A New Year camping trip for a group of school leavers ended in a washout as high winds and torrential rain lashed their tents overnight.

The 17-year-olds were forced to shorten their holiday to a Department of Conservation camping ground at Uretiti Beach, south of Whangarei, by three days this morning as bad weather wrecked equipment and flooded the site.

After a sleepless night being battered by the elements, the exhausted teens finally gave up at 6am and phoned their parents asking to come and take them back to Auckland.

Alicia Barrington, Tara Davey, Hannah Dowsett and Megan Laxon were with a party of 30 youngsters celebrating recently leaving Mt Albert Grammar.

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But their big New Year's Eve party turned to a nightmare just after midnight when strong winds blew tent pegs out of the ground, causing chaos.

"The wind suddenly started to get up and was whipping everything around," Ms Dowsett said. "Then the rain came and very soon we were freezing.

"We were on alert all night because the tents were shaking and other people whose tents were destroyed were coming to us looking for shelter."

The girls said the campsite was filled with hundreds of holidaymakers yesterday. But by this morning most had packed up and left.

"When we arrived on Thursday the weather was great," Davey said. "We were even advised to keep a bucket of water by our tents in case there was a fire because it was so dry.

"But last night it was a different story and the wind and rain was horrible. The front flap of our tent was flipped open and all our food got soaked."

Other campers struggled to save their equipment as winds up to 75km/h pounded the camp site all night.

"A lot of people's stuff was ruined and the place was pretty empty by early this morning as everyone started heading home," Laxon added.

Civil Defence is concerned for holidaymakers in the Upper North Island and a severe weather watch is in place, with a warning the worst is yet to come.