The pohutukawas are blooming, the days are getting longer and soon the cicadas will come. Summer is here folks, and for us Kiwis that can only mean two things—camping and cold beers—preferably at the same time.
From turquoise- hued waters to swim in, secluded beaches to relax at and lakes where you can try your luck at fishing, here are our picks of the best camping spots in Tauranga and the surrounding areas. Don’t forget your tent and sunscreen—jandals optional.
Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park
When it comes to a prime location for camping, it’s hard to beat this. Situated seconds from the sand and at the base of Mauao or ‘the Mount’, is the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park, which offers cabins and powered sites for your caravan or tent. You can choose to be beach side or closer to Pilot Bay, where you’ll have views of tangerine-orange and soft pink sunsets. After a day at the beach, stroll on down to the local bars for happy hour to hear live music. This campsite gets booked out quickly, so be sure to reserve your spot in advance.
Papamoa Beach Resort
From cabins to caravans, powered tent sites and villas, there’re accommodation options to suit every traveller at Papamoa Beach Resort. Whichever way you go, you can guarantee you won’t be far from the ocean at this beachfront campsite. There are few holidays more fun than camping with your mates, which is made easier as there are 250 spots for you to choose between across 16-acres of landscape. There are no long drops in sight at this park—instead there are modern facilities, a BBQ pavilion, a boat wash area and cruiser bikes for hike.
This campsite is ideal for flora and fauna lovers—it is right next to a wildlife refuge and on the coast. You’ll find this DOC campsite in a place called Matata, about a 50-minute drive from Tauranga, or 20 minutes from Whakatane. Surfcasting is popular activity to do at this beach, as well as bird watching and walks around the lagoon. Work up an appetite and head into Matata town—the fish and chips from the local takeaway store are some of the best in the Bay of Plenty.
Bowentown Beach Holiday Park
Nestled at the end of a peninsular and on a 128-hectare reserve is Bowentown Beach Holiday Park, a 10-minute drive from Waihi Beach and 45 minutes from Tauranga. There’s an 8km stretch of sand and surf from Bowentown to Waihi Beach where you can head out to catch a wave. Or if you prefer to swim in calm waters, a short walk away from the park you’ll find a tranquil bay—it’s also the perfect place for an afternoon picnic. The owners are friendly and the campsite is well maintained.
Ohiwa Beach Holiday Park
Eastern Bay Of Plenty
You won’t get bored at the Ohiwa Beach Holiday Park, located in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. The park is surrounded by a harbour, a beach and native forests—so you can kayak, swim, boogie board or fish to your heart’s content. Or if you’re like us, fall asleep on the beach under an umbrella. When it begins to get dark, walk for 15 minutes along the Ohiwa Nature Trail to see a glow worm grotto. The holiday park is a 12-minute drive to the closest town of Opotiki, but if you can, pitch your tent, fold out your camping chairs and stay away from civilization to enjoy a few days in nature.
Ohope Beach Holiday Park
Just over an hour’s drive south of Tauranga is a small coastal town called Ohope, the signs proudly telling you it’s home to New Zealand’s most-loved beach. The Holiday Park is right across from Ohope beach, so you can spend your days paddle boarding and going for walks along the dark sand—just watch out for the clam shells. And, there are designated campsites for those with dogs, so you can bring your furry friend along on your summer road trip.
Lake Okareka Campsite
Get your fishing rods ready and head to Lake Okareka for a few days to camp, play some cards and (try to) catch fresh rainbow trout for dinner. Located just 15 minutes from Rotorua, the campsite sits right by the water of Lake Okareka, surrounded by native bush and green hills. While it’s not a big campsite, there are basic cooking facilities and toilets. For a day adventure, jump in the car for a few minutes to the lakeside reserve to begin the Lake Okareka Walkway—an hour and a half walk past scenic farmland, beach and wetlands.
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Image credit: Graeme Murray, Papamoa Beach Resort, Bowentown Beach Holiday Park, Ohope Beach Holiday Park