Tawharanui Regional Park

The Auckland Council have a number of regional parks that offer camping with a variety of options including tents and self contained vehicles. Sadly they also restrict some of these campgrounds by the size of the motorhome. Some of the restrictions are obvious based on the small size of the parking area but some like Tawharanui are harder to understand. Friends of ours mentioned that it was because of the windy narrow road that leads to the camp, sadly this doesn’t really wash given that stock trucks and large buses full of children on school trips also drive this road. It’s certainly not the space in the campground which is amongst the largest areas we have seen at a regional park. Whatever the reason with our motorhome in excess of 8 metres the park is off limits as far as us staying there.

It was two weeks to the day since I had been discharged from hospital and a glorious day in Auckland. One of the things that had been emphasised on discharge was the need to get out walking to regain muscle mass lost during the hospital stay. There are only so many times you can walk around your own city block before it becomes boring so Sarah suggested a trip to Tawharanui. During the drive there we tried to work out when we had last visited. Coming to the conclusion this was when our two oldest were still at Primary school maybe 20 years ago. They had been at a school camp and we turned up in the old motorhome to take them away for the weekend for more camping.

To be honest I didn’t really remember much about the campground except that it wasn’t very level. So I did wonder if the council might have done something about this during the 20 years since out last visit. Because we weren’t staying we didn’t have the gate code to enter the camp meaning we needed to park in the day trippers carpark. It’s a short stroll from the carpark to beach and the wonderful views overlooking the white sand beach. We then set off along the blue marked path to find the campground.

It’s only a short stroll along the path which is set back from the beach, into a small hillside, giving a wonderful sweeping view of the beach. As it’s December the Pohutukawa trees were in flower with many Tui’s feeding on the nectar. Sadly none of them would stay still long enough to grab a photo. I guess the lure of a better feed elsewhere was too good to pass up. Tawharanui is a bird sanctuary with a predator free fence surrounding the headland which I am sure contributes to the multitude of Tui.

We arrived into the campground and the first thing that’s obvious, although maybe not in my photos, is how the number of tents outnumber motorhomes. Sarah and I estimated that for every motorhome there were around seven tents. Quite the reverse of what we have seen at other camps, maybe due to the high number of younger people in the campground taking a break after a very tough school year.

It was interesting to find that the campground hadn’t really changed from my memories of twenty years prior. The area has very few level spaces which if you are in a small motorhome or tent might not be too much of an issue. But if you are stretching beyond eight metres in length getting yourself level would present a major challenge in most areas of the camp. Maybe that’s the real reason there is an eight metre limit. With the council staff sick of taking complaints from people unable to level themselves.

There are numerous access ways from the campground to the beach. It’s not one of those places where you can jump out of your tent or motorhome and into the water. Here you need to walk fifty or sixty metres to the beach over fine white sand. Some of the pathways were closed as they led out to areas where some of the native birds where nesting. I guess you would quickly work out which was the fastest to the water.

Just to prove that the signs actually meant something we came across this Oyster Catcher with one of it’s young on the beach. I didn’t want to get too close and the birds partner was making sure I kept away with the very aggressive attitude these birds possess.

With the campground and public carpark very full it wasn’t surprising to see so many people in the water. Given that there is so much beach available though everyone was well spread out with some parts of the beach almost devoid of people. Neither Sarah or I had brought our swimming togs so we both missed out on taking the first swim of the summer. Sarah at least took off her shoes and went for a decent paddle.

As I said at the start the main purpose of coming here was to walk somewhere different. The three beaches that are most accessible from the parking and camping area gave me a decent workout. Walking the length and back again on such a gorgeous day went a long way towards erasing memories of three weeks in hospital.

As I have mentioned this park is on a headland which has enabled them to create a bird sanctuary. Sadly it was too dark inside the building to get decent photos but there are large posters showing all the birds you might come across in the park. Including the once thought extinct Takahe, although we didn’t see one of those. Also inside the building was what appeared to be a swallow’s nest built below the roofline. I wouldn’t have noticed it except there was a rather prominent pile of quango underneath. They obviously don’t clean out the building that often.

Walking back to the car I wanted to get a shot that would capture the essence of the place. Sadly I am not the quality photographer that some on this site are, but I thought the pohutukawa in flower with the white sand beach behind went some way to capturing the beauty of this place.

Tawharanui Campground

Proximity to Attractions

If you are here for the beach, the birds and the walks you are in the right place.

Nearest Supplies/Town

It's a 15km drive into Matakana which has basic supplies and another 20kms into Warkworth where you can stock up if needed.

Ground Surface

Probably the least level campground we have ever seen. Still, with a short van, you would be OK in some parts of the camp.

Proximity to Water/Dump Station

There is water here but the nearest dump station is back in Warkworth and in my opinion that one is probably the worst location of any dump station in NZ.

Outlook from Camp

Sadly you cannot see the beach from the camp.

Noise during Day and Night

Not having stayed here it's hard to say what it's like at night but it's miles from the road or any traffic so I would imagine very quiet.

Cellphone Signal

Good signal here.


The camp ground has long drop toilets with modern flushing ones in the public carpark. There are no showers.

Walking/Cycling Tracks

Good walking tracks here along with a bike trail, something for everyone.

Pets welcome

No pets are allowed here due to the fact this a sanctuary.

Overall Rating:

Aside from the potential difficulty finding a level spot to stay this place is well worth a visit.

Putting aside the fact that our motorhome is too large for us to stay here, it’s a beautiful place. One of many jewels in the crown of the regional park network. If you can navigate the council booking system, which leaves a lot of people frustrated. It would be well worth making a booking to come and spend a few nights here. If like us you are too big to stay here it’s a fantastic place for a picnic.

If you are coming out this way you might want to make a stop at the Morris and James pottery shop. Located in Matakana they have a fantastic range of pottery products. Not the cheapest place in the country but certainly some real originals. To celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary we purchased the “Tui” pot standing about 35 centimeters high it will look great in the house. They also have quite a nice cafĂ© if you feel like a bit of a break.

To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can then click the link to read the blog about that area.

To view our Campground Ratings system, that we have done for places we have stayed click here 

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