Van life diaries: Purakaunui Bay. This is a DOC campsite, so it’s $13 per person to sleep. It has breathtaking views of the bay. If you are on a surf trip, spend a couple days here. At the end of September, it was about 20 degrees Celsius during the day with only 3 or 4 other camper van neighbors.
We hung out with the sea lions on the beach and watched the seagulls fish for eel during sunrise and sunset. Being the East Coast, we woke up early to watch the sunrise over the ocean – a view we got to see from bed inside the camper with a warm cup of coffee in hand.
This campsite was truely an amazing find. I’d go back any time to this hidden paradise. I think it is one of the best camper van spots on the Southern Tip of the Island, next to Curio Bay.
After a couple days at Purakaunui Bay, we had to stop at Purakaunui Falls. This is a short drive on gravel roads to one of the most photographed waterfalls in New Zealand. Chances are, the friends you made at the campsite and hung out with the night before will be heading the same way! Go early to miss the crowds (duh).
A random stop along the scenic route is Tunnel Hill. This sounded cool, but we thought from looking at the brochure it was going to be too far from the road. Not so. It is a short walk from the car park, which is right of the highway. Bring a torch (or for the Americans out there, a flashlight) as you will need it! I’d say this spot is the most overlooked by tourists on the Southern Scenic Route who are hopping from waterfall to waterfall.
At the time, I was reading Percy Jackson and the battle of the labyrinth (I know I know, I’m 28 ,not 15…shut up, okay?) and I couldn’t help but get flashes of ancient Greek monsters flying out at me from dark corners. The tunnel is really good fun for all ages, trust me!
After you’ve been sufficiently woken up, if not from the jitters but from the pure chill of the hill, go back in the van and head towards Papatowai. This is a small town where we wanted to get fuel, however in pure new Zealand fashion we ended up driving right through the 5 house town without seeing a damn thing. If you can, get some coffee while you fuel up and chat with a local about where to go. There should be some amazing tramps around here.
After Papatowai, we stopped at Florence Hill lookout for spectacular views of Tautuku Bay. I understand Taukuku Bay is where they hold the big wave surf competitions. Clearly not while we were there. We ate a lunch of salami sandwiches by the happy lambs of New Zealand before heading off on the next adventure along the Southern Scenic Route.