Monday, 15 October 2018

Auckland Regional Parks & More- Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1

After lunch at Opahi Bay on the Mahurangi West side of the harbour, we drove back to Warkworth, back down Sandspit Road, past our turnoff, past Snells Beach and on along Mahurangi East Road. Then it was along Ridge Road twisting and turning through some magnificent homes with magnificent views  until we finally arrived at Scotts Landing on the tip of a narrow finger of land, one of two fingers that make up the Mahurangi East Regional Park.

We were just in time to see one of  Bio Marine's barges arrive at the slip to offload. 

They have several oyster farms in the Mahurangi Harbour; you can see one (centre) in this photo I took from the other side of the harbour (click to enlarge). You can also see Scotts Landing at water level, on the right, on the other side of the water, 35kms by road away.

These are Pacific Oysters and they are farmed in the inter-tidal zone of sheltered harbours and estuaries. Two tides a day wash over the racks that hold the caged oysters. When they are ready to be harvested, the baskets are removed and taken back to the factory to be emptied, then they're cleaned and returned with hatchery spat inside them. Wild spat are collected on timber sticks in the summer months and the sticks are then attached to racks in the inter-tidal zone too.

While David watched the unloading, I walked around the corner and along a short boardwalk to have a look at another magnificent historic homestead in a regional park.

This is Scott Homestead (hence Scott Point) which was once the hub of the area. Mahurangi Harbour had a busy past with timber milling, ship building and firewood cutting trades. 

How's this for a view from your front garden? 

Thomas Scott Jr built the Georgian style house in 1877 on the site where his father, a shipbuilder, ran an inn until it was destroyed by fire. 

I just loved the colour of the clivias under the pohutukawas in the front garden. Being protected from the sun, they were a deep orange.

From Scotts Landing we headed back towards home but not before I twisted David's arm to drive down to Martins Bay to check out the beach and the holiday park.

Martins Bay was another lovely east facing beach with a backdrop of huge pohutukawas; come summer and New Zealand's very own Christmas trees would be in full bloom, what a beautiful sight that would be.

The large camping ground just about filled the bay with hundreds of sites, it's great to see that the casual camping sites are located on the water front (bottom right).  

There are rows and rows of  permanent caravans, all tucked up for winter. This is obviously a very popular place in the summer. No doubt a few of them will be getting a good airing this coming long weekend.

And then there was some more arm twisting to convince David to drive along the waterfront at Snells Beach to check out the two freedom camping sites; he was getting weary and thinking of home.

This is  Snells Beach East where there's a 2 night maximum stay, it looks great but we'd only fit in at the far end otherwise we'd stick out too much for people to pass.

The Snells Beach West site looks to be the better one if we ever come back this way, it also looks like it may be a little quieter (allocated sites at the back of the carpark) with the added bonus of a boat ramp. This also has a two night maximum stay. 

We had the next day off and then the following day (and our final at Sandspit) we headed north to check out the last of the regional parks in the area; Tawharanui which is located at the end of the Takatu Peninsula just south of Omaha Beach.

We were travelling along a winding country road not too far from the end of the road when David suddenly exclaimed 'That's it!" as he pulled to a sudden stop. He had spotted his brother's old business 'Sandpiper Lodge', we hadn't seen it in over 25 years and we weren't exactly sure we'd recognise it or in fact if we were on the right road. We just knew it was in the general area. 

It's still a lodge but with a different name. I remember the estuary that the grounds border, we did some bird watching along the edge and we spotted out first and only Kookaburra, a fairly rare Aussie import that hasn't spread much further than the North Auckland area.

Finally after another short length of narrow and winding road we came over the top of a brow and there below us was Tawharanui Regional Park, another park, like Shakespear, that is protected by a predator proof fence.

There's not many (if any) places in New Zealand that you'd see this sign cautioning drivers to the existence of three rare birds; Pateke (Brown Teal ducks), Takahe (a little like an oversized pukeko and very rare, they were thought to be extinct not too many years ago) and Kiwi. Unfortunately we didn't see any of them; not that we went looking any further than out the car window! According to the DOC Ranger we spoke to, the Takahe are frequent visitors to the surrounding paddocks.

The park has several beaches and a lagoon along with a fairly large campground tucked in behind sand dunes; this camp is another one that has a 8 metre size restriction- I'm guessing because of the narrow road in and sharp drop down to the park. A marine reserve also borders the northern boundary of the park.

