When summer finally arrives there is no better way to experience the vast beauty of New Zealand than in a four-wheel drive with a rooftop tent. So we spent several months fully kitting out a Toyota Landcruiser 76 series so we could explore our own backyard.
But this time we wanted to do something a little different... with our passion for exploring rough off-roading tracks and camping in stunning remote locations we are big on hunting, hiking, fishing and diving. Our set up allows for most of this, there was just one thing missing - the ability to get out on the water. We wanted to be able to have access to and explore it all. Fishing and diving was a must for this trip. It was time to combine 4wding, hunting, fishing and free diving for the Northern part of our journey.
But how do we get a boat on this setup while still being able to go offroading and have a rooftop tent?… here is where creative thinking came in. So we decided to contact Southern Pacific Boats to find their lightest RIB that would fit on top of the Alu-Cab roof tent. Being only 25kg at 2.8m, the Pacific Alloy RIB is the ultimate tender for this truck. With a neat little pulley system, it can easily be put onto and taken off the roof with one person, or aided by two people. The plan was to head up to the far north for Christmas till the New Year. Heading up multiple remote 4wding tracks and taking the boat to some epic spots!
First stop: Karikari Peninsula
An incredible coastal wonderland where game fishing is right on your doorstep.
A short 4 km off the beach and you are in the deep blue ocean where Marlin and Tuna are flourishing.
Karikari Peninsula is also a good base for more in-depth 4wding trips; venturing further up and around the far North Island of New Zealand. This area is still very untouched with a ton of places to explore. A lot of the tracks are left undocumented - requiring some audacious explorations.
We planned to get off the grid with a very remote boating trip. Alas, weather can dictate these things and we never got a 3-day window with low swells and moderate wind, so instead opted for some bay trips.
One spot that left an impression was an amazing remote bay with crystal clear water and an abundance of kina at knee deep. This bay would make an even a better camping spot. There is just so much you can do with a tiny boat and outboard. Spending a day here with no other boats or people around shows just how easy it is to escape and be isolated in paradise when you head up North, even in the holiday season.
There are many paua and crayfish rocks up these ways so taking free dive gear is well worth the extra space. We found around ten crayfish on this trip and a handful of legal paua — nothing to boast about but a delicious feast nonetheless. Typically there are more pack horses than crayfish around these ways - so check the size limits as pack horses need to be much larger.
A major bonus of heading up North before Xmas is a total lack of people.
It is almost deserted.As we headed further up North, we passed the tiny settlement at Pukenui. A fishing hub where you can refuel, get your salt ice and check out the local pub. If you are ever here make sure to get a pie from the fish and chip store (not the Four Square). They are seriously amazing!
This jetty is a fantastic fishing spot.
Get started early at sunrise with live baits, and you're almost guaranteed to bag a kingfish (given your gear can handle it).
There are many easy access beaches around this area, including 90-mile beach with its endless dunes and technical tracks. Unlimited amazing spots await if you know where to look, every time we come up we discover more. This time we explored two new areas and came across some fantastic views, places we never even knew existed. Fitting in some small game hunting made this trip even more epic. Not what we expected this far North.
Eventually, some friends came up to spend some time exploring the tracks, going to the vineyards and heading out for a fish.
We even managed to give them a couple of cheeky nights enjoying the Alu-Cab rooftop tent all to themselves. Generous, we felt. The view and connection to nature sleeping in the rooftop tent just can't be beat.
New Years - The mighty Bay of Islands
Urupukapuka Island. Last but certainly not least we headed up to the mighty Bay of Islands to bring in the New Year at Otehei Bay.
Setting off from Parekura Bay we camped at a remote little beach. It was stunning, and the ocean couldn’t have been more translucent. They have an epic party at Otehei Bay at the restaurant with live music, lots of drinks and a big buffet dinner.
It was an awesome party in an even more incredible location. Well worth the adventure. We were stoked we managed to rig this boat on the truck - this trip ending was only possible with a boat.
January 1st was spent snorkelling, exploring the swings and rocks before ending up at Otehei restaurant for some cold beers and food.
Next up: part 2 of our 4 wheel drive trip awaits.
Almost wanting this adventure to never end... however, the South Island beckoned. Read on to find out how the next leg of our trip blew us away even more with the most adventurous 4 wheel drive track we have ever ventured upon.
Check it out to find out more + tips on how to make the most out of the South Island in a four wheel drive + heaps more epic tracks, adventures and hidden remote spots.