Camping at NZMCA Park Bell Block

Wanting to get out of Mikes Brewery before the hoardes descended on Saturday morning Sarah and I set off on the next part of the Safari. The plan was to meet at the Kawaroa Park on the waterfront in New Plymouth where Dave had received special permission from the local council for the group to camp over and above the 15 allotted spots for freedom campers.


On our arrival it quickly became apparent that our motorhome like some others in the group would not fit in one of the allotted spaces anyway as these are designed for motorhomes not much bigger than a car rather than ones that stretch to 9 metres and beyond. As we had arrived here first we parked across 2 spaces in the row down from the designated area.

Kawaroa Park

Proximity to Attractions

Really handy right on the cycle trail and close to the city for shopping, art gallery, museum etc.

Nearest Supplies/Town

You are right on everything here.

Ground Surface

Firm hard asphalt with a gentle slope towards the sea.

Proximity to Water/Dump Station

No water here and a short 2 km drive to the nearest dump station.

Outlook from Camp

Very pretty through the pohutokawas to the sea.

Noise during Day and Night

This is what had Sarah worried with the potential for disturbance at night.

Cellphone Signal

Good clear signal.


Clean free toilets in the park and showers available in the swimming pool complex in the park also.

Walking/Cycling Tracks

Great waterfront path to follow to either ride or walk.

Pets welcome

You can have dogs here.

Overall Rating:

Overall it\\\'s probably a good place to stay just be a little wary at night with potential trouble with the locals,

I am not sure to be thankful or not but as the weather was less than accommodating the carpark was basically empty  so as the other safari members rolled in we were able to form two lines across the car park and somewhat dominated the carpark area.

With the motorhome settled we decided to head off for a quick explore of the area. With the coastal walkway running right past the parking area we decided to head right towards the port. It was an enjoyable walk even if rain was seriously threatening with lots to see and something I would recommend that you do if visiting this area.

With most of us settled in and a break in the weather Sarah started having a chat to some of the other freedom campers, sadly the conversation with one of them about drunken youths in the carpark and playground next door the previous night made her feel very uncomfortable especially after our recent night at the Mangakawa Reserve.

Staying on a Friday or Saturday night wasn’t really an option for Sarah so leaving the rest of the group to it we moved to the new NZMCA Park at Bell Block. The weather really wasn’t playing it’s part so it was a great chance to catch up on some domestic chores around the motorhome and write the first of my blogs about this safari as the rain continued to bucket down.

The Park at Bell Block has only recently been opened and makes the 36th Park we have visited out of 43 so we are slowly getting there but will need to get back to south island to complete things. One thing that this Park has that no other Park we have encountered does and that’s clearly defined parking spaces. With each camping area bordered with two white posts laying flat in the ground that you park between. This innovation will make it a lot easier to use the reservation system and will stop people taking over more space than they should. 10 out of 10 for this.

Bell Block

Proximity to Attractions

A little tucked away from the main attractions of the area but close to the cycleway.

Nearest Supplies/Town

Good nearby shopping

Ground Surface

Firm gravel that sadly gets stuck in your shoes and ends up being brought into the motorhome. I am sure it will compact soon though.

Proximity to Water/Dump Station

Right here on site with water taps all over the park and a double sided dump station.

Outlook from Camp

A little industrial but a glimpse of the mountain over the factory buildings.

Noise during Day and Night

Pretty quiet just the occasional truck thundering past gets a little noisy.

Cellphone Signal

Good signal.


Nothing here.

Walking/Cycling Tracks

The track starts 250 metres down the road and it's a great ride,

Pets welcome

No problem here.

Overall Rating:

Overall another quality NZMCA Park just like coming home!

This is the first time we have been in an NZMCA Park since the space reservation system came in and it was interesting to see a few spaces had been reserved. In this park where spaces are clearly defined it’s easy to see the system working well but I think it will be much harder in the other parks where lines can get blurred.

When we arrived at the park there were plenty of available spaces in the Park but as evening approached and I got out to take a few photos the Park had almost filled with only around 4 spaces left. I am not sure of the capacity but it certainly looked like a lot of campers here.

