From Kaiaua where fish and chips had replenished our energy, it was a short drive down the road to Ray’s Rest. Years ago we used to drive past here looking at all the motorhomes and wonder what the attraction of the place was and why would you stay where so many others are already staying. Then back in 2017, we took advantage of the rest part of name to spend what would be our last ever night in the Mitsubishi Canter we had called our motorhome for the previous 17 years.
I think what’s interesting between the two images aside from the apparent difference between the two motorhomes and the way they are parked. Is how the grassed area hasn’t really recovered from the storms of 2018 when vast amounts of shells washed up on land making the whole area unusable for some time until they settled. The grass, however, is starting to come back and you cannot keep the motorhomes away from here for long.
On our arrival, the place was relatively empty, we parked close to the picnic table you can see above donated by the family in memory of their father who enjoyed this place so much. Then not long after our stay, I read on the NZMCA Wings Facebook page that Ray Steven’s after whom the area is named had passed away. I think it’s a good thing that not far from the hustle and bustle of the busiest city in New Zealand there is a place like this where you can sit back and just enjoy life. Many thanks, Ray, for giving us this spot.
I cannot think of too many other places in the country where you can freedom camp and have 30 or 40 motorhomes all parked parallel to the water, even though everyone knows you are meant to park horizontally nobody does. I guess that’s one of the beauties of this place the chance to grab your little slice of paradise for your two night stay and then relinquish the spot to another camper, at this time of the year it all seems to work rather well although we have never stayed here in summer, so I am not sure how it works then.
Not long after we had parked up, we heard the shells crunching, but no engine sound as a vehicle moved into place behind us. Later on, when taking a walk up the beach, I noticed that it was one of the new EV motorhomes now being offered on an LDV chassis. They certainly are a stealth machine; however, there was no chance to find out any more about it as the people chose not to stay moving on shortly after I took this photo. Maybe they just stopped so they could eat their fish and chips from Kaiaua.
There is a strictly no dogs policy here yet we watched one of the locals drive down to the end of the beach unload 3 large dogs from the back of his ute and spend the next hour exercising them. Sadly it’s these sort of things that reflect poorly on the campers, yet it wasn’t any of their doing. We had another local turn up to go fishing who then tried to “loan” $5 as he had forgotten his bait, after saying no he took off never to be seen again.
It was one of those days, sort of captured in this photo. One minute blue sky the next, the rain bucketing down. A great day for catching up on reading and looking at maps for ideas around future trips where to stay what to do etc.
With a bit of break in the weather the following morning we decided to break out the bikes and head the 4kms down the coast with the idea of having a look at the hides used by the bird watchers. We knew it was the wrong time of year to see all the coastal seabirds that turn up here from September onwards, but it was the perfect chance to have a look around without bothering anyone else.
Just before the road crosses a one-lane bridge that also serves as the start of the cycle trail proper, you reach the famed Robert Findlay reserve. You can pull off the road and into a gated area set aside for parking although this is relatively small and I would imagine nowhere near big enough during peak watching season.
As you enter the reserve, you can see the remains of the old lime works with just a few concrete blocks protruding from the ground. The info board makes interesting reading, and we wondered how many million shells had been crushed and burnt here to make fertiliser for the lime deficient soils around here.
From there a boardwalk has been built to take you to the hides. Serving both to keep you out of the fragile environment as well as a great way of keeping your feet dry it looks a reasonably recent addition to the reserve. It was interesting to read inside the hide that this had been washed away in a storm and had since been rebuilt showing the power of the sea.
The area is really well set up with several hides that cover quite a large area as well as giving the viewpoint across different environments. The signage that’s in place is extensive with each of the hides having several storyboards that show all the different types of birds you might be looking at. I found the tide chart quite amusing as it showed when the area was last really used and how we had missed our chance by months to see the birds.
Another exciting board spoke about how the Waikato river used to flow through here in ancient times, and it’s the sediment from that, that created the Firth of Thames. Something I had absolutely no idea about.
The sky was beginning to get quite black, I guess that’s one of the issues with winter. So we decided to return to the motorhome passing by the Seabird Centre that while open would have been a delay that we couldn’t afford if we wanted to get back before the skies opened.
One slightly annoying thing on our second night was a noisy bus turning up at 1am not content to simply park up he then spent 20 minutes trying to get his bus in the perfect position. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t merely park up in one of the many spaces on the other side of the sea and then sort it during daylight. Rather than wake up everyone around you.
You can stay at Ray’s Rest for 2 nights although a lot of people seemed to move on after one. It was actually quite tempting to look at who else was there, notice that no one else was left from when we arrived and joked about “resting” for another night. We would, however, never exceed the time limit or do anything to endanger these precious areas, especially when there are so few in and around Auckland.
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