We asked for your top picks for New Zealand's best camping spots and you well and truly delivered. We received so many great responses we've split them into three categories — this week, the upper North Island, plus we reveal the winner.
Thanks to everyone who entered.
The winner of the $2000 Torpedo7 camping prize pack is . . .
Tom Bowling Bay up at North Cape at the very left hand tip of the North Island is our family's favourite place to visit every year. We have collectively camped here over the summer holidays for the past 30 years and as us kids have all grown up, we now look forward to taking our kids to this magical untouched land, due to limited access to the general public. My son Niko, who was 3 years old in this picture, enjoyed his bath in the evenings looking out over the beachfront views. What a place, what a view, what a time.
And here's a selection of some of the other wonderful entries we received:
Camping beachfront at Motuora Island in the Hauraki Gulf is paradise. White sand, crystal blue water, step out from your tent and you could be in Fiji for the price of a DoC campground fee. Clotheslines stretched between flowering pohutukawas, there's a great rope swing, good chance of seeing and definitely hearing kiwi and the walk over the hill to an idyllic bay is so worth it. My most memorable moment is catching snapper in the bay and pan frying it on the barbecue an hour later, followed by a hot solar shower.
Camping tip: Have a bowl of water at the entrance of your tent to rinse feet — it stops the sand getting in. Take salt ice and a pack of cards.
Fantail Bay in the beautiful Coromandel is our favourite camping spot. It's a DoC camping ground. You can shore dive for crayfish and spear kingfish and snapper. There are great walks all around the area. The beach is suitable for kids to swim. We have camped here many times and have really fond memories of spending time together as a family.
Camping tip: Pack a hammer or mallet for driving in pegs, check your gas bottle is full and most importantly "chillax" and enjoy the experience.
Our favourite camping spot is Tauranga Bay Motor Camp in Northland. What makes it special is the absolute beachfront camping. Climb out of the tent, walk five paces on grass, then on to the sand and into the Pacific Ocean. What a way to start the day! There are great coastal walks and awesome fishing spots. A must-do for all who love getting off-grid. We've had the best of times there with friends.
Camping tip: Don't forget to pack your tent pegs.
My favourite spot is Spirits Bay in the Far North. It is super-isolated and the beach is massive, so you can have a big spot on the sand to yourself. It has crystal blue water, shelly sand and a view to Cape Reinga. There is a beautiful legend about the beach and passing over its shores when you leave this Earth — I always feel at peace here. It's so beautiful too.
Camping tip: Spray your net windows with bug repellent and wash your camping dishes straight after you use them to avoid flies and ants.
I grew up camping at Pauanui airfield campground until it was sold and developed. I used to have a dressing table in my tent — four drawers and a mirror! It was the best, no backpack living and I could do hair and makeup after a beach swim. I think I was the first to "glamp". Nowadays I'd camp out on top of my brother's section at Tapu (my pic is of view from the hill looking to the Thames harbour). That pop-up caravan has rotted away (last time I slept there it was mouldy and damp and now it's gone).
Camping tip: Always wear Jandals in the campground shower.
Every January for the past few years, we head off for five days to Motuihe in the Hauraki Gulf to the DoC campsite situated there. It's a special place because it gives us a sense of being cut off from the rest of the world for a few days — almost marooned. We swim, we hike, and the memories we have are always of being at one with nature.
Camping tip: Pack a solar shower — a late-afternoon luxury.
Our family loved Waikawau Bay, Coromandel. The safe sea beach is great for fishing with kids and there are lovely bush walks to get away. There's very little cell reception, which makes for a forced electronics-free wind-down, which is hard to come by in the fast-paced world we live in. Booking early is essential and there's just the right amount of amenities, including a camp shop and a general store 15 minutes' drive away to keep you feeling like you're roughing it . . . but when you need a bit of pampering you can get a nice coffee or some ice blocks!
Take me to Hot Water Beach
To sit in sand pit spas
Kayak to Cathedral Cove
And sip wine at a vineyard
Pauanui to Waihi
Quick stop Whangamata
To check out Beach Hop caravans
and cool old retro cars
Thames for lunch then Coro Town
And on to Whitianga
We know that's it's the place to get a tasty mussel sanga
Camping Coromandel style
It's how we spend our summer
With fingers crossed for sunny days
Cause rain would be a bummer!
My favourite holiday spot is the Kauaeranga Valley. It is the quintessential New Zealand camping spot — in the bush by a river with the only amenities being a long drop. The photo is of my brother and I there in 1978. I had a broken leg at the time (I was born with brittle bones) but it never stopped me or my family from camping every school holidays.
My favourite spot is Kai Iwi Lakes in Northland. I have been camping here with my family for two weeks over summer since I was a baby and what I love the most about it is how fresh and clear the water is. Fond memories include learning to water ski, playing on rafts and spending quality time with family and friends.
Camping tip: Take plenty of sunscreen and shelter for those hot summer days. A few years ago at Kai Iwi the trees were chopped down, so having your own shelter at this spot is essential.
Our favourite summer camping spot is Long Bay, Coromandel, as it is the full package! Beautiful bush walks, lots of shade, and at low tide the sun heats up the sand meaning that at high tide the water is nearly tropical. Elevated campsites give a glorious view for bacon at breakfast or a beverage as the sun goes down. Perfect for a Kiwi Christmas surrounded by flowering pohutukawa trees.
At the moment our favourite family camping spot is Opito Bay, Coromandel. Two weeks of sun, sand, surfing and fishing. Each year we find new spots to explore and love swimming in the crystal clear water, followed by an afternoon nana nap under the pohutukawa trees. Though we love the beach, we also love the bush and our second spot would be the Mohaka river in the Kaweka ranges.
My favourite summer camping spot is Mt Maunganui. My wife and I went camping there for the first and only time as poor students, years ago. We forgot the
mattress and had to spend three nights on the hard ground — but luckily the hot pools were there to soothe our aching backs!
We now have kids but no camping gear at all: we'd love to give them the quintessential Kiwi camping experience some day.
Camping tip: Get a solar charger with built-in battery for electronics. Charge devices at night, then recharge the charger itself during the day.
Favourite spot is the campgrounds at the beautiful Taupo Bay, Northland. It holds many family memories for my wife's family, who have been countless times in their lives. Last year was the final trip for my father-in-law who was diagnosed with MND at the start of last summer and was taken from us not long after our last camping trip there. So this year will be an extra special trip for everyone as we remember him and celebrate his memory at one his favourite locations.
Jose Antonio Villamil
Firstly, I don't have a tent of my own so in this photo it's sort of "glamping" (and why I want to win that tent so badly!) This photo was taken on my 29th birthday and first wedding anniversary in Raglan. It was the first time we stayed outdoors with our first born.
Camping tip: The best tip I could give about camping with a baby is to bring insect repellent. This campsite had so many insects that I stayed up all night shooing them away!