The following morning with the sun peaking through the clouds it was out with the bikes early to take advantage of the dry start to the day. We also figured if we left early enough that we could get down to where the others were and maybe join them for a ride. It’s just a short ride down De Havilland Drive (where the park is located) to the start of the cycle trail down towards the beachfront. The work done by the council in developing this cycle way is fantastic with a smooth mostly concrete path for most of the way making for easy riding.

Arriving at the new Te Rewa Rewa Bridge we managed to capture these shots of the mountain framed through the span of the bridge. It was just as well we got this shot when we did as when we rode back with the others the mountain was obscured by cloud and remained so for pretty much the rest of the time we stayed in New Plymouth.


Arriving back at the Kawaroa Park we found the others just about ready too head off on their cycles. Turns out they would have departed half an hour before we got there but one of the people staying in the official freedom camping area had complained to the council about the group staying there. The person who came down from the council was actually the one who granted the exemption so it was quickly sorted.  We rejoined the group for their bike ride along the coastal trail. It was great that the weather had lifted enough allowing this group ride.

Heading first back towards the port and beyond where Dave pointed out to us the very first oil well sunk in the area. For those that don’t know the whole area around the port is oil and gas rich with oil seeping out of the ground across large areas here. Whilst the original oil well is no longer operating there was one at the port that was creating some interest among the group.

All seven of us on this bike ride had different types of E Bikes and whilst it’s a flat and level ride it’s good to have the power if you need it or if like Roger have had one hip and two knee replacements because you can still get out and about and enjoy the great ride. From the port we headed back towards Bell Block first passing the Wind Wand a very interesting sculpture that gets all bent and twisted depending on the strength of the wind. It was here that we came across John and Lorraine another couple from our group who have proper bikes and had ridden away before the rest of the group departed.

The coastal trail also takes you past a number of other installations including one that has 4 smaller wands, the mirror curve you can see in the photo and a number of other smaller sculptures so if you aren’t too busy trying not to knock down one of the hundreds of people out walking the trail you can take the time to admire the works people have created.


There is a part of the trail that dips down closer to the sea that they actually close during extreme weather due to the danger of people being backwashed of the path. Nita was telling us that when they did the test run on this safari she actually took an unwelcome shower from one rather large wave as they rode through this area.

With a group of riders it’s difficult to measure your pace to the slowest if you aren’t used to it and Dave, Neale and myself found ourselves riding ahead of the rest and then waiting for the group to catch up. This did have the advantage of putting myself in a position to capture some photos of the group arriving at various destinations along the route.

One thing I did discover along the route was another of the freedom camping areas offered by the local council at the Waiwhakaiho River Mouth. Although they have closed half of the carpark to campers there is still a large area available. It was interesting to see also a number of people out whitebaiting along the riverbank. We asked them how many they had caught with the answer that today was quite disappointing it is however usually a very reliable spot according to the fishers.

From here we rode through to the end of the coastal walkway where we farewell the others and then returned upwards to Bell Block and back to the motorhome. The next two nights were to be in New Plymouth with the chance to visit some of the local gardens that are open during the garden festival. In the next blog we move to another location that I will cover along with some of the gardens that we get to visit.


As I mentioned previously there are 11 motorhome couples traveling on this safari a couple of them we have met before and that includes Den and Bren who were with us on our trip around the East Cape to the opening of the new NZMCA Park in Te Araroa. They are the oldest couple on the safari by age but Den is easily the youngest at heart. Their motorhome is a Mitsubishi Fuso they brought earlier this year to replace their aging Nissan Civilian.


Rose and Wayne hail from Tauranga and have had their current Trailite motorhome for 7 years. The design of this van is really spacious inside in fact so spacious we have had a couple of happy hours inside when the weather has been less than ideal.

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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One thought on “Camping at NZMCA Park Bell Block

  1. […] One of the great things about traveling with this group has been the happy hours and how everyone has made us feel so welcome into the group. It was a warm and sunny evening sitting under the blossoms with each person sharing their adventures for the day and reliving the bike ride earlier in the day that I wrote about in my previous blog. […]

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