To the Kaipara Harbour

Sunday was moving on day. We were heading for the Kaipara Harbour – not far south. We wanted to head on down the peninsula-which-doesn’t-seem-to-have-a-name towards Poutu. We had a few options for parking up, and we weren’t sure exactly where we’d end up. So begin the best days.

This one started with the usual cloudy morning with showers of rain and occasional bits of sun. It was warm enough, starting at around 14 degrees. There was the usual stowing away and sorting out to do, and the A-frame to bolt back onto the car. I’m getting better with the A-frame now; it’s much better after the guys at Kaipara Engineering made their improvements. And every time now when we plug in the lead from Suzi to the car and the lights work properly we reflect on the good job the woman from Redan Autoelectricians did fixing the wiring. It’s interesting that we got both sorted out at the very top end of the country.

It was well on towards mid-day by the time we finally got on the road, heading south on SH12. We stopped at the Kaihu store, aware we were not well stocked up for a few days away from shops. One loaf of bread later we were on our way again – trim milk is not easy to find up here in cow country. It wasn’t far to Dargaville; the road on south towards Poutu skirts the edge of Dargaville. We decided to have some lunch while we were there and make use of the phone signal to check emails and update the blog. We could see the museum up on the hill and drove on up – hoping we wouldn’t get boxed in with the car on the back. We found a nice big parking spot and hogged that for a couple of hours while we had our lunch and did the internet things. The museum also has a dump station and a tap and we took advantage of both; readying ourselves for a few days off the grid. We also did some studying of the weather maps to come up with a plan for walking to the Poutu lighthouse. Tuesday looked best, and meantime winds from the west were predicted. This sort of ruled out going to Glinks Gully in the meantime; this is a settlement on the western side of the peninsula. This narrowed our choices to Kellys Bay which is on the eastern side about ¾ of the way down, and Poutu Point on the south eastern bottom corner at the Kaipara Heads. Both camps sounded basic so we weren’t sure what we’d find. The good thing is that we don’t need much – if anything. Just somewhere flatish to park that is secure enough. Anything else is a bonus. The last quarter of the road is unsealed, including the side road to Kellys Bay, so we were thinking Kellys Bay might be the better bet.

The afternoon was well on by the time we finally left the museum. There was a steady stream of cars and utes with muddy motorbikes heading back towards Dargaville, there must have been a big ride down here somewhere. We weren’t sure where the last shop would be so were on the lookout. At Te Kopuru we passed one, so decided to try going around the block to stop there. On the first rerun I missed the place to pull in so we had to go around again. On the third time up the main street I managed to pull in at the shop; heaven knows what the locals thought we were up to. The shop turned out to be the last one down the road and a good little one. The woman there was quick to make sure we knew we were on a no-exit road; apparently a lot end up there by mistake. She was helpful and encouraging. She warned us about logging trucks on the road on weekdays and road condition generally. This confirmed Kellys Bay as the best option, much less gravel road for Suzi with the car in tow. We can do the rest of the road with just the car. She even had $1 single-scoop ice creams which we had to sample. It is a lovely little general store sort of a shop. To Kopuru is an interesting looking little town. It obviously has been a bigger place in the past; it looks like it peaked quite a while ago. We’ll have to stop there on the way back for a walk around and we’ll have to ask how it came to be how it is.

We headed on south, through lush farmland, mostly dairy. There was a small mob of sheep blocking the road at one stage; a reminder of another age. The road follows the eastern side of the peninsula close to the Wairoa River which widens out fairly suddenly to become the Kaipara Harbour and 5kms across. The Kaipara Harbour is big. It’s variously claimed as the 2nd largest harbour in the world, and the shoreline length is claimed from 1200kms – 3000kms! The heads are about 7kms wide and south of the heads it is more than 12kms across. It is big. The road became more torturous by this stage, winding over headlands. The seal soon ended and the pine forests began. The side road to Kellys Beach looked every bit the side road. We weren’t sure what to expect. Eventually we came over the last headland and there beneath us was a small settlement nestled in a sheltered bay, Kellys Bay.

There were a couple of dozen houses and cribs/baches; all modest and well established. The camp was small and low-key, with long-drop toilets. There was only one person in residence, so we had the choice of anywhere to park. There is power, so we chose a site with power and a view across the reserve and road to the harbour. The cost is very reasonable, $12 for the two of us. There is a laundry shed with an agitator washing machine. There is a clothes line. There is rubbish collection. The caretaker turned up to see how long we’d be staying in case we wanted to leave early in the morning. All very simple and relaxed. We discovered that we had cell phone coverage and adequate internet reception as well. In fact, way out here we’ve got the best internet access of any place we’ve parked since leaving Paihia eons ago. We fell in love with Kellys Beach very rapidly. We were soon settled in and relaxed ourselves. After tea and Marcus Lush on TV showing us in the north the wonders of life in the far south we watched a movie – Juno. It’s an interesting story about teenage pregnancy and teenagers generally. So ended another great day in paradise with the added bonus of stumbling onto a gem of a location.

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