Daytrip to the Firth of Thames

By Deb Faith

Deb Faith bakes a picnic lunch and enjoys a gorgeous Anzac Day out.

The Kaiaua coast is home to many seabirds, and good takeaways. Photo / Supplied
The Kaiaua coast is home to many seabirds, and good takeaways. Photo / Supplied

It's 7am on Anzac Day and my Mum's laughing at me on the phone. I've rung to ask her how to make a bacon and egg pie and she's pretty much shocked that any daughter of hers doesn't hold this knowledge in her DNA, along with stain removal tips and making gravy.

But Auckland on Anzac this year has dawned sunny and still; and we two Grey Lynnites have decided on a motoring day-trip down the Firth of Thames with a picnic lunch. Bacon and egg pie under these circumstances is a given.

Turning off the motorway at Papakura we're suddenly in a different world that needs maps and discussion. And "a lovely touch of autumn!" becomes the day's catchphrase.

We motor on to Kawakawa Bay - it really is a gorgeous drive this time of year. Round a corner and we're on the main drag of the settlement; and it makes me think what Paihia might have looked like a million years ago.

Do Kawakawaians think of themselves as Aucklanders, I wonder out loud as we crawl slowly past people sitting in sun porches gawping at us gawping at them.

We see what looks like a massive market or something going on at the end of the bay - as we get closer we realise it's just a huge parking lot for four-wheel drives and boat trailers, with a crazily busy boat ramp in full swing.

Boat ramp etiquette and ability is always fascinating to the untrained eye: who goes in what order and how well they can do it; and we nearly had the picnic right there watching the show - but a gravelly car park wasn't the original idea for our pie and cuppa - so we reluctantly hit the road.

Next stop Orere Point: biggish camping ground and more people fishing. Not for us today.

My partner had a memory of a little bay she said was gorgeous and that was what we were searching for, as we continued down towards Kaiaua and Miranda.

The best thing about trolling along these picturesque roads this time of year is hardly any traffic, even on a public holiday, so you can slow down or pull over at will while you appraise possible picnic locations. And you're spoilt for choice: Matingarahi, Wharekawa, Whakatiwai and all stops in between - with the outlook a full tide over the Firth and beyond to the Coromandel.

We eventually settled on a roadside grassy knoll with a view - all to ourselves as Kiwi tradition demands.

The bacon and egg pie was exactly the same as my Mum's - but better!

Given the effect of warm sun on tartan rug, plus a view to doze off to, we should really have stayed put for a while after lunch, but restless Aucklanders have to be up and off, and so we were.

The Kaiaua fish 'n chip shop car park was a complicated tangle of tourists and got nothing more than a passing glance from us this time - though usually we'd stop and have a delicious feed there.

This trip we were headed like homing birds on the Seabird Coast to Miranda - more specifically to an off-road area overlooking the Firth called Roy's Rest. It's where you go with your campervans, and we're toying with the idea of buying one someday. So thanks to Roy, who did indeed pick a great spot to rest; it's campervan-ogling heaven.

I like campervan people. They're good sorts. They don't mind being stared at while they go about their everyday campervanning stuff.

I should of course mention the endless tidal ribbon of silver sand alive with seabirds that are the main feature of this part of the Firth.

We've promised ourselves we'll be back with our very own campervan to witness the famous arrival of the godwits.

On the journey home we stayed off SH2 for as long as possible and cruised through late afternoon countryside, revelling in the golden autumnal light.

- NZ Herald

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