One of the highlights of our recent North Island road trip was a place I hadn’t even heard of before planning the trip. Kai Iwi Lakes, a set of three small lakes on the Kauri Coast (three hours north of Auckland), is quite unlike anywhere else I’ve been in New Zealand and camping there was a great experience. Keep reading for a quick look at what you can do at Kai Iwi lakes, information on camping and lots of photos!
Arriving at Kai Iwi Lakes
We travelled to Kai Iwi lakes from Cape Reinga, so it was a pretty long travel day. We arrived an hour or two before sunset and were pretty much the only people relaxing at the beach. When arriving at Kai Iwi Lakes make sure to stop at the little viewpoint at the top of the hill (before driving down to the camping ground).
Although there are three lakes here, the one you’ll spend most of your time at is Lake Taharoa. The beach there (Pine Beach) is stunning – it looks more like a beach on a tropical island than a lake beach in New Zealand! The water is extremely clear and is a great place for a relaxing swim. We were there at the end of March and the weather was perfect. This is one of my favourite beaches in New Zealand – try to stop off and have a look even if you’re not planning on staying the night.
Lake Taharoa from Above
We wanted to get a good look at Lake Taharoa from above, so we headed up the small hill behind the camping ground. We walked along the ridge for a little while and got some nice views of the lake, with its varying shades of blue water.
The other end of Lake Taharoa
I’d recommend staying at the Pine Beach end of Lake Taharoa, but there is also space to camp at the other end of the lake. We had a quick walk around and it was nice, but you can’t beat that beach! I’m sure this place gets busy during the peak summer months and this side of the lake might be a bit quieter at those times.
The next day we went to check out the other lakes. First up was Lake Waikere, a short drive from where we had camped the night before. It was nice and there weren’t any other people around – don’t let people tell you New Zealand is getting to crowded! There isn’t a whole lot to see and Lake Taharoa is nicer, it’s still worth a look though (if you like exploring as much as we do).
We initially struggled to find Lake Kaiiwi, which is the smallest of the three lakes. It’s located close to the main beach / camping area at lake Taharoa but there isn’t a lot to see there.
Camping at Kai Iwi Lakes
It cost us $20 to camp at Kai Iwi Lakes. We didn’t see any cabins or anything, so you’ll need a tent or a vehicle. It’s a tidy camping ground and there is heaps of room to spread out (well, there was when we were there at least). There’s a small shop but there isn’t anywhere to eat nearby, so make sure to bring your own food. The facilities are decent (there’s coin operated hot showers) but it’s still a fairly rustic experience. It’s one of the most scenic places we’ve camped in New Zealand and it’s still quite off the beaten path. It’s always good to go somewhere that most other people miss (or never hear of in the first place).
Getting to Kai Iwi Lakes
If you’re coming from Auckland head to Dargaville — from there it’s easy to find (Google Maps always helps)! It’ll take around three hours from Auckland or, if you’re coming from Cape Reanga like we did, it’ll take you around five hours.
Will you add Kai Iwi Lakes to your New Zealand itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!
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