Getting away from the hustle and bustle of Auckland is big on my list of things to do each summer – the further away the better.
My recent destination was Stony Bay, about a 3½ to 4 hour drive by the time you allow for toilet, coffee and supply stops, but it is definitely worth the trip when you drive around the final bend and find you are in a truly isolated paradise.
After packing the camping gear, sending some final texts and emails we departed ‘civilisation’. The township of Thames is the last spot to offer any decent stores for last minute camping supplies, including Pak ‘n Save, The Warehouse (for those forgotten camera memory cards or mobile chargers) and Stirling Sports.
Make sure you stock up on water – it does not pay to rely on the water at any campground which may not be safe for drinking. If you are taking along beer/meat for your trip, get plenty of ice for the chilly bin.
TIP: Salt ice will last a lot longer than regular ice cubes – perfect for the chilly bin.
If you are feeling like a pitstop, I recommend calling into The Coromandel Mussel Kitchen. You can read our review of this yummy café here.
For something a little different, checkout The Coromandel Smoking Company (not what it sounds like!) where you can buy the most delicious smoked fish and mussels. Our purchases here were lucky to last the rest of the journey they were so yummy!
From Coromandel, take the main road to Colville – the coastal scenery is truly spectacular – and then head towards Port Charles. By now, the excitement in our small group is really building as our final destination is just a short distance further along the dirt road. Glimpses of the bay are seen through the coastline bush, but it is not until the last bend that Stony Bay reveals itself to the wary traveler.
Split halfway by a freshwater creek, fed from native bush-covered hills that surround the bay, Stoney Bay is a DOC-run campground that offers the camper many beautiful locations for pitching a tent. Choose to camp beside the scenic creek surrounded by large pohutukawa or, if you are lucky, pitch your tent facing a coastline that would not look out of place on any postcard. The latter is our favoured option.
If you own a kayak, definitely bring it. Just a short paddle north out of the bay is a dramatic rocky coastline that includes a series of caves you can paddle through. We were incredibly lucky one weekend to paddle with four large dolphins, an experience I will never forget.The facilities in the bay (all maintained daily by the friendly rangers) include toilets, showers (cold), fireplaces for a bbq and a large rubbish skip located at the entrance.
As well as kayaking and swimming, there are several walks from Stony Bay, including a coastal track that goes all the way to Fletcher Bay (allow up to 3 hours one way). This a wonderful experience – unforgettable scenery, native birds aplenty in the stunning forest backdrop. A gentle grade ensures that walkers of all fitness levels can manage easily.
Packing up and leaving paradise to head back to the city, cheer yourself up by stopping at Colville Café for a much deserved brunch. Friendly staff and a delicious menu, it’s a great way to end a long weekend camping.