Despite the lockdowns we've endured recently we’re pretty lucky in our nook on this little old island, aren’t we Aucklanders? Endless nearby beaches, cute coastal towns, and breathtaking drives are all part of the package we get to enjoy as central North Islanders.
So when we fancy ditching the Auckland life in favour of nature (summer here we come!), we can always count on a full tank of petrol and beautiful campsites galore to help us escape into a state of serenity.
Load up the roadie snacks and delve into the best camping spots within driving distance from Auckland to add your hit list this summer and beyond.
If a surfboard, wetsuit and wax are staples in your wagon, then chances are that Raglan is already on your weekend hit list. Surfing is the main attraction at Raglan’s Ngarunui Beach and Manu Bays — but rest assured that there’s ample kayaking and paddle boarding opportunities for those who prefer still water. Once it’s time to dust off the sand after a long day at the beach, we suggest staying at Raglan Holiday Park, further south at Ruapuke Motor Camp or at Te Kopua Whanau Camp for a penny-friendly stay (seriously, a $10 a night steal).
Bay of Plenty
The Bay of Plenty gives us Aucklanders, err, plenty of reasons to rev up the car and get on the road. The top of that list? Ohope Beach and its 11 kilometres of soft white sand and warm water — which just so happens to have been voted as New Zealand’s most loved beach. You’ll want to set up camp at Ohope Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, which welcomes you with cute campsites, cabins, and even a ‘glarravaning’ experience where you spend your stay in a kitschy-cool 1969 vintage caravan. Better yet, dogs are 100% welcome to join in the fun. Pack up your pals, pooches and plenty of road trip snacks for the four-hour drive — Ohope camping wholesomeness awaits you.
Technically considered greater Auckland (especially when us Jaffas swamp the Farmer’s Markets come Saturday morning), Matakana is an ideal spot to drive to when you need a break from the city. Nearby Tawharanui and Whangateau Bay will treat you to close to water campsites for those equipped with a tent — or see the uber-cute Sandspit Holiday Park's waterfront cabins for a camping experience that involves a power connection and hotspot. Wherever you, your main squeeze, and your bottle of local wine choose to settle in for the night, rest assured you’ll be spending the night in excellent company among local flora and fauna.
Kawhia Hot Water Beach
One of the best hot water beaches in New Zealand also happens to be in the company of a campsite within perfect driving distance from Auckland — a whole two and a half hours, to be precise. Right on the rugged West Coast, Kawhia Hot Water Beach is far more under-the-radar than its Coromandel counterpart. The nearby Kawhai Camping Ground is just a short drive away, so rest assured that you’ll be perfectly situated to make the early-morning beach run to nab a spot. Pack your togs, shovel and SPF, because you’ve got a whole lot of soaking in your sandy, sea-front spa pool to do, my friend.
Does a drive to and out of the car ferry terminal count as part of a roadie? If you answered yes, know that Waiheke is among the best camping destinations to drive to in Auckland. If you're set on bringing the car, just hop aboard the car ferry. Once you're there, you’re simply spoiled for choice when it comes to pit stops to take on the island: restaurants, cafes, wineries (for picking up bottles—save the sipping for the destination) and markets galore are all here. The same can be said about Waiheke’s campsites. You can be one with nature at Whakanewha Regional Park’s rugged, beach-front Poukaraka Flats or hire out the exclusive Rocky Bay Cove for exclusive access to its beachfront dwelling, hot shower and loot of boats and kayaks.
Follow the scenic coastal drive to the very tip of Coromandel Peninsula, and you’ll be sweetly rewarded with Port Jackson — one of the best camping destinations within driving distance from Auckland. The DOC managed Port Jackson Campsite is straight across from the coast and its sweet, sweeping coastal views. Seriously, not even a road will get in the way of your early morning sprint to the sea. It’ll also put you in prime location to get first dibs on fishing spots—we hear the snappers that get reeled in are next level. All this and just a mere three hours' drive from Auckland? Oh New Zealand, you sure are spoiling us.
Speaking of cute campsites up the Coromandel way, Fantail Bay Campsite is also worth your weekend. It too is a DOC Conservation Campsite, so you know what that means: a pristinely kept beach, canopies of of lush pohutukawa trees, and an abundance of birdlife (the name had to stem from somewhere, after all). That, and you’ll need to book your campsite spot the moment your leave is approved — spots here sell like hotcakes, we’re telling you.
Bay of Islands
Paihia is home to dolphins, crystal clear water and the best camping spots within driving distance from Auckland. And did we mention dolphins? Whatever it is you like to do on vacay, you’ll find it here. Foodie? There’s restaurants and bars galore. Fancy an adventure? Pahia is your water-filled playground. Want to sink your teeth into some culture? Waitangi Treaty Grounds are just a stone’s throw from your dwelling. To ensure you’re in the best spot for whichever adventure you choose, you’ll want to book a spot at Paihia’s well-placed and well-priced campgrounds. As both Waitangi and the Paihia Top 10 holiday parks are coastal, you’ll have ample opportunity to spot stingrays and other sea life while enjoying your morning coffee or chowing down on fresh fish 'n' chips. All this just a four-hour drive away from Auckland? It’s a yes from us.
We can’t go rounding up the best places to go camping within driving distance from Auckland without mentioning Taupo, now can we? Home to plenty of natural hot springs, Huka Falls and distant views of snow-capped Ruapehu and Tongariro mountains, it boasts the best of New Zealand's nature in a snapshot. As our country’s largest lake, this spot is dotted with plenty of neat little bays in which to park up, picnic and pitch a tent for your stay. There’s the Great Lake Holiday Park and Taupo Holiday Park closer to town, while the Motutere and Motuoapa and its combi cabins make great escapes further south. Glampers are covered too, with Te Tuhi Dome catering to those with more cushy kinds of tastes.
City dwellers who fancy a beach escape but prefer the comfort of four full bars of cellphone reception—and actual full bars pouring out top-quality brews—will love Mount Maunganui. Beach spot by day, party place by night, it’s one of the top camping spots for a good time (especially come peak Summer and New Year). The place to book is Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park, which is nestled at the base of the namesake mountain and right near the beach. Trust us when we say that staying here will put you in prime position to get that coveted early-morning Mount sunrise ‘Gram too.