With the holiday weekend approaching, thoughts turn to the first roadie of the holiday season. Here are a few local options, and some further afield.
It's many people's favourite summer beach within striking distance of Auckland, but fewer opt to stay the night. But more of the area's magic is revealed when the day trippers head back to the city. Dusk is an active time for the area's wildlife, which includes Pateke, North Island brown kiwi, North Island robin, whiteheads, bellbirds, bittern, blue reef heron, spotless crake, fernbird and NZ dotterel.
The entire peninsula is a marine reserve, so fishing is not allowed, but there's a great beach just back past the pest-proof on the left if you're keen to try your luck. Deliciously isolated, civilisation in the form of pubs, shops, cafes and markets are less than 15km away at Matakana.
The bare minimum is available in the campground - potable water and a long drop. Bookings must be made in advance, phone (09) 301 0101.
One of Auckland's best-kept secrets, the Awhitu Peninsula is no more than 1.5 hours from the central city. It's the southern head of the Manukau Harbour, and any preconceived notions of mangroves, mud and murky water are dispelled when you get to Grahams and Hudsons beaches, or Big and Orua Bays. At low tide, in waist-deep water, scallops can be picked off the sand (you'll need a mask). There's a decent current along here which at full tide means children have to be watched, but at low tide it is shallow and safe.
Awhitu Regional Park has one of the best camping grounds anywhere. For bookings phone (09) 301 0101.
Tapapakanga Regional Park
Every two years this regional park is thronged with people for the Splore Festival (running Feb 14-16 next year), but for the rest of the year it remains an oasis of calm with little to do but enjoy the sun, sea and peace and quiet.
Sheltered from prevailing westerlies, the park features two campgrounds - one on the hill and the second - more popular - among the giant pohutukawas and rolling landscapes running alongside the stony/sandy beach. Walk south and discover the fresh water lagoon and idyllic picnic spots.
Bookings must be made in advance - phone (09) 301 0101.
The Kai Iwi Lakes
The finest of the curious dune lakes stretching up and down the west coast of northern North Island, the three Kai Iwi lakes are something of a marvel. Crystal clear fresh water and white sand comes as a surprise so close to the black sand beaches of the west coast, and the lakes sit in over 500 hectares of reserve. They're safe for kids, and offer great swimming, kayaking, fishing and boating. Taharoa Domain , on the lake foreshore, has two campgrounds - Pine Beach and Promenade Point, one basic, one well equipped.
For bookings phone (09) 4394757.
Driving holidays are one of the best ways to experience the wide-open spaces and unique landscapes of Western Australia. Rental cars and motorhomes are readily available.
See suggested itineraries at westernaustralia.com.
Indian Ocean Drive
WA's new coastal road has opened, and with it new beaches, natural wonders, fun, adventures, and new places to visit, stay and live. Experience the wealth of flowers and wildlife you haven't been able to get near. Or simply hop in the car for a leisurely drive and enjoy the hospitality of towns along the way like Lancelin, Seabird, Guilderton, Ledge Piint, Cervantes and Jurien Bay.
In the beautiful southwest of Western Australia, 280km or a three-hour drive south of Perth, the Margaret River region offers a huge selection of world-class wineries, gourmet food and boutique accommodation. Take the Kwinana Freeway out of Perth city, which eventually becomes Forrest Highway, and follow the signs to Bunbury, then Busselton - the main roads will bypass these towns but feel free to drop in. Margaret River is 50km south of Busselton. When you start to see vineyards, you're nearly there.
Fly with airnz.co.nz.
Find out more: myaustraliapassion.co.nz.