There are several walks over the headlands, around the lagoon and along the beaches. We walked along the boardwalk around the end of the lagoon until we reached this noisy fellow, a male Paradise Duck/Putangitangi (can he read?). Paradise Shelducks like to rest on high spots, some even high up in trees. It's likely he was warning his mate that we were approaching, she would have a nest somewhere near by in the reeds of the lagoon.

And that was that, a little bit of the North Auckland area explored. Though not nearly in enough detail but at least we managed to tiki-tour a few places. Onwards and upwards....

Friday, 12 October 2018

Auckland Regional Parks & More- Part 1


From our base at Sandspit we explored some of the Regional Parks that we couldn't visit with the rig on the back. Some of the camping grounds were closed due to ground conditions, others closed for winter and a couple had a size restriction.

Couldrey House- Wenderholm
Our first stop was back down SH1 at Wenderholm Regional Park which is just north of Waiwera off the Hibiscus Coast Highway. Many people will be familiar with Wenderholm, it's a peaceful oasis for a rest or lunch stop as you're heading in and out of Auckland. Although it's probably not so busy now that Northern Gateway Toll Road has by-passed the Park. 

There are many huge pohutukawas in the reserve and quite a number of historic trees, some were gifts to the owner from Sir George Grey (Governor of New Zealand) and planted as early as the 1860s.

Wenderholm opened in 1965 and was the first Auckland Regional Park. The Park is also a lovely place to have a picnic or BBQ, walk one of the many tracks or to camp, either at the the CSC overnight site (bottom right) or the new Schischka campground (which was closed). The public toilet block (below left) has to be one of the flashest I've seen in a park (don't forget to click on the photos to view enlarged)

Auckland politician Robert Graham was the first European owner in 1868 and built his homestead Wenderholm (winter home) here so that he had somewhere to stay while he spent time at his Waiwera thermal resort in winter. The house is now known as Couldrey House after the last private owner.

From Wenderholm we headed back up the road a few kms and onto the Mahurangi West Road which winds it's way along a ridge out to the coast. The Puhoi River separates Mahurangi West from Wenderholm. This is looking north east over the Mahurangi Harbour, much of the land across the water is the Mahurangi East/Snells Beach peninsula.

At the end of the road we drop down into Sullivans Bay (Otarawao Bay) part of the Mahurangi Regional Park. The park is divided into three fingers; Mahurangi West, Scott Point and Mahurangi East (which is only accessible by sea due to it being landlocked). The Park straddles the large and sheltered Mahurangi Harbour.

Maori lived here in large communities and there are several fortified  pa sites on strategic points around the reserve. A sea captain, John Sullivan, married a local Maori woman and settled at Sullivans Bay in the 1870s. Their descendants farmed the land for nearly a century and farming continues today. 

There is also a small campground in the bay for tenting and RVs under 8 metres (two photos, bottom left). We have a debate between ourselves quite regularly; is the 8 meters the length of your rig or the length of your van without tow or towed vehicles? I'll leave that for your conscience to decide. The road in is narrow and there are a few blind corners but nothing we wouldn't drive cautiously.

As we drove into the car park we spotted ahead of us, lots of  little black dots resting on the tarseal, spread from one side of the road to the other. At first I thought they were sun-baking sparrows and they'd fly off as we approached but no, they stayed put.

The 'sparrows' turned out to be THIRTEEN tiny ducklings. Their mother was frantically trying to herd them off the road when she saw us coming. It was lucky we slowed down for them, it would have been a disaster had another vehicle driven through unaware- squished ducklings everywhere!  I managed to take a photo of them all before they spread out again, once they were on the move they were darting here, there and everywhere. I have a feeling (from past experiences) thirteen ducklings would have soon become ten, then seven, then....

From Sullivans Bay, we headed back to the top, along the road a little....

Mahurangi East
...and then down into tiny secluded Opahi Bay which is just around the corner from Sullivans. We had lunch on the foreshore, surrounded by baches and holiday homes, many of them hanging off the steep sides of the gully.

I loved the dinghy rack beside the reserve; tenders for the dozens of yachts at moorings further around the point.

There was an old urupa (Maori cemetery) at the end of the bay, Ophai Bay has one of the pa sites mentioned earlier and much of the waterfront is Maori Owned.

We see so many old caravans on our travels, but this 'Super Freight' slide on is a new one on me. It looks like these are now play rooms for the grandkids perhaps.

At the other end of the bay, tucked in under the overhanging bush, and not likely to have seen the sun in years, is a small collection of caravans that have seen better days.

