The Birth of the Adventure Wagon: Kauaeranga Valley, Coromandel

Guy and I had been thinking for a while about the best way to adventure our way around New Zealand. We weighed up the options of campervans and converting cars but eventually stumbled across a gem of an idea… and hence the Adventure Wagon was created.


With 4wd Subaru for all New Zealand’s unsealed roads, and a roof tent that can attach and detach from the roof rack, we had a perfect easy set up for exploring. Now we just needed to test it out.


For our inaugural outing we decided on the nearby Coromandel Peninsula, and with no surf on the cards headed inland to the Kauaeranga Valley. Taking the scenic route from Mellons Bay we headed around the East coast skirting the Hanua ranges and past the turquoise waters of Kawakawa Bay. Once we reached the East coast of the Firth of Thames we could see the Coromandel peninsula in the distance, passing through Miranda and Thames we were finally heading into the winding scenic roads of the Kauaeranga Valley.


The valley is a Department of Conservation (DOC) Reserve and as such is carefully looked after by wardens here. As well as looking after the many tramping tracks, the DOC have amazing little campsites dotted all over New Zealand, often remote and with limited facilities. but stunning locations and tranquility at budget prices. We wound our way along a gravel track, testing out the Subaru, with the hills rising around us and the forest getting thicker, I think Guy was having quite a lot of fun pretending to be a rally driver! We checked out a couple of the DOC campsites on our way up the valley and decided on Totara Flats, with views of the Pinnacles mountains and a short walk to the Kauaeranga River it was a beautiful location for camp. We set up our roof tent for the first time, gaining much attention from fellow campers, and then headed through the bush to the river.


The Kauaeranga River is scattered with a multitude of boulders of all shapes and sizes, slowly being worn down and smoothed by the river.


These turned out to be excellent stepping stones and we hopped to the centre of the river with a beer and sat in the evening sun watching the water rush by, nothing quite like letting nature envelope you to put things in perspective. A barbecue and stargazing was a lovely end to the day.

Waking up in our little roof top nest with views of the surrounding forest and mountains wasn’t the worst start to our day, and neither was our morning ‘bath’ in the river which was pretty refreshing!


Once we had neatly tucked our tent back away on the roof we headed back down the valley in the sunshine to Edwards Lookout track. This is a relatively short walk spiralling around a hill through dense forest for roughly an hour. The forest was lush and jungle like with ferns and vines as well as the larger trees and bush, emerging at the top of the track to a rocky outcrop with plummeting cliffs to the sides.


The views drew the eye all the way across the valley out to the peaks of the pinnacles, With only a glimpse of the gravel road to hint at any signs of civilisation it made for an impressive sight. We sat on the solitary bench at the top taking it all in and enjoying a rest, accompanied by only an iridescent beetle, before returning back the way we came.


Before leaving the Coromandel we headed up the west coastal road of the peninsula to the small town of Waiomu. All along the coast there is an abundance of seabirds and we saw no shortage of New Zealand kingfisher, pied shag and oyster catchers among others.

Stopping in Waiomu we enjoyed a smoothie at the organic Beach Café and then headed for a stroll along the beach before heading home. A successful first outing with the roof tent and a successful first encounter of the Coromandel, we would definitely be back.


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