New Zealand – Wellington, Manawatu-Wanganui, Taranaki

Our Interislander ferry crossing was originally scheduled for 13 July but a few days prior to our departure, we received an ominous warning that all ferry crossings would be cancelled due to a massive winter storm. Since making Interislander ferry changes was free, so we decided to err on the side of caution and depart the south island a few days early, preferring to be holed up in Wellington rather than Picton. Our Cook Strait crossing was smooth as silk, and we spent the entire journey top deck enjoying the pristine weather. Upon arrival in Wellington, we quickly made our way over to Evans Bay Marina, a free camp site next to the Zephyrometer. The weather quickly took a turn for the worse, and we soon found out that Wellington lives up to its reputation for being the windiest city in the world. Our time in Wellington was spent checking out several museums (don’t miss the excellent Te Papa Museum), seeking refuge from the rain at the public library, signing up for a free Parliament tour, and swinging by Weta Cave to see the hobbit. From Wellington, we drove north to Whanganui where the weather improved marginally. We climbed up Durie Hill Tower, hiked around Queens Park, and wandered all around scenic Whanganui before finally pulling into the RSA for a free campsite (with power included, what a gem!). Our first sunny day on the north island found us on the Whanganui River Scenic Drive, which was well worth the effort, especially Koriniti Marae and the Jerusalem church (don’t miss learning about Mother Suzanne Aubert). Next up was the Forgotten Highway, where we enjoyed spectacular views throughout, especially of Mt Taranaki in the distance. Unfortunately, by the time we reached New Plymouth, Mt Taranaki was hidden beneath a layer of clouds and another storm was moving in so we didn’t linger long here. Just enough time to check out the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge (looks like a fish bone), the Brooklands Park Zoo, and Puke Ariki Museum. The next morning, torrential rain was pouring down but we still tried our very best to have a full sightseeing day. First was a visit to the 1903 Gairloch shipwreck but after a near miss with getting our campervan stuck in the mud, we decided to skip it. Next, we headed over to the Cape Egmont Lighthouse, but heavy rain and gale force winds persisted all morning long so in the end, we reluctantly gave up on seeing anything else in the Taranaki region and made our way over towards Taupo. After spending the better part of a week in Taupo and Napier, we returned to the Manawatu-Wanganui district because it was farm time! Goodie had coordinated a farm stay in Rangiwahia with his cousin Rose and her husband Doug so it was time for us to get our hands a bit dirty. From Rangiwahia, we headed further south towards Masterton where we stayed a night with Anna’s lovely parents (Marion and Warwick) who showed us true New Zealand hospitality on a cold winter’s night. Then it was onward to the Putangirua Pinnacles, Ngawi (a small fishing village that has more tractors than people), Cape Palliser seal colony and lighthouse. From Cape Palliser, we drove up towards Castle Point Lighthouse where we were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise. Lastly, we finally got to see a live kiwi thanks to the Mount Bruce Wildlife Center. From here, we will backtrack to Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty for a few weeks before making our way up north.

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