Heading East Via Opotiki

Leaving ANZAC bay was going to be hard after two beautiful days exploring the area, and it was only late on the last day that we heard about the caves located at the bottom of the cliffs below the Pa. With this in mind, we decided that we would explore these before we left the area.

Walking back up the hill to the Pa, we had been told that there was a set of steps leading down to the caves but had no idea where they were. Quite by chance, I spotted them, as no signs are pointing to them. It’s a fairly steep walk down to the beach with the steps almost vertical at one point. Reaching the bottom, we discovered that as it was high tide no caves where accessible although we did find the crack in the rocks (photo above). Somewhat disappointing that we hadn’t known earlier otherwise we could have timed it better. Maybe some signage by the council would help things.

Figuring that if we couldn’t see the caves at the bottom, we could at least see the view from the trig station at the top of the hill. It’s a reasonably steep pathway from the part of the hill where the Pa is located to get to the trig, but with much huffing and puffing, we reached the top. The view is certainly worth the climb, presenting a great photo op. Just loved the painted rocks left up there.

We had agreed to meet Dave and Nita at the NZMCA Park in Opotiki the following morning, so we planned a slowish drive down the road, bypassing both of the toll roads and stopping for a Pizza in Te Puke it was around 2pm when we arrived in Opotiki. Feeling like we wanted to stretch our legs after the drive, we drove through town and stopped at the Hukuwai Beach freedom camping area for a bit of a look-see.

The freedom camping area is right on the famed Motu Trail. We thought about getting the bikes out of the motorhome. But in the end, settled for a walk down the beach and then back along part of the trail. Resolving that we could ride the trail the following day weather permitting.

We thought about spending the night at the freedom camping area, but with the logging trucks thundering past right next to the camping area we decided to opt for the relative quiet of the NZMCA Park. The park was almost entirely empty with only us and two others in the vast park.

We didn’t get a chance to talk one of the others but the one we did tell us that he was a regular visitor using it as a base for hunting trips in the hills of the East Cape. He also said us that he used to live in the area but like many others have left what he called a “dying town” thoughts that were echoed by other we spoke to in the town itself.

The following morning the weather wasn’t playing its part ruling out a ride on the Motu Trails, so we opted for a walk through the town. Like a lot of small-town New Zealand, Opotiki has suffered from its share of problems and has several empty shops in the main street. However, the people we spoke to all had a positive attitude to the town at the same time as telling us the town was dying—a vast contradiction.

The town was really trying hard to present a good image and was undoubtedly full of friendly people who were more than willing to spend a few minutes in conversation. I even took advantage of a free sausage sizzle run by the local Te Wānanga o Aotearoa who was trying to encourage students to their adult classes.

As motorhomers, we can do a lot for towns like this by staying in the camps and NZMCA Parks and spending money in the town. The cash brings jobs to the local community, so next time you are heading for the East Cape spend a night or two in Opotiki and help out the locals.

What was really encouraging to read was the development of a vast Mussel Farm out at sea. With plans for it to eventually cover almost 4000 Hectares of the ocean which will bring much-needed jobs to the region but this is still in the development stages, so you can do your bit to help now.


Back at the NZMCA Park, we caught up with Dave and Nita with whom we would be making the journey to the opening of the park at Te Araroa. Dave told me that his friends Den and Bren  (Dennis and Brenda) would also be joining us in their new bus.

Dave had booked the three motorhomes into the CAP (charges applies parking) Maraenui (#3068) where you can stay for $10 per night or $15 per night with power. The place is run by Bev and Ted who have owned the property for the last 7 years taking over from the previous hosts on the property. Since then Ted has made considerable improvements to the park, adding a toilet and shower block as well as a fantastic fireplace/social area.

Bookings here are absolutely essential as it’s very popular and they only like having 5 or 6 motorhomes maximum on any given night. The road in is a little narrow once you turn off the main road and the last kilometre is a gravel road. Aside from a few potholes, it was OK access. Had we not been following Dave, we would have struggled to find the place so look out for the green sheds (pictured above) if you are heading here.

With the motorhome settled it was time to set off down the beach for a bit of an explore it’s probably about 2kms from the camp to the end of the beach. We both got quite a surprise when a fisherman on a quad bike came racing around the corner at the end of the beach heading towards us. (no photos). He told us that he had only caught one that day; however, usually, the fishing is much better.

The coastline reminded me very much of the West Coast of the South Island with that remote feel about it, but very pretty and I would imagine it would be spectacular in early summer with all the pohutakawa’s out in flower.

On our return, Dave offered to play the role of chief fire starter it was left to me to chop up some kindling, which with the help of a couple of handy axes left to use was an easy job. Within a few minutes, we had a roaring fire to keep us toasty. Makes for a delightful happy hour.

The following morning Ted gave us a tour of his garden and some of the projects he is working on including the crayfish pot that he is constructing out of supplejack that he has collected himself on one of his many bush walks.

It was also interesting to hear that his beehive produced 15 kilos out of one comb this year. That’s probably more honey than I have eaten in my lifetime. His garden is just overloaded with fruit trees, but I had to take the photo of what must be the biggest Magnolia flower I have ever seen.

So after the goodbyes where said it was time to hit the road again on the journey to Te Araroa. For $10 per night per van, I cannot think of a better place that we have stayed. That was so well set up and with friendly hosts. So if you get the chance, you must add this to your must-visit list.

To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can click the links to read the blog about that area.

To view the Ratings, we have done for other camps click here 

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