We drove up to this cute farm somewhat on a whim (but mostly thanks to the Campermate app!) after changing plans three times that day. Traveling straight down New Zealand’s north island, this campsite makes a perfect overnight stop just off highway 3. The sign when you turn in says, “Backpackers Welcome.” It’s always nice to be wanted. 🙂
The friendly owner and his children brightly greeted us. Three year old daughter and five year old son ran to put on their boots and helped their father show us around. Seeing as the campground wasn’t crowded, despite it being early January (height of the season), he gave us pick of his best camp spots and full use of a quaint cabin with a hot shower and kitchen. The price is NZ$15 per person, including unlimited hot showers and use of a kitchen and barbecue grill. The owners kindly agreed to let my handicapped sister stay for free.
This campground really is on a farm. You’ll be surrounded by little paddocks with alpacas, sheep, baby pigs, or cows. Further down the pasture a pond hosts a collection of geese and orange-beaked, white ducks. On the left side of the property, you’ll find friendly goats and several bunnies and guinea pigs in hutches. A handful of horses graze in the pasture. They were chosen to live here because of their easy going natures. Horse rides are available for $20/adult and $10/child.
An old barn was transformed into a kitchen (with all the basic utensils/plates/cups/bowls/pans) and common space area, complete with a fridge, stove, tables and couches. It’s basically camping at a hostel. There’s even free granulated coffee and a “for free” spot in the fridge.
There’s free wifi available up near the cottages, a rare find in NZ. Most campsites I had read about charge about $5 per 10mb, if they even had wifi available. There are two cottages, both built around 1924 and are rustically decorated to honor that time period’s look. It’s a little step back in time with a gorgeous farm view. One cottage can situate up to nine people and the other one has two bed rooms and three beds.
Here’s a look inside one of the family cottages:
Glow worms & beaches: The Waitomo glow worm caves are only 8km down the road. You can go in for free, but most people opt for tours, which can get pretty expensive. (Quick tip: If you are going to the Northland around Whangarei, make a stop at the Waipu caves. They are free and a spectacular experience. There’s also a good amount of hiking around it.) There’s a waterfall nearby and 45 minutes drive down Waitomo Caves road will bring you to a stunning little beach town that lags behind the world’s modern changes.
Take a walk & See Ostriches: Just across the street from the farmstay, there’s Big Bird B&B. If you have kids especially, you can pay $5pp to take part in the petting zoo they have there. Or, like us, you can walk a loop around the B&B and fields. It’s a nice walk, gives some good views, and, if they happen to be out in the field, you’ll get to meet some funky looking ostriches up close.
The comments on Campermate often said that this campsite was the best place they had stayed in New Zealand. That says a lot, and even we decided to extend our stay an extra night. We loved the cute country feel of the place and the owners were such down-to-earth, genuinely good people.
It’s a wonderful place to stay. However, I’d be remiss to not mention that quite unfortunately this lovely spot sits directly next to a power substation. While this is certainly not healthy to live around, hopefully it’s okay for a few nights of camping.
A Travel Miracle
The day we arrived at this farmstay campsite was the day we left our three week house sit in Whangarei. With absolutely no plans or other house sits lined up, we were left to wing it as best as possible. We hoped to camp most of the way to save on the high accommodation prices. Such an expensive country can be a little nerve-wracking to travel when on a conscientious budget.
Worried about how we would make it work, the morning before we left I opened my Bible to a passage where God was talking to the Israelite army. He told them not be afraid (apparently this message show up 365 times in the Bible. I should really get this message in my head already…) and to “go out tomorrow […] for the battle is not yours, it is the Lord’s.” That’s a paraphrase, but the passage spoke to me deeply, even down to the word “tomorrow,” which was the day we would start our trip.
Sometimes I forget that God will be there with us when I get bogged down in research for our travels, making myself think that I have to work everything out. Thankfully God was kind enough to remind me that the battle is not mine. I am His and all my battles are His.
With this in mind, leaving our house sit, we started out towards our first campsite. But then we realized it was too far out of the way from our intended route. So, on the side of the road, we spent about three minutes scrapping that plan and looking at campsites on campermate. We wanted a campground that would be directly on course with our drive south. The Waitomo Farmstay campground was literally just off the highway, affordable, had a kitchen and hot showers and high reviews. When we arrived, we could only think, God how great you are. Arriving at one of the best campsites in the country on a whim was a travel miracle.