Best DOC camps: Otamure Beach

Ridged hillsides cradle the camp’s grassy flat that bleeds onto a picnic area, crowded with the tangled limbs of old pohutukawa trees, and then onto a long, camel-coloured beach scooped out between rocky promontories. The sea is mild here, sheltered by the land’s long arms. Outside a revamped 1971, Oxford caravan an over-fed man lounged in a striped deck chair, his prosperous belly bared to the sun, his face shaded by a large floppy hat. I mentioned in passing what a lovely spot it was. “Don’t tell anyone,” he says. “I’ve been coming here for 20 years and I’d hate to see it spoiled by the masses.” There is no cell-phone coverage and only one road in, but it has plenty of well-maintained composting toilets and shower cubicles. If you need to replenish supplies, the nearest store is just over the hill at Whananaki North, which also serves excellent fish’n chips and barista-made coffee. Back at the camp it was heartening to see kids being kids with no provided entertainment. They created rope swings hung from in obliging pohutukawa limbs, played frisbie on the lawn, built inventive sandcastles and raced each other up the hills. Released from the trappings of modern life, their excited cries travelled into the open sky. No dab hand on the end of a frisbie, I left them to it to find the wildlife reserve at the northern end of the camp. Two rare Pateke (brown teal ducks), heads buried under their wings, nestled in the long grass by a stream at the start of the track. The sanctuary has been largely set up for their benefit. The birds are only found in New Zealand and, unless they are carefully protected, they soon won’t be found anywhere. The track climbs steeply to a ridge and then 96 steps drop precipitously to a secluded sandy bay for which there is no road access. Slanting beams of evening sunlight flickered through leaves and threw mosaic patterns on the sea-smoothed sand. It’s the kind of place where you can walk the beach and never see a soul. But don’t tell anyone I told you. Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide.
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