Intrepid Kiwis are living big lives in small spaces and loving the waterfront resting spots they find along the way.
While living the waterfront dream is one many that New Zealanders aspire to, securing a property by the water is realistically not in everyone’s reach.
However, up and down the country, folk are discovering that by hooking up a mobile abode and taking the road less travelled, home is where you park it.
Caravanning is a summer holiday memory that many of us hold dear and, for a lucky few, these humble dwellings are a passport to enjoying this country’s best waterfront locations – without the price tag, and not just in summertime.
Waterfront talks to some inspirational Kiwis who have hitched their homes to a tow bar to realise their aspirations of getting closer to nature, simplifying their lives and of enjoying our coastline, lakes and rivers.
While currently taking a breather in Mapua, in the Tasman district, Marnie and Steve Hillier and their young sons, River (aged three) and Mack (18 months), had, for many months, been on an extended “radical sabbatical”, cruising around the country in their hot pink caravan and scratching their itch for adventure.
With her business – Eskimo Nell, an online statement clothing and accessories store – at a point where it could sustain the family and be completely mobile, the couple threw caution to the wind and followed their noses, towing their 8.3-metre long Swift 630 six-berth caravan behind them.
The experience allowed Marnie to connect with her customers around the country, and for Steve to spend invaluable time with the boys, giving them real Kiwi outdoor adventures.
While large in caravan terms, their home on wheels is a snug environment for a family of four – and there’s nowhere to hide.
“Working in the evenings and hoping not to wake the kids with sound of my keys tapping brought home the tight confines of the ‘van, but we made it work,” says Marnie.
“It’s fully self-contained, has plenty of sleeping space and a full gas/electric heating system which absolutely came into its own as the winter chill hit – especially those nights spent freedom camping in the middle of the Southern Alps.
“We love the cosiness of it and as the lounge area has windows on all sides and a skylight, we can really take in our surroundings while having our morning coffee or evening wine.”
In the summer the pink caravan could be found right on the doorstep to some of New Zealand's most incredible beaches with the family able to walk out the door straight on to the sand and into the sea.
When they started out on their travels, Marnie and Steve had a strict schedule and only stayed a couple of nights in each place conscious of a need to keep moving. However, they soon got into the groove of relaxing their expectations and drinking in the special qualities of each destination.
“We started taking recommendations from locals about their favourite campsites and ended up staying up to one week in each location,” says Marnie.
“One of the hidden gems that we absolutely fell in love with was Matauri Bay in the far north.
“Our campsite was one step away from the beach under huge pine trees and looking out to this incredible cove - it was truly magical.
“There is also a walk from the campsite that takes you to the memorial of the Rainbow Warrior, as the Greenpeace ship was sunk in this harbour. “
Papamoa Beach where they stayed right on the waterfront and were welcomed by the most incredible sunrises every morning was another family-favourite spot.
As jaw-dropping as the waterfront scenery was around New Zealand and as lucky as they were to be able to truly take the time to appreciate this, Marnie says the real highlight of their wanderlust adventure has been the people they’ve met along the way.
“Fellow Kiwis who were also on adventures, tourists taking in our amazing country, and locals who were generous enough to share their secret spots for the best coffee or fish and chips.
“We met everyone from surfers in Papamoa to winemakers in Hawke's Bay - caravanning really is an awesome way to get to know the country and its people.”
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