The NZMCA Park in Dargaville has been open for a few months and a couple of my fellow bloggers have posted about the place, so we knew it was going to be a handy stopping point for the night on our way to Rawene on a visit to a couple of places that Heritage New Zealand have asked me to write about in some up coming blogs.

As we have our motorhome stored in Kumeu we decided that we would take “State Highway 16” on our way north. I have State Highway in quotation marks because I seriously question how it can be called a State Highway at all. The condition of the road is absolutely terrible with large parts of the road missing the top seal making for a very rough ride.

But by far the worst part on the road was the number of subsidence events and uneven surface areas that are on the road that really had me questioning when they last did some serious maintenance to the road. Oh and don’t get stuck behind a logging truck or big motorhome either because there are no passing lanes for the length of the road with your only chance to overtake either when they pull over or you decide to take your life into your own hands and risk it.

I had promised Sarah a sunny weekend or at least better weather than we had been having the last few days so when the skies opened up as we approached the turn off for Dargaville she gave me a gentle ribbing about my promises a bit further down the road it was like someone had directed a firehose at the motorhome with the ribbing becoming a bit stronger.

Caltex Dargaville
A shot of the Caltex Station taken from the NZMCA Park in Dargaville

However as we pulled into Dargaville the sun was out as if to say, Welcome to the winterless North! First stop was the local Caltex which has almost everything a motorhomer could need with fresh water, LPG filling and a dump station as well as fuel we took advantage of all of these things. Great to be able to do it all in one! We did need some help to find the dump station as there was no signage (it’s next to the car wash) so if you cannot find it just ask the helpful staff.

Since this visit to Northland was going to be all about history and heritage I had suggested to Sarah that we start with a visit to the local museum. According to Google maps it’s just 1.2 kms from the NZMCA Park so we decided to walk rather than take the bikes or drive.

Signage for these places always seems to be set up for people driving rather than walking, that’s also the case with Google Maps. So here are the Pedersen directions. You start with a left turn out of the park and continue alongside River Road till you reach the picnic area at the end of the road. Turn right along the footpath and then cross the road and head up Park Rd till you reach the walkway at the top of the road.

From here it’s up some rather steep set of stairs then across some fields and before you know it you have arrived at the museum. Much faster than walking all the way following the road. Or you could of course drive as there is plenty of parking here.

The museum is more than you could expect from a small country town it is jam packed with local history, some rather oddball collections as well as a tribute to the Dalmatian gum diggers and how they added some colour and music to the local community. Entry to the museum is $15 per person although it’s cheaper if you have a gold card which Sarah and I are still a few years away from being entitled too.

Once inside the museum you can start off by watching a short video that covers the contribution of the Dalmatian’s to the community and to our country. Sadly this video is nothing more than a collection of photos without any verbal commentary. So although the scenes are very interesting you are left feeling that there should be more and it would be nice to know what context they relate to. However it was still interesting to see all the famous faces at the end of the video who make up part of this community.

looking up from our seats after the video there is a collection of mounted trophies which include a 13 point stag a very impressive set of antlers. Next to that are the bullock yokes that would have been used to drag the Kauri logs out of the bush and help clear the bush. In fact the whole way everything is arranged in this museum is quite eclectic with odd stuff tucked away in every corner, making the whole place even more fascinating.

The delivery bicycle
The delivery bicycle

The next part of museum deals has a tribute to some of the old shops from the main street of Dargaville and proudly displays the sort of items that would have been offered in those stores in days gone by. The old delivery bike reminds me of my childhood in England where these used to be very popular. It did appear that it had no brakes, then I remembered that you stop these by peddling backwards.

However the real bonus on this visit was to discover that the sheds located in the NZMCA Park are linked to a significant part of New Zealand history. These sheds which formed the Thompsons boat yards who built the whaleboats that Earnest Shackelton used in his exploration of the Antarctic. So to see the tools and read the history that’s on display in the museum is a real bonus.

What really surprises me is that inside the buildings at the NZMCA Park there are a couple of pieces of paper stapled to the wall that contain a brief outline of what the sheds where used for. Given there history I think that they deserve a bit better and it would be nice to see information boards the size of the ones in the museum mounted inside the building that will bring the history home for everyone. We have so little history here lets make the most of what we do have.

As we continued to wander around the museum we discovered some things that you probably wouldn’t find in a larger museum but to us the collection of thimbles, tea spoons, salt and pepper shakers, toy accordions and the like are what actually made this visit something special. Seeing these sort of things makes you realise that you are in a smaller community where everyone contributes in some small way.

Both of us would recommend that you visit this museum if you have a couple of hours to spare. There is an additional bonus for those not wanting to stay at the NZMCA park or if it’s full on your arrival with the museum also being a POP with an onsite dump station as well as toilets located right next to the parking area, very convenient.

Heritage park walk sign
Look out for these signs as you follow the trail

Having spoken to the docent at the museum who pointed us in the correct direction we walked back down along the river trail towards the Park, this was a much shorter route and it would be good to see signage in the park office to show this as I am sure lots of other members would visit the museum if they knew how good it was and how short the walk really was!

The van Shirken

One little side story that does need to be told and that’s the motorhome we parked next to when we arrived at the Park. The van Shirken was parked next to us in Lake Brunner was Westport at the same time, Helped push us out when we got stuck in Little Whanganui, arrived at Plimmerton when we where there. So by a strange set of coincidences we seem to have run into each other in all sorts of places and yet again here in the North Island!

Sunset in Dargaville
Another glorious sunset at the NZMCA Park in Dargaville

There is something about NZMCA Parks and sunsets/sunrises with me not being able to resist a couple of shots as the sun disappeared from the horizon. We had a very quiet night with almost no traffic noise despite the Park being close to the town and main road. Another top quality park but one that could benefit from some additional signage around the place.

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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5 thoughts on “Dargaville

    1. We got the new motorhome at the beginning of October 2017 and when we got home today it was just under 16,000 kms so yes quite a bit of travelling. We didn’t buy it so it could sit in the garage like some people do and we used to do with the old one. We brought it to use it and love every minute of it! I hope you are enjoying your new acquisition and getting out and about to all those back of beyond places

      1. With you all the way about using it. From your posts it’s clear you are enjoying your travels, long may it continue.
        We are just starting out. Only made a couple of short trips so far. We are back home at the moment to make a few little adjustments, mainly cosmetic, so the old van is more suited to are needs. It’s a learning game for us.
        I’m following your adventures on the other side of the world with great interest.

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