New Zealand: Lake Taupo to Wellington

Taupo Campsite

We started the day with the nicest showers we were to find on our trip, small private rooms instead of the normal cubicles. We could see why our fellow travellers from the Hangi had recommended the place!

Before we left we dropped into reception to ask about ferry bookings. They booked for us but first they told us that usually they'd show us where the payphone is and gave us the number - it was good to be here in the off-season! We now had a deadline for the first time, we needed to be in Wellington tomorrow in time for the 14:00 ferry. This wasn't much of a problem as we had planned to get there today anyway but it was a change from the more relaxed attitude we'd had until this point.

As we left the campsite we were debating whether to stop for breakfast in Taupo itself or to stop later on in the morning. In the end we decided to continue onwards as the cafes by the lakeside appeared to just opening for business.

Lake shore drive

We really enjoyed the drive around the lake. It is the largest lake in New Zealand and absolutely gorgeous.

Naturally the road itself was rather curved and in fact was one of the busiest sections of State Highway One. Especially frequent were large trucks and road trains, some of whom didn't appear to appreciate our more sedate pace!

Lake Taupo

About halfway round the lake, we decided to pull over to appreciate the view and were pleasantly surprised when we noticed a pathway heading down to the lakeshore.

We walked down and spent some time admiring the view before the cold got to us and we returned back to the warmth of the camper.

Tongariro National Park and Rangipo Desert

Rangipo Desert

We decided to press on when we reached Turangi and were rewarded with even more spectacular countryside. The Tongariro National Park was the first in New Zealand and the fourth in the entire world! It is easy to see why it was selected. The contrasts between the different parts were incredible.

When we entered in the park we got a little nervous, we'd been warned to take care on this section of road and one of the first things we noticed was the gates to close the road in case of snow! We were lucky however and there was no snow on the road although plenty could be seen on the peaks that dominated the horizon.

Once past the park we entered in the Rangipo Desert, in honesty it doesn't really seem like a desert although it is quite barren.

The last section of the desert road is part of an army training ground which lines the road with signs warning you not to stop. Finally we reached Waiouru but decided to skip the military museum.

Onto the coast

Giant Gumboot

We continued onto Taihape which is famous for an annual gumboot throwing contest (wellington boots to us europeans). At this point we were starting to feel quite peckish despite having been snacking on biscuits during the journey. We pulled into a small parking lot and went to a cafe we'd noticed on the way into town called Brown Sugar. If at some point you pass through Taihape we recommend you stop in this beautiful wooden cafe. It has a lovely outdoor terrace (which we decided not to use due to the low temperatures) and a great selection of organic pastries.

New Zealand Countryside

From there we continued on with the idea of our next stop being Bulls in order to see some of the imaginative puns on "Bull" that the town has become famous for. In the end however we decided not to bother and continued onto the west coast.

We don't have many pictures of the drive as we were too busy saying "Wow!" to take them.

West coast

When we started to near the west coast we decided to go for a late lunch. In the end we settled on Paekakariki, which we promptly started to call Paekhoweveryoupronounceit (apologies to any Paekakariki natives who come across this page!). We decided on this town due to the Queen Elizabeth Park which is just to the north.

The road atlas we had didn't convey the sheer size of the park though and so we ended up leaving the highway a few kilometres earlier that the town itself. This was one of our best navigational errors as it meant we reached a beach that we wouldn't have visited otherwise and which we had to ourselves.

The beach Seashells Quen Elizabeth Park

A fully organic meal

Once we were able to drag ourselves away from the beach we drove into the town itself. It turned out to be one of our favorite beach towns (hopefully this will ward off the native fury a little!). We had lunch in a cool little cafe, washed it down with an organic cola and later bought some books in the second hand bookstore before driving down the beachfront (passing the surf club on the way). Very nice!


As it was quite late in the day we decided to locate the ferry terminal and then drive out the coastal drive in the hopes of finding somewhere to free camp on the way.

The coastal drive was amazing, especially when you consider how close it is to the city centre! We passed a few cyclists out for an evening's cycle but in general we had the road to ourselves and we took full advantage of the fact - we must have stopped about ten times on our way around!

Start of the coastal drive Sign at the start of the coastal drive Wellington Harbour Mao Point looking towards the Cook Straits

Eventually however we reached the beach by the airport and stopped as we wanted to ring the local Maui branch to see about picking up snow chains. The answer was quick and to the point "simple request, easily granted" and since they were located in the Top 10 campsite we decided we would spend the night there.

At this stage it was just about six and not only was it dark but rush hour! We decided to try and navigate our way through the suburbs of Wellington but after two dead ends gave up and just took the main road through town and out to the campsite.

We seemed to be different people from the couple who had struggled to navigate through Auckland just the week before as we were able to negotiate the rush hour traffic without any major problems!


This is turning into a very meal oriented piece but in part because the meals were so memorable!

In the case of our supper, the male half of the couple (naming no names!) decided that this was the perfect night to head out for a meal and a glass of wine. Even the startled look of the recepicionist when we asked about restaurants in walking distance didn't put him off.

Unfortunatly (as is generally the case) the campsite was located about more than half an hours walk from the town centre, and the walk was through an industrial estate! We were just about to give up and go back when we came across an open restaurant.

One look at the menu and we both knew what we were going to order: "lamb shanks with mashed potatos, green beans and carrots" with a nice glass of red wine.

After dinner we got the staff to order us a taxi back to the campsite rather than destroy the relaxed after dinner feeling by trekking back!

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