We landed in Auckland just after 2.30pm on Sunday 1st May. By the time we’d cleared the airport, collected the campervan, shopped for groceries and ate an early dinner, it was dark and raining. Adam and I both had thumping headaches – the toll of the previous few days had caught up with us. But we woke up the next morning to clear skies and a kindly camp site neighbour offering us his leftover food as he was departing that day and didn’t want to see it go to waste. Things continued to improve once we got on the road.

new zealand road

The Coromandel Peninsula

In no time at all, we were in the thick of the amazing Coromandel Peninsula as we rushed over to Hahei to make our lunchtime sea kayak tour.

I didn’t get many photos – however, if you watch the video, you’ll see a fair bit of GoPro footage. Take a note of those blue skies and Riley swimming in the ocean. It didn’t take long for us to realise that we’d overestimated how cold it would be – Melbourne was colder! That was an unexpected bonus.

A little note of warning for those prone to motion sickness or are seasick on boats (or both, if you’re like me): yes, by the time we got back to shore at the end I was a bit green-gilled. Most of that can be attributed to the strong coffee I had at the midway point (caffeine can trigger it). Plus, I was a bit dehydrated. So my tip would be to take a 1.5L bottle of water – there’s storage in the kayak. It depends on the person, but I’m glad I didn’t use it as an excuse NOT to do it, if that makes sense. It’s ace.

cathedral cove

kayaks on beach


One highlight that we didn’t get on video was visiting the hot water beach, which was where we stayed for the night after the kayak tour was over. It was free and if I’d tell anyone what their ONE must do in NZ country would be, it would be that. The best time to go is at low tide and the two hours on either side. Lucky for us (I think), low tide that night was at 6.30pm, so we trudged down to the beach in the dark with our rented spades and nothing more than a tiny iPhone (with battery low) torch app to light our way. We didn’t really even know where to go – until we saw the light blips flicker of people up the shore who knew what they were doing, with torches strapped to their foreheads to illuminate their work. Some people dug out massive pits to sit in – but they were too hot for me. I preferred just to scoop out a little sand, enough for me to lie back and look up at the stars. That was magic. It was relaxing.

At least until Riley wandered off into the darkness to trial out the holes abandoned by other people and ignored all my calls to find out where he was. Fighting off panic (What if a wave got him?? What if he’s lost??), I kept shouting out until he finally answered. Then I discovered he’d heard me and was deliberately waiting to see what my reaction would be if I kept going. OH YES, HE’S REACHED THAT STAGE. Relief shifted into anger. Words were spoken and he apologised. So if I can a takeaway from this, it’s to say that going at night requires good lighting if you have small kids who also like to ‘explore’. But it’s worth it. I saw a shooting star and lost count of the satellites after I got to ten. So beautiful. And then, on the way back home, we saw glow worms by the path.

The next day was this place.

Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui

mount maunganui beach dawn

Because we were travelling during non-peak times, we drove up to all the holidays parks on the day (with the exception of the first night) and asked for a powered site. They all had spots. At Mount Maunganui, they gave us one right on the beach and at the entrance to the Mount Maunganui summit walk. See the video for more details about that – and the time-lapse sunrise.

It was just lovely. But we had a schedule to keep and we headed off the following morning to get to our next booked tour.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tours


lake at Hobbiton

hobbit home


Hobbiton is a slick, smooth operation. You arrive at The Shires Rest headquarters, where you can get tickets, visit the cafe and gift shop, toilets etc. It’s also the point where you catch your tour bus that takes about five minutes to get you down to the Hobbiton site. Tours depart every 15 minutes, so they run the people through at a high turnover, which is fine if you go on a quiet day like we did – but I can see how it would get crammed in the summer holidays. I think from start to finish the tour was around 90 minutes long. When we paid $79 for adult tickets and $39.50 for the kids’… I wasn’t left feeling disappointed exactly, but I did think ‘Oh, that’s it?’ I appreciate the money goes towards paying wages and the conservation of the site etc, but when every other explanation is “Those interior scenes were shot down in Wellington” I thought, couldn’t they be represented here in some way? How hard would a 15-minute documentary that shows on a loop about the filming process, a digital tour of the studio, or something, be to put together? Have it playing in the Green Dragon Inn to watch in the time it takes to finish our complimentary drinks.


More soon!


Thanks to Britz for helping fulfill this Living List goal, providing us a campervan to travel around New Zealand.

britz campervan logo

Karen Andrews

Karen Andrews is the creator of this website, one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country. She is also an author, award-winning writer, poet, editor and publisher at Miscellaneous Press. Her latest book is Trust the Process: 101 Tips on Writing and Creativity