The Beauty of Bland Bay

Just a few km’s back down the road from Elliot Bay is the turnoff to Bland Bay and our usual go-to destination Puriri Bay the DOC camp at the end of the road. This time however without a DOC pass the thought of paying $15 per person per night to park on a bit of gravel/hardstand (winter camping) with long drop toilets and nothing else left us feeling rather cold. When for an extra $1 per person, we could stay at the Bland Bay motor camp plug into power and connect the heater.

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We have been coming north and staying at Puriri Bay for the last 18 years driving past the Bland Bay camp each time and never once staying. This time we had made a point of coming to stay. As I mentioned above the price was basically the same as the DOC camp in fact when you factor in running our large fridge and heating system on power rather than gas it was probably cheaper staying in the campground.

Currently, a one night stay is $18 per person, but if you are a member of the NZMCA and stay 2 nights or more, the rate reduces to $16 per day. If you want to remain longer-term up till labour weekend, they offer $125 per week. The camp managers are comprehensive checking electrical certificates and NZMCA memberships to make sure these are current.

With the cost of a DOC passing rising to $295 and us not sure how many nights we would spend staying in them we hadn’t purchased a pass for this current season. I cannot work out why DOC camps and places like the regional parks in Auckland don’t have off-season rates. If it was say $5 per night at the DOC camp till labour weekend, I think at this time of the year you would feel it was value for money and people might actually pay rather than just stay.

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Bland Bay is this beautiful cove with a sandy beach that gently slopes to the water, making a very safe swimming beach, although it was a bit too cold for us to consider in August. We did, however, have a couple of beautiful days mostly with the sun shining, allowing for pleasant walks along the beach. As you can see from the photo we pretty much had the beach to ourselves, so very restful.

This time of the year the office is unmanned with a note on the door, to call a mobile phone number find yourself a spot and they will be round to see you later. The lady who answered the phone told us to introduce ourselves to Bill McMurray and his dog Abbie in the Kea motorhome who had the keys to unlock toilet/kitchen etc. It didn’t take long for Abbie to make herself at home in our van. A very welcome visitor.

Later that evening, the camp managers came around to collect the fees. During discussions, we discovered that they were also living in the house on the beach and running the camping area at Elliot Bay for the owners. They must be really busy people during the summer.

The campground is to the right of the centre of the beach, so it’s a decent stroll down the beach to the far left end. Passing a couple of rocky outcrops the yellows of wild daffodils growing caught my eye, reminding us that spring was getting closer.

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Standing on some rocks that jut out into the water we actually saw a couple of decent size Paraoe swimming around and although the water was clear enough to capture them in this photo they suddenly disappeared as soon as I got out the camera.

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It seems like a long time since I have featured Sarah and the pink raincoat, but we had quite a heavy passing shower while we were at the far end of the beach that necessitated getting our raincoats out of our backpack.

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After a cracking sunrise the following morning we decided that we would get the bikes out of the back of the motorhome and ride over to Puriri Bay to look at what changes if any, there had been to the campsite since our last visit almost 12 months previous.

It seemed strange to arrive at the camp and find virtually nobody there just one solitary bus tucked up next to the toilets. There have been some significant changes over the last 12 months with a large hardstand area now available, making camping during the winter possible as the ground used to get too boggy to drive over. As I mentioned earlier in the blog, it’s now $15 per night per adult to stay here which I have no problem with during peak periods but do seriously wonder why so much in winter. If the NZMCA can in association with a number of camping grounds offer $20 per night with power, what does it say about a place like this?

Interestingly the move to improve facilities at the camp while probably welcomed by most, is to me, another nail in the coffin for such a remote site. Over time we have seen the camp managers move from a tiny caravan to larger buses to the now permanent structures. Roadways are taking over grass it probably won’t be long before flush toilets, and hot showers arrive I am not sure this is a good thing we need to preserve some of the more remote spots or am I just to nostalgic.

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We stopped on the way back at the top of hill overlooking Bland Bay it’s a view that I don’t think I will ever get tired of.

Back at the motorhome and after putting the bikes away, we took advantage of low tide to head down to the far right-hand end of the beach and beyond. There are a couple of beaches as you round the headland and then some somewhat rocky areas, Sarah decided to see what was around the next corner, sadly more of the same, but a pleasant walk was had.

Just down the road from the camping area is the Bland Bay Recreational Reserve it was here that we noticed a freedom camper spending a couple of nights and wondered about if this was legal or illegal. So when we got home, we did quite a bit of research online and discovered that despite the sign with the line through the tent you can actually freedom camp here provided you are self contained a link to the relevant DOC webpage is here so maybe on the next visit in summer – well who knows.

Bland Bay, I really do wonder how it got this name, so I did a bit of research and found this on the Ngatiwai.iwi.nz website the local Iwi and guardians of the campground. The website is full of stories of locals remembering the history of both their families and the area.

Bland Bay’s original name was Tūparehuia and how it got its name was that the place was overrun with huia birds in the old days. When the huia bird got angry, the plume on its head used to stand up, and the plume in Māori is ‘te pare’. Hence when the huia bird became angry ka tū te pare o te huia bird, or tū pare huia in short. Then Captain Cook circumnavigated New Zealand into the map of the world – when he got back to England, he named it Blind Bay because he missed it when he went past. When they had the track down from the junction there, it was no road just a track down to Bland Bay, and they had the sign up there ‘Blind Bay’. When the kaumatua saw it, he pulled it down and threw it away. Then it was Bland Bay because there was nothing there. So there you go now you know why it’s called Bland Bay.

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