Tauranga Bay, Northland
The first time I was enticed north of Kerikeri to Tauranga Bay it was nearly summer and I quickly grasped what the raving of my peers was about. How perfect is a perfect camping spot? Absolute unspoilt beachfront real estate, golden sand, a place to perch a pup tent and park the station-wagon, the gentle curve of the bay ending in a rocky outcrop with an outlook to Stephenson Island.
Away from the curtains, campervans and children we kayakers had a semi-secluded spot only a short walk to the loos, kitchen, and clotheslines with lots of room to unload and leave boats and sprawl in deck chairs.
Within minutes of pitching tents, just on dusk, the fisher folk amongst us were quick to drag boats the few metres to the sea and catch supper for us all. The next day dawned calm making the conditions just right for a paddle pat Whangaroa Harbour, rock gardening and caving along the way to Taupo Bay then out to sea to circumnavigate Stephenson Island and poke around its rocks. Five hours and 25km of wonder rock gardening – multiple maze-like tunnels, labyrinths, passageway too narrow to use a paddle in, waterfalls and caves with windows! What bliss to have hot showers, wine and cheese as the last light faded to the sound of the lapping tide.
The next time I jumped at the opportunity to go to Tauranga Bay it was mid-winter and the forecast was crappy, but with other outdoorsy types there’s always something to do. And there was. Before the weather turned ugly, the lads went kayak fishing and smoked their catch for our supper and the next day wind and drizzle did not dampen spirits, just changed the paddling plan. Most elected for the short drive to Whangaroa Harbour for a paddle, some paddled there and back from Tauranga Bay and a few wimps poked around the Stone Store and second-hand bookshops in Kerikeri.
The boys switched from kayak fishing to surf-casting with their wee rods, and still caught fish. The surf crashed and roared that night: it was great being camped so close, but safe and snug in our tents. Sunday’s 60 knots and constant rain drove some folk home, but the rest of our group looked at a road map for alternative activities. We drove to Puketi Forest for a walk before rewarding ourselves with a soak in the selection of black and brown hot pools at Ngawha Springs near Kaikohe and a Texan meal at Kaeo.
Summer or winter, no matter the weather, Tauranga Bay passes my test for a beat little campong spot from which to explore and forage.
– Ruth Henderson