Over the past few years of living in New Zealand, we’ve been lucky enough to visit some pretty amazing campgrounds. One of the very best camping trips we took this summer was to Maraehako Campground.
Located in the Eastern Bay of Plenty (almost to the East Cape), Maraehako Campground is a swoon-worthy camp destination. If you’re looking for something a bit off-the-grid, it’s perfect.
We pitched a tent here for a sunny weekend, right near the campground’s pebbled beach and under the shade of looming pohutukawa trees. The soothing sounds of the ocean lulled us to sleep each night. During the day, we swam, kayaked, read books and simply relaxed. It was bare-bones bliss.
Below is a rundown of what to expect at Maraehako Campground. That being said, our #1 tip is to just go yourself to experience how amazing it is!
Fees and Amenities at Maraehako Campground
Camp fees are $15/per person. Pay with either cash or Eftpos. The campground is open between October – April and no bookings are required—just show up and find a site in the spacious camp area. The camp hosts are absolutely lovely and helpful if you have any questions.
There aren’t many “amenities” at the campground, but all the basics are there. Showers are available ($1 coin per 4 minutes), as are toilets and drinking water. Note that there are signs directing you to boil the onsite water before drinking, but we didn’t – it’s completely spring-fed and probably way fresher than any urban water we drink. We’ll leave it up to your discretion, though, to decide what to do about that.
There isn’t a kitchen at the campground, so make sure to bring your own cooking equipment (including a portable camp stove or bbq).
It would also be a good idea to bring all food and drinks along with you, as there really isn’t anything out this way in terms of groceries.
You won’t get any cell or internet service at the campground. It’s a great way to get a little break from your phone, and we loved this aspect of camping out here. If you absolutely need to get on wifi, head over to the macadamia farm cafe just up the road—more on that in a bit!
Things to do at Maraehako Campground
You can swim in the sheltered bay just steps from your tent or van. Once you tire of ocean swimming (if this is even possible), head over to the awesome freshwater swimming hole right at the west end of the beach (to the left of the campground), fed by a spring. The water is crystal clear and it’s so refreshing to go for a dip.
Bring your own kayak or rent kayaks here on the cheap ($15 for a double; $10 for a single). The nearby rock formations are prime for exploring, and you may just spot some stingrays and other sea life.
It’s also an excellent place for some ocean fishing. When we were here, the kahawai were so plentiful that you could see them in hordes. We kicked ourselves for not bringing the fishing pole! Rookie mistake.
There was a regional fire ban in place when we stayed at the campground, but you can usually have a campfire right on the beach in one of the many campfire rings. Bring some firewood and marshmallows and you’ll be all set for a wonderful night under the stars.
The other amazing thing to do at Maraehako is absolutely nothing! Bring your camp chair and/or travel hammock, a good book or two, and just enjoy the peace, quiet and relaxation.
Things to do near Maraehako Campground
Pay a visit to Pacific Coast Macadamias just down the road, which has a cute little cafe called the Nuthouse. The macadamia farm is located within a subtropical microclimate and it’s truly lush there.
Grab a coffee at the Nuthouse and try one of the treats on offer—we tried a few of the slices and the winners were the ginger and citrus versions (so good!). Enjoy your goodies outside on one of the picnic tables with a view of the orchard and ocean. Free wifi vouchers are included with your purchase if you just ask. You can also pick up some macadamia nuts to take home with you, or a macadamia-panko crumb that would be amazing on fresh fish if you happen to catch any at the campground 😉
You can also visit a secret waterfall, which is just a bit further down the road past the macadamia farm. If you’re driving west from the campground, go past the macadamia farm for another minute or two until you see a little roadside turnout and a sign for Whanarua stream. There isn’t a DOC sign or anything like that so you just need to keep your eyes peeled!
Park in the turnout and walk upstream for about 10-15 minutes until you reach the falls. You’ll need to walk through the actual stream quite a bit, so wear some shoes you don’t mind getting a bit wet.
After a couple of days at Maraehako campground, we left feeling fully relaxed and recharged. It was kind of amazing to realize that without our phones in use, we had no idea what was going on in the world around us… and you know what? It didn’t matter! The world still went on when we couldn’t access the news and social media. Sometimes it’s so nice to just get a break from thinking about all of the chaos in the world.
This untouched part of New Zealand is a very special place. If you’re after a camping getaway with beautiful surroundings, a phone/media detox, and relaxation opportunities aplenty, Maraehako Campground is just the ticket.
MORE CAMPING INSPIRATION
Looking for more special places to pitch your tent by the sea on New Zealand’s North Island?
Try Opoutere Campground in the Coromandel, located just steps away from a gorgeous white sandy beach.
If you’re heading to the Far North, a favorite option is Motutara Farm Campground in Whananaki. Take your pick from one of the numerous beach-front sites.
While up in Northland, make your way to Aroha Island in Kerikeri. You can set up camp right by the sea. When you’re not admiring the views from your tent, you can go for a kayak; at night, look for kiwi on the reserve’s bush track.
Do you have a favorite campground by the beach in New Zealand, or elsewhere in the world? If so, let us know in the comments!