Creating a family camping tradition: 5 awesome campsites ‘up north’

Sand sandwiches. Sticky, sunblocky skin. Salty, straggly, scarecrow-hair. That hot, grassy ‘tent smell’. Long evenings chatting, laughing, mozzie-swatting, maybe some guitar strumming. And going to sleep to the sound of the waves. Camping holidays produce such evocative memories – for many of us, they’re the highlights of childhood. So if you’d like to start your own family camping tradition, here are 5 great campsites to consider in NZ’s ‘winterless north’…

Tawharanui Regional Park

Just under an hour north of Auckland, this council campground is right next to the most perfect white sand beach you could imagine, with gorgeous views out to Little Barrier Island. Occasionally the surf is up, but with three coves to choose from there’s usually a sheltered spot for the littlies to paddle and splash. The headland provides stunning walking tracks, and the nearby Farmer’s Market and wineries at Matakana could be another drawcard for some…book well in advance.

Motutara Farm at Whananaki

A gem. Individual campsites are scattered along the undulating hills and ridges of this family-owned coastal farm, most with gorgeous views. There’s a choice of beaches in the area and good surf out at the Whananaki Bar. Limited facilities (there’s drinking water and toilets) but making do is what camping is all about! And apart from the peak two weeks around Christmas/New Year, there won’t be a crowd.


Puriri Bay, Whangaruru Harbour

This is the place to go if you have a boat and want to go fishing for your supper each day. The harbour is so much fun to explore. There are also some great tramping tracks just waiting for you to discover them! Safe, sheltered swimming for the children and pure relaxation for you. Whangaruru is on the east coast in between Whangarei and the Bay of Islands…if you want to get off the beaten track, take the windy road to Puriri Bay (it is worth it!) Snapper galore.

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Taupo Bay

This is one of my favourite places. You know when you go somewhere, fill your lungs, and just feel instantly rejuvenated? Taupo Bay does that for me. Is it the postcard-perfect white sand beach? The surf? The pretty little inlet at the end? Or the huge, sentinel like rock formations emerging from the native bush? All of the above. Plus there’s the added bonus of the gorgeous, historic village of Mangonui nearby, legendary fish n chips and all. Want to go camping in Northland? Go there.

Matai Bay

This perfect sweeping cove of crystal clear water will become your new ‘happy place’. Located at the tip of the Karikari Peninsula in Doubtless Bay, you really couldn’t get a more lovely place to put up your tent amongst the pohutukawas. It is quite far north, so a good base for a day trip to Cape Reinga. And although it seems like it’s the back of beyond, there is a golf course and winery nearby (Carrington Estate) – bonus!

So get all the gear together, pack up the car, and get on the road. Create some magic family memories for your wee ones! If you’d like more info, click the link on each place name above.

I’d love to know your favourite place to camp…please comment below:



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  • Lisa
    31/10/2015 at 8:30 am

    Love this post – I always want to take the kids camping, it sounds so simple in theory LOL 🙂

    • Michelle
      31/10/2015 at 12:23 pm

      Yeah there’s always one or two things to pack isn’t there…!

  • Christine Sheehy
    02/11/2015 at 11:24 am

    Love this Michelle! You’ve included 3 of our absolute faves – have to try Whangaruru now

    • Michelle
      02/11/2015 at 6:16 pm

      Thanks Christine…hope you can get up there this summer! It’s gorgeous.