Our tour of the Awhitu Peninsula called for a holiday hybrid. With the parents wanting scenery, our three-year-old boy Balin wanting excitement and our four month-old-girl Chloe wanting consistency, we decided a motorhome was the way to go. The freedom of camping with the comfort of a hotel.
We chose Maui motorhomes as we live in South Auckland and their depot near the airport was the handiest for us. The staff were keen, happy to help and reassuringly confident in our ability to drive the Mercedes six-berth $130,000 "Platinum River" motorhome they were about to place in our care.
Luckily, it came with a 'how-to' DVD and was surprisingly idiot-proof, with warning alarms and automatic functions to prevent us breaking stuff.
Inside you get all the mini-mod cons you would expect: toilet, shower, microwave, gas hob and grill, TV, DVD player and more. In fact it had more gadgets than our home and roughly the same number of keys as The Tower of London to unlock the assorted storage compartments and access hatches outside. Some labelling on the keys would have been handy, as I tended to get bored of standing in the rain trying to work out which was which.
Out on the road, the first thing I noticed was how noisy motorhomes are to drive. There were moments when it resembled using a truck to drag a shed full of cutlery along the road.
En route we popped into family friend and local artist Suzy Kirkaldy's for some Earl Grey and a look at her latest pastels of life on the peninsula. As we drove on it was easy to understand her inspirations: sunny blue skies, deep winter shadows, rugged peaks and gaping valleys.
We reached Awhitu Regional Park, where a phone call and a $20 charge on the credit card gave us the padlock code to our own private domain. We parked by the clifftop fence, parallel to the sea. I made pasta on the surprisingly efficient gas hob, and we ate al fresco until the rain took hold.
Then we set Balin up with a DVD under the motorhome's awning. We bathed the baby in the sink, using the motorhome's own hot water, before retiring to our comfortable queen beds for as much sleep as a breastfeeding babe and an overexcited three-year-old will allow.
Next we headed north to Orua Bay Campground and spent the afternoon on the soft sandy beach. A meander eastwards took us to large-as-life carvings in the sandstone cliffs, engraved by the locals. The need for a caffeine fix drove us back to the campground.
Shocked to learn the nearest cappuccino was nearly an hour's drive away, Fiona headed for the local "shop", a sparse lean-to next to somebody's house. She returned with the only tin of beans and a packet of out-of-date chips.
On our last day we drove to Earthtalk for a tour of the 20-acre organic Garden of Eden and farmstay. Balin spent the time filling his pockets with fruit, while we learnt about the 20-year transformation of the site from dairy farm and scrub to a rich blend of food gardens, orchards and native plantings. It was a great way to round off our very quiet long weekend away.
At just over $1000 for five days, our luxury package including SatNav, camping chairs and table, kids carseats and non-liability insurance was not the cheapest option, but couples using the smaller "Ultima" vehicle without the add-ons can effectively cut that in half. Maui has deals offering up to 40 per cent off rentals throughout the winter.
WHERE TO GO
* Maui New Zealand: 0800 651 080.
* Suzy Kirkaldy: Artist visits by appointment (09) 235 8811.
* Awhitu Regional Park: (09) 366 2000.
* Orua Bay Campground: (09) 235 1129.
* Earthtalk: (09) 235 1375.
Other things to do in Awhitu
* Pollok Arts and Crafts Co-op: 2141 Awhitu Rd. (09) 235 1699.
* Awhitu Wines: (09) 379 8941 or 0274 843 548.
Andy Kenworthy and family were guests of Maui New Zealand.