A short camping trip in Pataua

Like Whananaki further up the Northland coast, North and South Pataua are divided by a wide tidal estuary and north meets south by way of a long, wooden pedestrian bridge. To drive to Pataua North from Whangarei you take a different route than if you drive to Pataua South. Both have access to the estuary and to curving stretches of camel-coloured and rolling surf. We camped on private land on the north side, which has the superior beach and a small settlement, but no public camping area or any amenities. The campground is on the more built-up south side, pleasantly situated between estuary and beach and very popular with Whangarei families in the summer holidays. At that time, the prices were outrageous and there were no sites to be had. We plan to go there in the offseason next time. The campground is called Treasure Island, which seemed a little fanciful, but apparently it was, in fact, an island until a natural causeway formed over the years and joined it to the mainland. I can see why it is so popular. Hedges offer some degree of privacy although not a lot of shelter. It's only a short walk to the main beach and if you care to scramble around the rocks there are more coves and bays to explore. On one side is the estuary, which at high tide forms a safe lagoon for swimming. A shop just outside the campground has a few emergency stores, but if you need supplies it's only a half-hour drive to Whangarei. If you are reliant on ablution facilities, however, the existing ones are pretty plain and there didn't seem to be lot of them. Being CSC that doesn't particularly bother us, but it would if we were paying top dollar in the high season. The only thing that was less than welcoming was the notice board near the entrance, which was nothing to be treasured. It announced more rules than you could shake a stick at. I guessed that a certain degree of control needs to be put in place over the Christmas holiday period. The hosts, however, seemed friendly and the house rules wouldn't put me off going there. Off-peak the prices are reasonable. We will certainly be keeping the Pataua beaches and campsite on our next summer itinerary. The location has it all. Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide.
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