After our rally driver efforts to escape the DOC camp at Arohena, we decided to look for somewhere, let’s just say a little less stressful to enter and depart. We had heard good things from lots of people about Mangakino. Given that it was really the next available place to stay along the river, it was also a fairly logical choice.

We continued to see numerous cyclists on the road, taking part in the 2020 Ride Aotearoa. Which, as I mentioned in the last blog is around 1000 cyclists riding from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Maps we had seen had the trail following the other side of the river rejoining our side when they crossed the river here at the Waipapa Dam. A check of social media on our return home shows they have closed part of the trail (that went through private land) due to significant vandalism. This is why all the cyclists had been on the road. What is wrong with some people?

First, stop on our arrival into Mangakino was the local rugby club. Site of the dump station and two potable water taps. The place is effortless to use with a massive turn around area. It wouldn’t matter what size motorhome or 5th wheeler you had here. This is the first example of why the town is a member of the NZMCA motorhome friendly towns program. With Mangakino one of the 54 destinations in New Zealand with this status. If you want to find out more about this, click here.

There are several places in and around the town set up for freedom camping. We first stopped at what looked like a charming place, the domain carpark. Talking, however with a couple who had spent the previous night here. They explained that despite the current empty appearance, it gets really full at night.

The reserve is really well set out with a cafe set up in an old double-decker Bedford bus, (no photo was taken) the on the water play area, toilets and a hot water shower mounted on a trailer that you can use for $2. There is also a sink at the back of the toilets (outside) where you can do your dishes. An ideal place for those not as well set up as some motorhomes.

We decided that we would investigate other areas. Choosing to walk to the closest one a 500-metre stroll, with the lake on one side and the golf course on the other. This brings you to Matekuri Island. Although I have also heard it called Dog island.

Maybe the above is a good clue why people also call it dog island. What we found was a couple of great spots to park the motorhome. Close to the water and with our own “beach”. We wandered back to the domain, collected the motorhome and parked it up here. We figured this would be a great place to chill out for a couple of days and just enjoy life.

The freedom camping area here is vast. With plenty of space to really spread out and not be worried about treading on your neighbour’s toes. We got talking to a few of the other campers. A couple of whom used to live or work in the area and commented on how much the village had changed. Apparently, people see it as the new Taupo without the expense of buying a house in Taupo.


We actually made this trip at the end of February during what seemed like a heatwave. So no sooner had I parked up the motorhome than Sarah was in the water cooling off. This would be the first of many swims she had here. Really finding the water very refreshing.

This really is a great place to get out and about on your bike. The Waikato River Trails run just past Matekuri Island. So getting out the bikes for a ride was an easy decision to make.

We rode as far as the suspension bridge that crosses the river about 4.5 km’s from the camp. At that point, I was having issues with my bike. The arm that the pedal attaches too was unscrewing from the bike. Meaning that each time I pedalled, it felt like it was stripping it out of its thread. Thankfully both of our E-Bikes have a throttle function, and I was able to power my way home.

We remembered that back at the domain, we had seen a bike repair station. A great thing to find with all sorts of tools available including the correct size Allen key to fix my pedal. It’s funny looking back on the shot of Sarah and noticing how little traffic there was then. I would imagine now in the Covid 19 lockdown the tumbleweeds would certainly be blowing up the main road.

The Saturday and Sunday of our stay the NZ Wakeboard championships were being held at the domain. We wandered down both days to have a bit of a look. There were some very impressive boats probably worth a substantial amount of money. But there seemed to be a shortage of people. For what was supposed to be the NZ Champs, it looked more like a club event. I wondered if the organisers were disappointed?

On Sunday, we wandered back to see if more people had turned up. Instead, the competition had been halted with someone having fallen badly after a trick jump. He had been brought back to shore with a shoulder injury. On our arrival and not long after that, the rescue helicopter arrived. I can report that the “patient” was up and about but still taken away to be checked out in the hospital. All very exciting. No sooner had the helicopter departed than competition got underway again.


When all the Covid 19 lockdown restrictions have been lifted this is absolutely a place that I would recommend you come. Peaceful, quiet and seemingly miles from anywhere, yet in reality not that far from SH1.

Matekuri Island

Proximity to Attractions

Swimming in the river, Cycle trail at the doorstep. Not that far to Taupo a very handy place.

Nearest Supplies/Town

There is a 4 Square in the village and larger towns within an easy drive for more stuff if required.

Ground Surface

Firm hard ground. Reasonably level and plenty of space.

Proximity to Water/Dump Station

A really well-maintained dump station with 2 potable water taps.

Outlook from Camp


Noise during Day and Night

Really peaceful and quiet.

Cellphone Signal

Ok signal for calls not enough on 2Degrees for the internet.


There are clean well-maintained toilets and a paid show about 500 metres down the road at the domain.

Walking/Cycling Tracks

Right on your doorstep

Pets welcome

As I say in the blog it's also known as dog island. A free dog exercise area.

Overall Rating:

It took us far too long to find this place, we will return much quicker.

While we have been on this trip, we have had some fun and games with the flyscreen in our motorhome. Essentially the strings inside it, that keep it taught snapped. So it lost its effectiveness allowing the winged pests access. So the next blog is the dramas we went through to repair it ourselves.
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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 

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Lending Crowd 1

3 thoughts on “Mangakino

  1. Regarding Matekuri; My understanding is that in Maori, “Mate” can mean deceased, unwell or defeated. As in the words of the All Blacks Haka – “Ka Mate”. “Kuri” refers to a Dog usually, but can mean an animal with four legs.
    Many place-names refer to an event, so perhaps the name of this area may refer to an unwell or dead dog having been found there.
    Just a thought.

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