5.8 mi / 9.2 mph / 467 ft. climbing
Home: Whakanewha Poukaraka Flats Campground
We were sad to leave our beautiful island house, but so grateful (and even slightly mystified) for the generosity and trust that our hosts extended to us. We weren’t quite ready to leave the island though, so we were going to move to a campground for our final night, which would give us an opportunity to see if we still remembered how to camp before leaving the Auckland metro area.
Once we had cleared out and loaded up our bikes, I took Rett down to the beach walk I had done last night, since it was definitely worth the trip. It was of course quite different in the mid-morning than it had been at sunset.
Then we rode a few miles to Wild Estate Vineyard + Waiheke Island Brewery (with a stop at the Countdown grocery) for lunch. The swarms of pretty city people playing “Californian Sandbags” (aka cornhole) on the sunny lawn, and shooting arrows down the vineyard rows, showed how the whole island had flipped its switch to “weekend” as soon as Wednesday turned into Thursday. This meant that the Stonyridge Vineyard next door was also open today, so after lunch we switched driveways and rode up the long hill to check out our 4th Waiheke winery. The hill was totally worth it, as the backside of the winery opened up onto a deep green valley with the eponymous stony ridge rising on the opposite side. We had agreed from the beginning that “paying for the settings and the views” held at least as much value as tasting the wine, and this was one of our better values. Improving it even more, they did their tastings “beer flight style” (as did Wild… next door), meaning they just come out with your row of wines in glasses and let you drink and read about them in parallel at your leisure, rather than the more-pretentious and more-annoying serial dance where the server pretends to know about wine and you pretend to believe their script. And they came to our table and were paid for all via QR code!
Then we decided it was time to ride the three more miles (and a couple of big hills, as usual) to Whakanewha Regional Park and its Poukaraka Flats Campground. Our first camping experience in New Zealand would be on the “public” side of the divide, which we understand means quite-limited amenities, vs. the super-amenified private “holiday parks”. This one is run by the Auckland regional government, and the website says there is “potable” water, but you should boil it for 3 minutes before drinking (?), there are flush toilets, cold showers, and there is no rubbish collection so you need to pack out your own trash.
My impression that these parks don’t have designated campsites (aided by the fact that we made a reservation, taking 2 of the 40 available human-being slots, but weren’t assigned a site) turned out to be true. There were just a variety of mowed-grass lawns between forested sections, with an occasional picnic table sitting here and there. Rett actually spied a table right on the bay in a no-camping area and decided to claim that for our dinner-making area before we even picked a spot for the tent. Which then meant that proximity to a table wasn’t really necessary, so I chose “non-proximity from the wind off the bay” as the main criteria. There were maybe only a dozen other people camping there this night, so it wasn’t difficult to find a space with some privacy, but if the campground was at capacity, I imagine it could be a bit awkward deciding whose space to encroach on (especially if you arrived late!)
Otherwise it turns out the website undersold the amenities. Yes, the showers were cold (in a stand-alone set of two wooden stalls), but since the water wasn’t coming out of a deep cold Great Lake, Rett was still able to shower comfortably in the 68F temperatures. The toilet building was rustic, but they flushed, and there were running-water sinks. There were no signs about boiling the water, and, there were (single, giant) trash and recycling receptacles!
Today was Thanksgiving, a holiday obviously not celebrated in New Zealand, but we still wanted to commemorate the day somehow. Turkey doesn’t seem to be available in any form, but Rett had a brilliant idea: stuffing! They don’t have Stove Top here, but it appears that some New Zealanders put breadcrumb-stuffing in their Christmas birds, so we were able to find another variety at the Countdown. Cooked up with celery and onions, and with chunks of pre-roasted chicken mixed in that had a perfect turkey consistency, it 100% hit the “Thanksgiving” regions of my tongue, brain, and heart. The outdoor bayfront dining table didn’t quite fit our memories, but that one was a trade we were happy to accept.
By the end of our three days on Waiheke, I was pretty impressed by (and thankful for!) how much of the island we were able to explore, from the high end (400 foot hills, wineries with $400 bottles) to the low end (waters-edge, tent-on-the-grass). And we didn’t even need a helicopter!