Camping with Carnies: Our Travels from Auckland to Matamata, New Zealand

After a few months in amazing Australia, we headed south to New Zealand as a newly engaged couple! We arrived in Auckland, NZ to a lot of rain, so our first few days were spent indoors, calling family and shopping for supplies for our road trip!

 But soon we were in our new rental car; a small Sudan which was definitely not as roomy as the Aussie White Wagon. Our first stop outside Auckland was to Piha & Kitekite falls for a short hike through the rainforest, ending with a lovely waterfall. Then we continued 3 more hours until we found a free campsite for the night through WikiCamps NZ! This app shows local campsites nearby, amenities and cost (if any) for the stay, and it was seriously a lifesaver during our trip in NZ!

More rain throughout the night, and we headed off early to Coromandel. On our way, we saw a small oyster shack that had fresh shucked oysters! They were so delicious; it was a great roadside find! We stopped at the small town nearby for a little exploration and a short hike through the Kauri trees. At night, we found an interesting campsite located on a winery! Your stay was “free” with the purchase of a pizza and a bottle of wine from the winery – sold! The winery itself felt more like a hippy commune, but we didn’t complain. We got a complimentary wine and spirit tasting, played some ping pong and headed to the campsite. The amenities were not quite as described – a porta-potty toilet and a hose stuck in a tree as the shower. The “shower” didn’t have any kind of coverage around it, but after a few days of camping, we needed a rinse. I think only a few cars drove by to see our naked butts as we were sudsing up…what can we say, it was an adventure!

The next morning, we got up early to head to Hot Water Beach. Due to local geothermal activity, you can dig a hole and hot water from underneath will fill it up, making your own personal jacuzzi! We weren’t really prepared for digging, but were able to borrow a shovel from another couple at the beach and soaked in the warm water for a good part of the morning. After, we hiked to Cathedral Cove – a nice little beach surrounded by eroded rocks, which were great for a bit of exploring. We continued onto Matamata, got some information for our next day and found another free camp site. It seemed to be a trend that at each new campsite, something totally weird and exciting would happen – and this night was no different. The campsite was lined with these decorated, colorful buses that housed members of a traveling circus! Our little Sudan looked pretty ridiculous amongst the performers, but it led to an amazing night! We met many of the families, yes families, who make up this eccentric circus show. The children were super chill and were also performers themselves! We had a lovely dinner with them, chatting about life and living in a bus. I’m not going to lie, Matt and I were pretty jealous of their vagabond lifestyle, although I don’t think we have any circus related skills!

Matthew & Stephanie

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