23rd November
written by Jeremy

3 (+/- 1) Sisters

We headed south from Kawhia, initially inland to join back up with the major highway, but then south and along the coast. More verdant hills dotted with happy sheep. I definitely have an affinity for this landscape; must be those Irish genes.

The clearing winds from previous days’ storms had the sea whipped up and huge waves crashed against the shores and cliffs. Too messy for surfing, but very impressive to watch. We learned later that this part of the coastline is eroding at a rate of around 3 meters a year—obviously a source of concern for many. The area in the picture below is known as “The Three Sisters” because of 3 large pieces of cliff orphaned from the rest by the  waves. It turns out that one of the sisters was lost in a big storm a few years ago and now there are only 2. Stay away from the cliffs!

marvelous coast

New Plymouth

We arrived in New Plymouth and setup camp at Belt Road Holiday Park (http://www.beltroad.co.nz). It was a spectacular camp site with views of the harbor, what could be an excellent point break with the right tide and swell, Mount Taranaki, and a bit of downtown. Between us and the water was a walking path that skirts the shore all the way through town.

new plymouth

Apparently, there are several good surf breaks right in town, but alas, the westerly winds were too much and the surf was blown out. Each evening, there were kiters and a few windsurfers playing in the waves. I was surprised how few there were given the steady 15-20 knot side/onshore wind and fun-looking swell.

our view in New Plymouth

Mount Taranaki/Egmont

mt. tanaki/egmont

New Plymouth sits on the north shore of a piece of land formed by the volcanic Mount Taranaki (see map). There is skiing in the winter and hiking (or “tramping” as it is known here) and mountaineering in the summer. We spent one morning hiking to the snow-line; to go any further, you need crampons and ice axes or risk glissading off the 100 meter cliffs that circle part of the mountain. Martina had told to us how the estimated hiking times advertised in the guidebooks and information centers in New Zealand are not padded for fat Americans (like they are in the States). She was right: it took us exactly the 3.5 hours that the info kiosk said it would.

moody fog

Highway 45 (The Surf Highway)

The next 2 hours of highway south of New Plymouth is known as “The Surf Highway“. Apparently, the area is trying to bring in tourist dollars by advertising the waves. By the time we made it here, the wind from the previous days had died down and so had the swell. But it gave is an excuse to explore a half-dozen beautiful deserted beaches.

Here is the spot on Opunake beach where we stopped for lunch:

our lunch spot

And this beach, where we saw several elderly vacationers working with nets to catch river fish:

beaches along highway 45

We were struck by the change in landscape as we moved South. Whereas in the North, it was all hills (some rolling, some more severe); in the South, it became very flat between the mountains and the coast.

drive down the 45


  1. Lisa

    Hi! I just went through your most-awesome photostream. I loved the mossy rocks. And I’m glad you’re including shots of the food you eat and the inside of the van so we can get an idea of the “routine”. Interesting stuff. If I were home I would pull out my NZ scrapbook and wax nostalgic. Without that aid the most I remember were the black sand beaches, like you visited, and a family I stayed with roasting an entire lamb on a spit. Loving the posts and photos! xoxox

  2. Laurie Hermann

    Hi Hope and Jeremy!!! I have been off the internet for 5 days, so just read this…I love what you are seeing…New Zealand is spectacular…the coastline, the rivers, fields, snowy peaks…the campsites look so great…amazing to see the lack of people, the sites right by the coast…We are having a good visit with Alice and Eric, Sharon and Jim…Saw Heidi and Hudson yesterday, and will see Megan and family today…Aki and Mia were such a kick with Hudson…you would have loved it….Love to you both…have a wonderful day…you are now Friday, I know..xo Mom

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