Hastings’ reputation as a motorhome friendly town is the result of a proactive district council which is keen to attract motorhome visitors. To explore this further, I decided to get out and about to check a few locations in the district where certified self-contained motorhomes can park.
I hoped to meet some motor-caravanners to see what they think of Hawke's Bay, but not being a motorhome owner myself, I called on the help of some people I know to give me a few pointers.
A road trip to Hawke’s Bay…
The car park at Pakowhai Country Park near Hastings was full of people out walking in the sunshine.
It's a designated off-lead dog exercise area but most pooches here are kept on leashes. The park is very pretty with lots of mature trees and limestone paths. An old bridge now serves as part of the walkway. I imagine this area would be a good sheltered spot to park overnight en route to another destination, as it's on a main road. However, there were no motorhomes there at that time.
Next up, I headed east to Clive, a pleasant village beside a river of the same name. Evers-Swindell Reserve is named after Olympic gold medal rowing sisters Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell who spent many hours training here. This location leads into one of the many Hawke's Bay cycle trails. It is also close to amenities in the town such as cafes, a bakery, grocery store and an art gallery.
Richmond Road Reserve, two kilometres out of Clive, is listed as a stopover place although it's rough and shingly with no facilities. However, I imagine that if you like peace and quiet and vast ocean views, it could be a good place to park.
Next I drive past grapevines and crops towards the seaside towns of Haumoana and Te Awanga. The place has a relaxed vibe and is apparently a popular habitat for artists. The Clifton Road Reserve, in between these two places, is situated right on the beach and is one of the most favoured places for motor-caravanners. On the day of my visit the reserve is full of motorhomes.
I meet Vivienne Carrington who is settling down to her crossword puzzle and a glass of wine beneath the awning of her 'van. We bond over the fact that our name is spelt the long way. The way the French spell it. Her husband Mike is preparing to go fishing.
"We love it here. It's free, it's sheltered and now there is a nice toilet block too. We often just pop out for a weekend or a day," says Vivienne.
The Carringtons, who are from Hastings, have had their Mazda Parkway, Road Runner, for just over two years. "We go away mostly on weekends. We've also been to the Department of Conservation camping site at Kuripapango on the Napier-Taihape road.
Mike caught a trout – he loves to fish. The RV gives you freedom to get out and do what you want to do. You can just take off. Once Mike retires we will go away regularly."
Masses of seagulls are squawking excitedly right above the water and it is then we notice the sea is boiling with fish. Mike dashes off to join a group of other fishermen with their lines out. In less than 30 minutes he returns with six fish. His beaming smile says it all.
Later he says, "Before you go, I'll catch you some Kahawai."
True to his word, he does. My off-sider is extremely happy about this and later cooks it on the home barbecue.
The Halfords – also from Hastings – have only had their Traillite Mercedes motorhome for three weeks, but already they are smitten. "I absolutely love it," says Dell. "Barry and I are both extremely busy people; now we can just hop in our 'van and be here in 15 minutes. It is as if we are on holiday."
Dell explains that you can have a coffee or a glass of wine at nearby Clifton Beach.
"We'll get our bikes hooked up soon too so we can ride along the cycle trails. Another thing we like about this particular spot is that it is patrolled until about 10pm and it's safe. Any vehicle that is not certified self-contained is moved on."
It's easy to see why the coastal strip from Haumoana to Clifton Beach attracts visitors. There are two wineries (Elephant Hill and Clearview Estate) and Clifton Beach Cafe, a fish and chip shop. It is also the gateway to Cape Kidnappers Gannet Sanctuary. At Te Awanga a very cute shop selling imported French furniture, So Vintage, has recently opened up.
I stroll over to meet some German tourists who have just arrived. The Moellers had intended to do the coastal walk to see the gannets but realising how far it was, had decided against it. Since there are other attractions here, they have decided to stay overnight.
See the full article in issue 124 of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations. Subscribe here.