In our quest to try and explore a few places we might visit when the dreaded Auckland lockdown finally finishes we headed North. We first visited the Atiu Creek Regional Park back in 2008 shortly after it opened. I remember Sarah and I wandered around the park that had little in the way of facilities and came away with the impression that there was still a bit of work to do. The park was, at the time, still very much the working farm it had been when gifted to the council a few years earlier. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
Sarah had been doing some research looking for remote places we might visit if the border remained closed but travel was allowed within the boundaries. Other than the regional park we intended to visit she found a place called Birds Bay. Located towards the West of Wellsford of SH16 you can follow the link here on Google Maps. Then to get there you need to follow an aptly named road called “Journey’s End” that journey is around twelve kilometres of unsealed gravel road. While the road itself was well graded and in good condition I was surprised to discover a gravel road within the Auckland boundary. In fact I was so surprised I wondered how many of the younger, Auckland urbanite, generation would have encountered one. Asking my three sons only one hadn’t driven on one so maybe its more common than I thought. One thing that was surprising was the extent of the avocado farming in this area with many hectares either under development or already established. I had no idea they even existed.
Birds Bay, Is on the southern side of the Kaipara Harbour almost directly opposite Pouto Beach and South Head. Like a lot of the Kaipara it is very tidal so plenty of mud flats to be seen when the tide is out, like it was for us. Sadly it turns out freedom camping is prohibited here. Such a shame as there is a large reserve area where I could just imagine us settling down for a day or two. According to a story I found contains 38 houses and only one permanent resident. I wonder if he is the sort to knock on your motorhome door to move you on?
If you did want to stay nearby then you could check yourself into the campground in Tapora. It was closed for the level 3 Covid 19 lockdown when we stopped out front and with the gate shut I didn’t want to intrude. The camp isn’t on the coastline but a short drive down the road is the Okahukura Sequence. A strange sounding name for a place that gives you access to Manukapua Island an internationally recognised bird watching area. You can read more about the island and what is has to offer here. The camp is set next door to a golf club that allows casual play. You can visit their website here to find out all it has to offer.
The entrance to the Regional Park at Atiu Creek would be really easy to miss without any large signage at the gate. Once inside the gate the narrow gravel road heads uphill. A couple of really sharp bends might create a bit of difficulty if you met something coming the other way.
Once you arrive at the carpark you are confronted with sweeping views of the Kaipara harbour below. This area is also the designated overnight parking area for self contained vans. Strangely enough you can arrive in the park in any size vehicle but you can only stay in this carpark if your vehicle is shorter than 8 metres. I wonder what changes during the night? I know the council impose length restrictions at a number of their camps including the one here further into the park, but the restriction here doesn’t make sense. Still that’s the Auckland Council for you.
We decided that while we were here we would have a look at the other campsite. The signs at the gate state that it’s just over three kilometres from the gate to the camp. With some water and a couple of things to nibble in the bag we set off. It doesn’t show in the photos above but the road actually heads downhill rather steeply inside the pine forest. It was here that I first expressed my concerns to Sarah about the return trip. For those reading my blog for the first time: After having had a chest biopsy for my lymphoma go wrong I now have reduced lung function. Sarah convinced me that we would just take the return journey slowly and we carried on.
As a precursor to the return journey there were a couple of small uphill’s on our way down to the camp. Thankfully Sarah has the patience of a saint, waiting with the water at the times I needed it most. When we did get to the camp we found a large paddock that sloped gently uphill. It seemed that no matter where you parked, even if you were the only ones there, getting level would be difficult. You certainly wouldn’t come here for the beach as there really isn’t anything but tidal mudflats. Even the council website says the beach is not suitable for swimming. So why would you come?
Well surprisingly this is the third largest park in the network behind the Waitakere and Hunua ranges. So there are extensive walking and cycling tracks enough to keep you going for a few days I would think. With our motorhome being over the allowed eight metre limit we wouldn’t be allowed to stay here although I guess we could always come back in our tent. Having said that even if we were I am not sure it’s the place for us since we both prefer sandy beaches and safe swimming neither of which are present here. I think this is the only Regional Park we have visited where access to the park beyond the carpark is difficult or impossible for people with disabilities. You cannot without a gate code drive beyond the entrance. Maybe this is because this is a working farm but it does limit who can visit.
Then came the moment that I had been mentally dreading since we started the descent to the campground. The return journey. I won’t bore you with the details save to say that Sarah appeared to have wings disappearing into the distance as I struggled back up the hill. I did however eventually get there, well before sunset as well 🤣🤣🤣.
After recovering from my arduous ascent we had one final stop on the brief tour. So many people have posted about Port Albert and the freedom camping available there. Now we know why. Tucked down another narrow road by the wharf is a large area set aside for camping. It feels peaceful and restful here, the sort of place you could probably just spend a couple of days doing nothing. Or if you had a small boat or kayak you could try your luck with the fishing. In my opinion a much better choice than the regional park. Or if you have a family its well set up with a playground and toilets.
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