Freedom camping in Hastings

Sometimes a big drive is just something that you have to do. So it was for us on Sunday when we both woke early for what I thought was going to be the beginning of a trip to the Coromandel when Sarah suggested that we head to Hastings and catch up with Adrian and Sally who we had met in the South Island.

Leaving Auckland not long afterwards it was really lovely to have the motorway almost to ourselves unlike what it would be like just an hour or so later. We made perfect time, The motorhome has been running so much better after having had the recall completed. Probably because they replaced the engine management controller.

As we drove down the motorway, I commented to Sarah about the number of Mustangs and other Fords on the road. We pulled into the Caltex truck stop in Bombay to see a number of them gathered together. There was apparently a large gathering of Fords to be held in Hamilton that day.

We had messaged Adrian and Sally before leaving Auckland, letting them know we were coming. As we arrived in Napier, we spoke with Adrian agreeing to meet at the Clifton Reserve in Te Awanga. This is a freedom camping area located right on the beach.

It was really crowded when we arrived, but we managed to sneak into quite a sheltered spot but one that still had us alongside the water. We felt fortunate to be here. Adrian and Sally arrived an hour or so later managing to take a waterfront spot that had been vacated by another camper just a few minutes beforehand.

According to Adrian and Sally who are locals a lot of the local motor homers use this place like a weekend retreat arriving on Friday and departing late on Sunday, so it’s a lot quieter during the week.

It’s not often that we have come across a freedom camping area in such a pretty spot, and the Hastings District Council deserve some gratitude for designating such an excellent place for freedom camping. I would imagine that over summer it would be close to impossible to find a space to squeeze into.


We had met Sally and Adrian in Motueka and had spent several days together so we had promised on parting that we would catch up when we were in the area. We almost made it when we toured the East Cape but had to drive home from Gisborne before getting to Napier, so it was good to be able to get together and catch up on what each other had been doing since we last met.


The following morning after a fantastic sunrise it was time to dust off the cobwebs from our E-Bikes and wake them up from the winter hibernation period for a ride along the cycle path that passes by the camp.

Firstly we decided that we would head towards the end of the trail at Clifton, which is where the walk to Cape Kidnappers begins. It was here 17 or so years ago when we made one of our big trips in our Mitsubishi Canter that we walked the 17 kilometres to the cape and back to see the Gannets. I will always remember this walk as our youngest son was too tired to walk the final 2 or 3 km’s back to the motorhome, and I ended up carrying him on my shoulders.


Sadly the campground is suffering from some severe coastal erosion, as is a lot of the coast along here. The campground has lost metres of usable space, and the original access road has been mostly washed away. Now there is a rather rough road to get to the camp while work goes on to try and hold back the sea and restore better access.

Returning from the bike ride, Adrian and Sally offered to take us up to Te Mata Peak for a chance to take in the views. Rising 399 metres above sea level Te Mata is a popular tourist place with car parks at various levels so the fitter among you can walk along one of the number of walking tracks to the summit.

After taking advantage of a couple of great photo opportunities, Sarah noticed the launching ramp for the hang gliders and base jumpers. Looks pretty scary to me but our oldest son has done a bit of base jumping, so we sent him a photo of the ramp. It seems a really long way down.

From here it was down to Havelock North for a bite to eat at one of the local cafes. A beautiful spot with grapevines growing around the roadside to create shelter in the summer. Not the sort of thing you see in the main street of Auckland, and I thought a lovely touch.

Back at the motorhome, it was time to jump back on the bikes and head off in the other direction. Again it’s effortless riding as the trail is on top of the stopbanks that follow the river. It was amazing to see all the fresh plantings for the orchards, there must be thousands of trees being planted around here.

Still recovering from the morning ride and with my backside beginning to feel slightly sore, we rode for about 10kms before turning back. I thought it had been quite easy peddling on the way out and that was because we had the wind behind us, so it was a bit trickier coming home, still however a great ride.

During the bike ride, we came across another freedom camping area at Haumoana this camp is set back from the beach a bit with no sea views but would still be a handy place to stay if the other camps where full.

That evening Adrian and Sally had made a Pizza to share during happy hour. With Adrian making the dough and then cooking it on his Weber BBQ, we were both super impressed it was absolutely delicious. Then we had a sort of shared meal for dinner with us springing for Fish and Chips from the takeaway just down the road from the camp and them doing chicken wings and scampi on the BBQ. Great night!

With two nights the limit at the camp in Te Awanga used up, it was time to move. We had agreed that we would move to the NZMCA Park in Napier, but as we drove along SH2, we noticed the Evers Swindell Reserve on our right as we crossed over the bridge. A quick phone call to Adrian and we had changed where we had decided to stay. Yet another excellent freedom camping spot provided by the local council.

From the new camping spot, the cycle trail continues in both directions allowing us to ride both before and after lunch. Credit to both Napier and Hastings with the with the work they have done on these trails. They are such fun to ride, with scenic vistas at every corner.

As it’s whitebait season, there were several people at various spots along the rivers trying there luck hopefully they had more success than some friends of Adrian’s whose catch totalled 7 and 22 not really enough for a decent feed.

Since we decided not to stay at the NZMCA Park in Napier, we thought we would at least visit and rode down from where we were staying. I must say it was an impressive size camp well marked out with what looked like heaps of space for motorhomes and caravans either on the grass or using an area of hardstand during the soggy winter months.

That night was to be our last with Adrian and Sally on this visit, so it was another happy hour with one of Adrian’s pizza’s, we will have to call him Luigi, he really has it sorted.


We have found out that the Hastings District Council strictly enforce their 2-day maximum stay policy on the camps. When at around 9.30pm, there was a knock on the door of the motorhome. We chose not to answer as we had no idea who was out there (they didn’t identify themselves). After they had gone, we went out to have a look to discover the above notice under the wipers.

In the morning we emailed the council to ask why we got this notice when it was our first night at the camp and did the two nights we had spent at the Clifton Reserve count. An email back stated that it was 2 nights at each place and an error by their security guards. The lesson is though that they strictly enforce your stay.

In the morning there were several rowers up and down the river, Just so peaceful. What a great place to stay this has been. Sadly as our travel schedule dictates it was time to move on. So goodbyes to Adrian and Sally until next time it’s been great, and we miss you already.

One thing we didn’t do here is to take advantage of all the local vineyards, and they’re certainly are plenty of them. I think next time, when we have more time available, we will explore and sample, sounds like a good plan.

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 hereĀ 

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