Nestled in-between Ohope and Opotiki, the Ohiwa Beach Holiday Park is a literally a stones throw from the beach and right next to a lagoon – perfect for kayaking.
We spent a week there and aside from discovering it was a quintessentially laid back Kiwi campground in a simply stunning part of NZ we also learnt five other very important things from our week in Ohiwa.
#1 Holidays are always better with family and friends
Don’t let the fact that we’d never heard of it before deceive you – this little camp ground is so popular that you have to book by May to get in for Christmas.
The benefit of having to be so organised (a first for us as we usually fly by the seat of our pants) is that we got to book our site right next to my cousins site.
I’ve had a lifetime of camping with my cousin. From our early days having wrestling matches on our Dads shoulders at the camp ground in Matamata, to long nights on the banks in our camp site in Thames, to our less than selubrious make shift camping sites as teenagers to playing beer pong in Red Beach to New Years revelling at Hot Water Beach last year.
My cousin is one of those campers I’ve always aspired to be. From day one she’s organised and she has literally everything – even a fridge! I’m the complete opposite so I’m always looking to her for a bit of camping inspiration and advise (which is potentially why I came so unstuck this time – more on that in number 5). So this time we were far more organised – we came with a trailer (seriously – why did we not do this earlier!) and a much bigger tent and it was awesome. We still forgot a lot but we’re definitely improving.
Everything about camping is better when you go with friends or family (or if you are lucky like me to have cousins who are a bit of both). The kids seem to be better behaved with loads of familiar faces to play with and quickly multiply their friends. There’s always someone to give you advice (thanks Lis – who’s a nurse which was highly helpful when Soph got sick), a helping hand (thanks Jay who stepped in when James and I were about to divorce over putting the tent up) or share a wine (thanks always Em).
#2 Kiwi camping really hasn’t changed that much since I was a kid
A lot has changed when we were kids. We don’t let our kids do half the stuff that we got up to as kids, although we are trying to change that as much as we can.
But if you find the right camp ground its like stepping into a time machine to your own childhood.
Ohiwa Beach Holiday Park definitely falls into this group.
Every one is on bikes. Even the grown ups. And the bikes go faster than cars do here. Partly because the cars go slow here and partly because the lap past your parents tent is long and they only yell “slow down” as you race past their tent.
There were a mix of tents – new and old. Just down from us someone had bought along a lean to bar and at about 4 they would all crowd around the bar sharing stories. People bought their own fairy lights from home and decorated their tents in a display to make Franklin Road proud.
Because it’s kind of in the middle of Wellington and Auckland and not super close to either the mix of people was really eclectic and different with people flocking from all around the North Island, not just the two hour driving range.
Aside from the camp shop which stocked the basics there were no shops – which means no demands to buy things.
There was a deep pool which quickly became the meeting spot of all the older kids until they returned sunburnt and exhausted at the end of the day.
There was the old water slide with the copious amounts of dishwasher liquid that they started up as part of the kids club.
There was the unofficial trailer park where everyone parked their trailers (and half their stuff) and nothing went missing.
There was the beach on your doorstep and a million stars at night. It was perfect.
#3 NZ is even smaller than you realise
We always say that NZ is small but this is really small!
We were staying next to my cousin and just up the way she had some friends of hers from the league club camping also (hi Phil and Rebekah). So at nights they would come down with their kids and have a few drinks with us.
One night we were sitting around chatting about work and such and I mentioned where I worked. After a few more questions we established that I not only worked with, but sat next to, Phil’s daughters boyfriend at work. So we did what anyone would do – we sent him a selfie of us drinking together.
300km from home – NZ is such a small place.
#4 Explore, even when you don’t know where you are going.
We decided to go exploring one day. We looked at all the local attractions but none really took our fancy that day.
Ahh, we do have this thing called a Getting Lost Game I reminded James. “Yep, but today I want to go that way” he said pointing to a map.
So we did. We jumped in the car and we headed “that way”. Along the coast line.
We took the Getting Lost Summer Pack with us and picked a card every time we stopped which saw us jumping into lakes, rolling down hills and stopping at Opotiki for some chips and a cider.
#5 Never mix your O’s
Given the name of this blog it probably won’t surprise you to know that directions have never been my strong point. I have that terrible combination of doing too many things at once and only half listening combined with thinking that I have a great sense of direction (I don’t).
On our way down to Ohiwa I had talked to my cousin to see what she was doing about groceries. She told me there was a great supermarket in the neighbouring town. She did mention the name – something starting with O. Got it.
Our first night didn’t go as planned. Our youngest daughter came down with a fever and a sore throat and it became apparent that we’d have to get her to a doctor in the morning. A quick google and I found a doctor in the neighbouring town of Ohope.
Deciding to do everything at once I thought I’d pop into the supermarket while I went to the Doctors the next morning. However the supermarket was harder to find than I thought. I went up and down the main street with no sign of he supermarket that Em had talked about. I spotted a Four Square though and thought this must be it. After all the supermarket in Coromandel is a Four Square and we always shop there.
This one was pretty small though. The trolley was the size of a basket and I was having to make quite a few substitutions on the shopping list. No matter though and in no time I was loading up $200 worth of groceries onto the dairy counter.
Again I thought this doesn’t quite feel right. But no, Em had said there was a great supermarket in the neighbouring town and it definitely started with O.
As I wedged my $30 fillet steak on top of my veritable pile of goodies the cashier asked with a wry smile where I was from. I’ll admit it was an embarrassed and rather small Auckland that came out…
Back at the camp site with groceries and antibiotics and it was Em’s turn to head off to do the groceries. She came back with full bags and said “Isn’t the bakery in the supermarket amazing?”
What bakery? The whole store was the size of a bakery.
“Where did you go?” I asked.
“Opotiki New World” she said.
And it’s not until that moment that I realised I had spent $200 at a dairy.
So to save future confusion here’s how to seperate you’re O’s…
Ohope = beautiful beach (NZ’s best apparently) and great flying fox and playground
Ohiwa = even more beautiful beach, great quintessential Kiwi campground and safe lagoon
Opotiki = a really big supermarket with a great bakery & a fair few pubs
But cheers to the Ohope 4 Square for not laughing too hard at me (don’t worry – I laughed enough at myself!)