Quarry Gardens, Mair Park, the boat trip to Limestone Island Scenic Reserve and the Saturday growers’ market.
Just next to the rally site at Barge Park is Kiwi North, kiwi house and museum, where an extensive collection of historic engineering equipment can be seen. It also hosts a miniature railway and a large steam train which you can ride. Departing Whangarei you can head out on the Tutakaka Coast road where there is a great trip to the world-renowned Poor Knight Islands or just wander north along the twin coast highway visiting the many beautiful bays, eventually catching the car ferry over to Opua.
You may have visited Russell and the outstanding Pompallier Mission House built in 1842 to print Maori language books, you can also see one of the first tanning works here. Russell also has Christ Church the country’s oldest church (1836) which is scarred with musket and cannonball holes from an 1845 battle. Russell has a great history and in its turbulent past was referred to as the ‘hell hole of the Pacific’. If you choose to go to Kawakawa visit the Kawhiti Caves on the way and see thousands of glow worms. Then visit the famous Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa. Time permitting you may take the train trip on the old steam train.
Then it’s off to Paihia where a number of boat trips are on offer. The Hole in the Rock trip is not to be missed. If you want to visit Russell you can catch the passenger ferry. Having come all this way you must visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and see the Treaty House built in 1832 for the first British resident. The new museum is full of interactive displays that allow you to explore the history of our country at your own pace. The huge grounds offer lots to see, including the meeting house and canoes. Carry on north and stop in Kerikeri, a beautiful little town which has Kemp House, New Zealand’s oldest building and the Stone Store which opened in 1836. Nearby Kororipo Pa and the replica Maori fishing village, Rewa’s Village, will take you back to pre-European New Zealand.
Heading further north, Mangonui is the first township that you will encounter in Doubtless Bay; its world famous Mangonui fish shop is definitely a place to eat. At the top of the North Island is Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea dramatically merge.
This can be seen with the naked eye. Heading back down, you can drive on 90 Mile Beach if you dare which is actually only 55 miles long. But the young at heart can enjoy surfing the sand dunes. There are commercial trips available to get the most enjoyment from 90 Mile Beach and a trip to the Cape. Travelling west you can either go inland or cross the Hokianga Harbour by car ferry, disembarking at Rawene and then travel onto Opononi, the resting place of the famous Opo the dolphin. A trip up to South Head offers a great viewing opportunity of the harbour, coast and massive sand dunes. For those keen on cycling, there is the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing journey through some of New Zealand’s earliest settlements on the Twin Coast Cycle Trail – Pou Herenga Tai. This trail goes from Horeke on the Hokianga Harbour to Opua in the Bay of Islands. It is an 84km grade 1 and 2 trail. Cycle or walk across the rail corridor – over bridges, around lakes and rivers, and through historic towns. Come for an hour, come for a day – there is plenty to see and do along the way.
The Waipoua forest is the domain of New Zealand’s largest living kauri tree, Tane Mahuta (which means lord of the forest). Tane Mahuta has a girth measurement of almost 14 metres and is truly an impressive sight. Lesser known but worth a visit are the Three Sisters kauri trees just a few kilometres down the road. On the way to Dargaville, Kai Iwi Lakes is a great place to stay with plenty of room for motorhomes and caravans. This is an awesome spot for swimming, fishing, canoeing and walking. Dargaville is a farming town well known for its kumara growing. A place worth a visit and even stay is The Kumara Box; offering great hospitality, excellent kumara chips and tour of the property on the kumara train. Plus there is an option for a show and film of the history of the mighty kumara. From Dargaville, you can then either continue down the west coast towards Auckland, or cross back to the east coast.
BRIAN DUDSON, Convenor (mob 027 500 6667)
DEBORAH BRADLEY, Administrator (mob 021 404 903)