When I decided to retire in 2017, I did a lot of reading of other blogs to plan our future travels. Mainly those written by Shellie Evans and Chris Miller, both of whom take great photos as well as writing in a style that appeals to me. It was a post made by Shellie that had always stuck in my mind as one of the things that makes motorhoming in New Zealand special. That was the post about the freedom camping area at Pipi Bank Station a remote sheep station on the East Coast of the lower North Island. It was the photos of the place that struck just the right chord with me, and I have wanted to visit ever since reading about it.
First, we had to get there, with us moving on from Porangahau past the site of what is the longest place name in the world. I had always thought that this title belonged to a place in Wales, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch but this apparently has only 58 letters while the New Zealand one has 85 so quite a big difference. With neither being what I would consider something that you could use in the course of a normal conversation without getting tongue-tied.
From the longest name signage, the road heads towards the small village of Wimbledon with the turn off to Herbertville and the freedom camping area just before the village. Like a lot of roads we have encountered in this part of New Zealand it’s very narrow without a centre line in a lot of places which together with a lot of sharp bends make for a cautious drive in the motorhome.
It was a short drive through the town of Herbertville and along the coast road past the memorial to Joseph and Sarah Herbert after whom the village is named, to the Pipi Bank Station. Where the NZMCA App gives you the impression, you can park anywhere along the coastal side of the road once you have driven past this sign. However, over the last few months, this area has been fenced off making access to the old freedom camping area impossible. We had continued down the road until reaching the point where it starts climbing into the hills finally realising that the freedom camping area no longer exists. We had a bit of fun performing a 90 point turn in our 9-metre motorhome, hemmed in with a fence on both sides of the narrow road, before heading back towards Herbertville.
A reread of the App (just as well there was phone signal) tells you about two areas located on the side of the road prior to Pipi Bank Station so we decided rather than bother the people who run the station we would just spend the day and night there. Sarah, who is one of those people who is always considering others and wanted us to park to the side of the area so we would leave plenty of room for anyone else who might arrive. Turns out that we need not have worried about this, though, as we were the only ones parked in this area for the night.
Some people have commented about being sandblasted by the wind along this coast. We didn’t experience that at any of the beaches we stayed at probably because we had such fine weather during our stay along this coast.
We did have a moment when we wondered if we had parked incorrectly and be moved on when a Ute pulled up right next to us. It was, however, some people who were following us down the coast that we had met in both Kairakau and Porangahau. They were spending the night at the local campground where they told us about a very unusual charge in the tariff an additional $1.50 for the night to cover the dog!!!! They had just come to see where we were and what it was like.
Another couple of motorhomes turned up after us and did exactly what we did driving past the Pipi Bank sign only to reappear a short time later. One of which also spent the night but they chose to be somewhat anti-social and parked in the other parking bay back towards Herbertville.
Each of the beaches we have stayed at along this part of the coast have been different from the last, and so it was here. With the Wainui river cutting through the expanse of sand between us and the sea. The sand then stretched out well over 50 metres beyond that, so it was quite the walk to the water. Although it’s not hard to imagine during a storm that the waves would be pounding at the beach by the camper.
Like a lot of these places, the local community appear to use the beach as a natural resource with several people fishing from various points along the beach. I lost count of the number of quad bikes we saw heading up and down the beach with people heading off to catch or gather something.
Looking back towards the sheep station, it’s impossible not to notice the grand house. One of many mansions we have encountered in this part of New Zealand. I guess that in the heyday of sheep farming in NZ, the wealth created by owning such a large station would allow the family income to build such an impressive house.
Although the road runs directly behind the spot we had chosen, there were just a couple of farm vehicles heading up and down the road to disturb our total tranquillity. Also in the far distance, we watched the occasional container ship steaming either up or down the coast. Just on the horizon, which made us wonder where they were going.
The countryside in this part of NZ is just so distinctive with the light on the hills providing some great shots.
Of course, I cannot leave the motorhome out of the shots. Even after 18 months and over 20,000kms, I still cannot believe that I am lucky enough to be an owner of something like this.
Or another fantastic East Coast sunrise! It was an extraordinary place with both of us left wondering where everyone was. It’s funny because when we had stayed at Kairakau Beach, the camping area was overflowing with motorhomes, and here there were just the two of us for the night. I guess the distances involved suggest that these sort of places that are right off the beaten track stay that way but ones that are just over an hours drive from a major hub like Napier/Hastings will always attract more visitors.
The only real disappointment about the place and one that you cannot really see in the photo but some of the locals have been dumping plant and tree waste over the bank in front of the motorhome which just spoils things a little. There was no rubbish, just plant matter, so no smell thankfully.
So Shellie things have changed a bit since you wrote your blog about this place and I didn’t use your photo in the end but thanks for allowing me to use it if I wanted. It still remains a remote wild place that I would recommend to anyone. I hope that whoever reads my blog, even if my photos aren’t up to your standard. Is as inspired to go there as I was by reading yours.
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 places we have stayed click here