I guess families have holidayed here in summers past but going by the sorry state of them now, they'd need a lot of work to get them even slightly habitable. Pitching a tent would probably be a better option! 

To be continued....

Monday, 8 October 2018

A Small Seaside Settlement- Sandspit


We left Shakespear Park heading north once again. We were hoping to stay at another couple of Auckland Regional Parks along the way but they were all either closed for winter, closed because of the ground conditions or had size restrictions. 

I was feeling a little despondent because I had wanted to explore some of the North Auckland area before we arrived in Northland. Usually when we travel this route, we're on a mission; it's getting from A to B and through Auckland and out the otherside- north or south- as quick as possible. This time I wanted to see a little bit more; it's been a long time since we've been in the area.

As we approached Warkworth, I was scanning the NZMCA parking app, checking the location of places available (or not as the case may be) and bemoaning the fact that I didn't really want to carry on to Northland without at least  a couple of days exploring the coastline. And that's when the Sandspit Holiday Park jumped out at me!

'Let's give that a go'. I said, just as we approached the notorious SH1 bottleneck intersection at Warkworth. We made it into the right lane just in time! 

Sandspit Holiday Park's quirky welcome- thought we ere visiting the
 West Coast's Shanty Town for a moment!
We usually stay at motor camps when we need to give the batteries a boost or do the laundry, neither was needed but it was great to have a lovely base from where we could explore for a few days.

We would have liked waterfront but those sites had just been re-grassed and then the site we thought we'd get into was very soft underfoot so we decided to back into a bigger area under the trees just off the road frontage. 

Even getting into the casual camping area was a tight fit, David had to back in from the entrance but we were very pleased with ourselves when it went smoothly and we parked perfectly! That was until I realised we'd made a rookie mistake. No TV reception! We were under the trees, even though they had no leaves. I mean, how long have we been doing this? I blame it on the two months parked in suburban Napier, we forgot one of the basics. Check reception before you unhitch! 

Well we weren't shifting so that was that, no TV for three days. Luckily we could watch TV On Demand on the iPad for the news and a couple of programmes but internet reception wasn't that hot either so in the end I gave up and processed a whole heap of photos instead.

Sandspit is a small seaside settlement on the edge of a large estuary which is fed by the Matakana River. It's also the gateway to Kawau Bay and the wider Hauraki Gulf area. Water taxis and tour boats leave the Sandspit Wharf to visit Kawau Island.

Sandspit also has a large boating community and a fairly new marina on the inland side of the spit.

There's a small wetland and mangrove swamp between the camp and the marina, and now with my newfound knowledge on Banded Rails I suspected that there would be a few hiding out in there. I got up before daybreak the next morning and crept along the edge of  mudflats beside the mangroves not 50 metres from our front door which was very cool. 

There was nothing in the first area so I moved on to the next mudflat beside the wharf carpark, not expecting anything as it was much more open. Famous last words!  I sneezed as I moved into the open and couldn't believe my eyes when not one, but three banded rail shot out from the mangroves right below my feet, streaking across the mud and disappearing into the scrub on the far side. No camera ready of course, but never mind, I was thrilled to see them. Talk about feast or famine. I went again the next morning but nothing, I even sneezed hoping for a repeat performance. 

Sandspit Holiday Park is mostly full of baches, cabins and permanent caravans; there's no doubt it would be a very busy place during the summer months. Many generations of Kiwi families would have holidayed here over the years, it's the perfect place for boating, fishing and for children swimming in the shallow waters when the tide is in.

Baches line the waterfront from the park right along the edge of the shallow estuary just above the tide line and below quite a steep bush covered hill.

There's obviously a theme going on with the bach names, a bit like the hidden West Coast fishing village of Kwitchatown which we visited near Haast. The little bach right at the entrance to the holiday park was named Starter Box; personally the Wine Box wins my vote.

I thought I'd found my dream setting a little further along, this bach was set a bit further away from the other holiday homes.

That was until I spied another bach hidden underneath a huge pohutukawa further along and around the next bend.

With no road and only low tide access, this would be a place to get away from it all. And I bet generations of the same family have spent their summers here. also had a very kiwiana sculpture in the 'front garden'; no doubt made from all the lost jandals that float in on the tide. Which reminds me of a jandal that broke while I was on a turtle spotting canoe tour in Bali, the guide paddled around in the rocks for a short time and then handed me a jandal he scooped out of the water. Of course it didn't match, it was a different colour and a different size but with my good one, it did the trick until I was able to buy a new pair a few days later.