Shannon and I began camping in New Zealand on our honeymoon in November 2008. We rented a Spaceship and drove all over South Island. Ever since then, we like to go camping for special events like birthdays and anniversaries. This camping trip was for our third anniversary.
We originally intended to camp further south near Waitomo, but instead of leaving town around 3:30pm it was actually closer to 6:30pm and we've set up enough in the dark to know we don't want to anymore, so we chose a campground closer to home. We have annual Auckland Regional Council camping passes so we picked Waharau Regional Park. The passes are a really great deal with one catch: we can only book a site for the same day so we can't schedule ahead. The card has a phone number to call to book the site so I dialed up the number. After being on hold for way too long, I finally reached someone. Turned out he was just an answering service guy. I explained what I wanted and he put me on hold again. Seriously, there is only so much 70s disco I can take while being on hold. He came back to mercifully save me from yet another chorus of le freak so chic to tell me that the folks I need to speak with had gone home for the day. Could I please call back on Monday? I asked how I was supposed to same day book a campsite on the weekends if there was no one there and he agreed that was indeed a dilemma. Then he hung up on me.
We decided to risk it and head to the campground anyway. It's a beautiful drive that coincidentally takes you right past Miranda Hot Springs. This awesome hot pool is a favorite stop for us any time of year. The entry is cheap, the food is cheap, they make great thick shakes, the pools are hot, and best of all there are far fewer children than other local hot springs. Plus they play great classic music. What's not to love?
Waharau is a fairly large park with lots of day use/picnic areas. Most of them have big brick BBQs and large picnic tables. Turns out there are two camping areas: Tainui Campground and Blackberry Flats Campground. We only noticed Blackberry Flats, though. However, there was a hitch. The road leading to the actual campground is blocked by a locked gate. The combination for the lock can be obtained by calling the Council. Which we had already ascertained was staffed by the answering service guy who had suggested we call back on Monday. I thought perhaps there were people camping past the gate so I walked over to see if they would give me the code. A very helpful couple in a cool older model camper were more than willing to help out and soon we were setting up camp.
The campground is a large open space without BBQs or picnic tables which is a shame. It does, however, have nice his and hers long drop toilets stocked with toilet paper. Which, in my opinion, is THE most important part of a campground. There is a lovely stream running along the edge of Flats providing enjoyable background noise to lull you to sleep.
All in all this campground was okay. We wouldn't want to stay there for an extended time but for a night it was perfectly acceptable. I didn't take any pictures but the ARC website has some so I'll cross post those here.
Photos borrowed courtesy of Auckland Regional Council.