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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

NZ: Wild Surf & Windswept Dunes of North Island's West Coast

Hardy souls tacking Port Waikato's waves.
Going vagabond means while there's often much uncertainty on where we'll rest our heads for the eve, we have the freedom to stop whenever something catches our fancy.  After our relatively brief stop in an Auckland 'burb, we meandered off New Zealand's primary Highway, 1.  

Our next set destination was Raglan, which is still on New Zealand's North Island, but South of Auckland on the West Coast.  We stopped at Nikau Cave overnight to break the trip up.

Our goal was to take in the countryside, stretch our legs periodically, and keep our fun on the frugal side.  Fortunately, New Zealand offers many excellent free attractions. Here's a few highlights that caught our fancy if you happen to be traveling this particular stretch.  

Port Waikato
Hardly the spot to loll around in the sunshine on a white sand beach and gently dangle your toes in the water, Port Waikato's a surfer beach though at the time we passed through it looked more rough than rad.  Twas rife with signs cautioning those who enter to beware the rip tides, and keep their forays between the narrow flagged stretch on the charcoal colored sand.  We were delighted to observe from the shore and happier still we chose to conduct our exploration over land, rather than cruising off this rugged coast in our sailboat.

Wind sculpted waves across Waikato Sand Dunes' surface.
Waikato Sand Dunes
Near Port Waikato, we stopped again at Waikato Sand Dunes.  New Zealand may be a long skinny country, but despite 51% of the island dedicated to grasses (primarily pastureland), it does not lack for variety of ecosystems on the other 49%.  Just a few miles from Port Waikato's rugged surf stretched a calm estuary, a flat, gray pond reflecting that cloudy day.  Sand dunes dramatically loomed up on one side of the estuary.  As we wandered the dunes, the skies gave us some glimpses of sunshine and even a little blue sky.

We chuckled over a couple boys hurling their body down the dunes for a good slide, whilst fishermen busily plied the estuary.

Then it was back on the road to Raglan.

Waikato's stark sand dunes yielded to rolling hills of
vibrant green grassy cow-pleasing pastures.

The reality is as amazing as much of New Zealand is, particularly for budget travelers like us, there's simply some stretches where the diversion is little more than a leg stretch.  With more time, the opportunity is better to explore more deeply.  For us, from Auckland to Raglan, and Raglan to New Plymouth, we were more focused on the destination than the journey.  The trade-off?  More time to spend more time where we want, without killing ourselves to get there.

Location Location
We're currently road-tripping in New Zealand until ~February 8, 2016.   This post is about our travel in the area between Auckland and Raglan.  We're in Wellington and this Wednesday morn catching the ferry first thing in the morning to New Zealand's South Island, where we expect to spend about 2 weeks.  Meanwhile our boat is in Whangarei's Town Basin Marina (S35.43.474 E174.19.599), moving to Riverside for haul out between the 1st & 2nd week of February.  

Cruising by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand.  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  Since arriving in New Zealand, November 21st, we've sailed less than 200 miles.