One of the things with social media is that you are constantly being reminded of what happened 1,2 3 or X number of year ago and so it was the other day when we were staying at Rays Rest and Facebook reminded us that it was 3 years since we had visited Port Jackson. Since we were heading for the Coromandel with the original plan to spend a few days in the area we decided that we would head instead to the end of the road and go back to Port Jackson.
For those of you who don’t know where Port Jackson is. It’s really very simple drive north to Colville and then follow the road to the left for 30 kms. The tar seal ends at Colville and then it’s a fairly narrow gravel road for the rest of the way following the coast. The road is in good condition and mostly free of ruts and corrugations but it’s still a road that requires serious concentration taking much longer to drive than you might expect.
One highlight for us as we drove the road was when I spotted a pod of dolphins frolicking in the water closer to the shore than I have ever seen. Sadly Murphy’s law applied here and with absolutely no place to pull over to grab some photos. I guess we could have just parked on the road but rather decided to drive a little further looking for a place to stop and then —- well too late.
The road is lined on both sides in places by huge Pohutakawa trees and although we have never driven the road when they are in flower it’s not hard to imagine how spectacular the display would be in early December.
Earlier this year the road suffered badly with the two cyclones that hit New Zealand and whilst the road has been well repaired in most places there is an area just before you reach the DOC Camp at Fantail Bay where the road narrows significantly. Still wide enough for our motorhome but not much room for error.
From Fantail Bay the road, and I cannot believe I am saying this again, narrows! It also becomes much more twisting and turning with a number of blind corners before you start the long climb uphill to get over to the otherside and down to the beach below. I must confess that I was a little worried about how well the Fiat would handle such a long uphill climb on a metal road but we maintained a good momentum and crested the hill without any issues. It might have been a different story if we met someone coming the other way and I had to stop but thankfully this didn’t happen.
We arrived at Port Jackson and registered with the camp managers Fred and Dave who told us that although they where expecting a busy weekend there should be plenty of space so park where you like. Taking them at their word we found a magnificent spot overlooking the beach on a nice level spot. Over the next two days as the camp started to fill up we began to feel a little guilty about the way we had parked but figured that if the camp managers had a problem with it they could always come and ask us to move.
Last time we stayed here we walked to Fletcher Bay at the end of the road a walk of around 7 kms each way. This time we decided that we would get the bikes out and ride there. Dave the camp manager reminded us that there’s only one hill and he’s right it is one hill that covers half the distance uphill and the other half downhill. Not quite true but it is quite a hill. There are some spectacular views along the coast from the road and it’s a trip well worth making if you are at Port Jackson.
We reached Fletcher Bay the site of another DOC Camp and sadly one that was also ravaged by a storm earlier this year. With the main access route to the camp washed away only about 25% of the camp was usable. Funny thing is when we visited 3 years ago part of the access had been washed away then as well.
Fletcher Bay looks like a great place to stay with a very attractive beach as well as a spectacular coastal drive to get you there. I was told that it should be all up and running with full capacity available before Christmas.
There are a number of walks in this area with one departing from the camp heading towards Fletcher Bay along the ridgeline of the nearby farm. It’s about a 15 minute stroll along the beach to reach the start of the walk proper, it was here that we came across the deceased Gannet. We have come across plenty of dead birds over the years but this was the first time we have come across one of these, we wondered if someone might have dumped it there.
The walk starts off with my favourite thing a set of steps leading to the ridgeline. I know that I shouldn’t complain but with bad knees I really feel those steps. From the gate at the top of the stairs the walk follows quite close to the edge of the cliff with a warning sign about strong winds. It’s not hard to imagine as you walk along being blown off the cliff. The total walk is about 1 hour to the road including another set of steps up and down another ridge to get you there. From the road you have the choice of returning the way you came or following the road back to the camp. If you do choose to take the road it’s downhill and flat for almost the whole way. The only issue this way is you need to cross a ford (stream) so be prepared to take your shoes off or get them wet.
We decided that we would walk back along the track and as we reached the head of the steps back to the beach we spotted a pod of dolphins swimming just off the shore. We stood there for 10 or so minutes watching them and then decided to wander back to the motorhome. For the next 4 or 5 hours that pod of dolphins swum up and down the beach numerous times coming close to people who were swimming in the water. It is by far the longest I have ever seen dolphins stay in an area.
To the left of the campsite is what remains of the old jetty, these days not much more than a rundown concrete structure. I was interested to see the Hydrographic Survey mark never having seen one of these before. Walking back along the rocks towards the camp we noticed lots of fish remains we were however very concerned with the size of some of the skeletons that remained I am sure they wouldn’t have measured 30cm. Some appeared very undersized.
Saturday the camp really filled up, probably getting to half capacity and we found ourselves surrounded by other campers including a large family group with multiple tents from Columbia, a couple from Tauranga and a large family group from Hamilton that have been coming to Port Jackson for 48 years and now have the 4th generation camping in this fantastic place.
One really interesting thing about the DOC Camps in Coromandel is that they are all now “pack in pack out” so you need to take your rubbish away with you. However to make things easier they now collect all your food scraps in little buckets they hand out. They then use these food scraps to feed the compost and worm farms they have on site and are going to use these to propagate Kauri and native plants in the area which now cannot be imported from other areas due to the dieback disease. It was amazing how little rubbish we had after putting all our food scraps in the bucket.
I never remember peoples names but do a good job of remembering peoples motorhomes so on Sunday when Sarah and I where wandering along the beach and I noticed two vans pull in I said to her we saw those vans last year in Whananaki. Sure enough it was two ladies who names I have again forgotten that had stayed at the same place as us almost exactly one year ago. I think one of the great things about coming to a place like this is the family atmosphere with everyone getting on with each other. It makes it an enjoyable place to be.
In all we spent 4 nights at Port Jackson and it must have been the first Labour Weekend in years where the sun actually shone for the whole weekend. Each evening we got treated to fabulous sunsets. It was during these times that I asked Sarah which was her favourite place here or our real favourite place, Puriri Bay in Northland. I think if the road to get here wasn’t so bad it might be a close thing. Still absolutely worth a visit to this 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