Auckland to Mangawhai Heads

On the morning of the sixteenth, Tyler turned 29 years-old (at least in New Zealand time; his American birthday would be the following day due to the time difference).  There was also scheduled to be a full moon and a lunar eclipse that very night – ominous, perhaps, that this just so happened to be the long-awaited for day that we were leaving the city limits of Auckland and heading up the coast, into warmer weather and more beautiful, less populated sites.


After saying goodbye to Mack and our other flat mates we’d so enjoyed, we headed off for a birthday breakfast at a café recommended to us by several people.


One2one Cafe

One2one Café was a nearby nook on Ponsonby Street. Here we found our way into the back patio which was a beautiful deck area covered in native plants and chubby little birds who politely picked up the crumbs previous patrons left behind.


The patio at One2One Cafe in Auckland

The patio at One2One Cafe in Auckland

As we sat waiting for our meal, we found ourselves deep in conversation with a fascinating gentleman sitting next to us. His name was Clive and he owned a mechanic shop nearby.  He asked us all about our plans and congratulated us on getting such a great deal with our beloved Vanita.  He said most backpackers get screwed when they purchase a van but our deal seemed to be fantastic and at a great price from what he could tell.


Clive had actually tried to help the French couple with the Mitsubishi we met.  We told him the car was a dump and not nearly worth what they were asking for it.  He agreed and said we were very wise for turning them down because the actual value of the car, in his professional opinion, was $1,500.  I had offended them with my offer of $5000 and they were asking $8,500!


I silently thanked God that we had dodged that bullet and were happy with our lovely Vanita.


Clive gave us lots of tips on traveling north and again confirmed our decision to start north and head south as the weather got warmer. He told us to keep our van locked up with the curtains drawn, as the farther north you go, the more security-conscious you must be.  {Good Tip}

cafe auckland


When our food arrived, we were not disappointed. Tyler had the “Big Breakfast” which included poached eggs, sausage and New Zealand style bacon which had to be a half inch thick! (My momma would have been in heaven!)

My delicious breakfast at One2one Cafe in Auckland

My delicious breakfast at One2one Cafe in Auckland

I opted for a crushed pumpkin and fresh hummus mix on sourdough toast, topped lightly with a fresh bruschetta-style tomato mix.  


Both of our meals were over the moon amazing and we left feeling very satisfied and very ready to hit the road and get into the scenic countryside.

Out on the open road in our van. :)

Out on the open road in our van. :)


Fortunately, it didn’t take long to leave the Auckland skyline behind us.  Just outside the city lie beautiful, lush rolling hills spotted politely with kiwi cattle and happy little sheep grazing in the sunshine.  It was a beautiful day and our first trip out of the city was off to a great start.


Mangawhai Heads


As we drove, I searched my Lonely Planet guidebook for interesting spots to stop along the way.  This came in handy for when we found a sign leading off the highway towards Mangawhai Heads, we made a split-second decision to take the exit and welcome an adventure.



..and we were so glad that we did!  Mangawhai has a fascinating history.  Ages ago the Maori people inhabited the land before the Europeans came to settle it.  In 1825, a Maori leader returned to the area and regained the land from the Europeans in a bloody battle.  Because of this, the area was considered taboo, in the Maori culture for many years. It was only in the 1990’s that ceremonies were performed to lift the taboo from the area.  Today both British settlers and Maori natives live in Mangawhai peacefully.


Mangawhai Heads, is a popular surf beach normally, but being the dead of winter, we found it to be a cute beachy town with a fantastic place to warm ourselves up with a cold brew (ha!) and take some time out to study our guidebooks to figure out our next move.



Wood Street Firehouse has won many awards for best restaurant in the region.  In fact, as I read the recent newspaper in front of me, I saw that they had once again won an award for 2019 as Best Restaurant.  Unfortunately, we did not eat here as we were in between mealtimes, but the brew was great and the staff was incredibly friendly.  We highly recommend a stop at this establishment!


After warming up we drove just a short distance down to the beach where we enjoyed a nice walk along the shore.  





Tyler checking out this fascinating rock.

Tyler checking out this fascinating rock.

Even in the midst of winter, the beach was perfectly beautiful.

Even in the midst of winter, the beach was perfectly beautiful.

Ruakaka and Marsden Point


Later we drove into Ruakaka and enjoyed the Tuesday night special of $20 each for a beer, a burger and fries at the Porthouse, which was a very fun restaurant.  We each had a fish sandwich that totally hit the spot.


That night we set up camp at Marsden Point, a little-known free campground smashed in between a lovely neighborhood, the beach, and New Zealand’s only oil refinery, located just out from the bay.


The camp site was beautiful.  The only sound we heard was the soft lapping of saltwater right outside of our van.  The next day would be a whole new adventure.