Competition winners Steve and Lyn Jones were over the moon to be drawn as the winners of our recent MCD giveaway, winning themselves a week-long beachfront holiday in the Coromandel in a VW Grand California. Anna King Shahab caught up with the lucky couple to find out how it went.
Waipu couple Steve and Lyn Jones were thrilled when they discovered their names had been drawn to win a road trip in MCD’s recent competition. The prize – keys to a VW Grand California and a beachfront campsite and hot tub at Hahei Beach Resort for seven nights, a Hahei Explorer ferry package for two and a year’s subscription to MCD magazine – came at the perfect time.
“We’re boaties at the moment,” says Steve. “We’ve got a big trailer boat but we’ve been looking to sell it and possibly look into buying a caravan or motorhome – we’d been having trouble deciding which. We had done one research trip in a motorhome before we won this prize; we booked that one through a campervan rental company, and we travelled in a big wide campervan for just a couple of days.”
The timing of the couple’s getaway was fortunate; the easterly wind that had prevailed earlier in the summer had calmed and the couple’s journey in March was done and dusted by the time a weather bomb hit the east coast of the North Island.The couple spent a blissful week at the Hahei Beach Resort, really getting an idea of what motorhome life is really like. “The fact we had a whole week in the new VW Grand California allowed us time to really get a feel for it,” says Steve.
The VW Grand California “drives like a car,” according to Steve, who became an instant fan of the compact vehicle. “The whole VW technology, with its all-wheel drive, is fantastic. There’s plenty of power, and although you’re driving something quite long, it was easy to park.” There are some decent winding roads around the Coromandel, but tackling them in the GC didn’t faze Steve in the slightest. “Towing with a big trailer boat you’re on edge most of the time, but driving this was very relaxing,” he asserts.
Lyn’s first thought was about size. “It’s compact, but it has everything you’d need,” she says. Storage space is generous, with overhead lockers along the sides and across the back of the cabin, and a wardrobe that Steve reckons you could easily customise by adding a shelf. “Also, the front seats swivel round to create the dining area and that really opens up that whole space,” he adds.
“The bed runs lengthwise, which is really handy if you have to clamber out in the middle of the night,” says Steve. “It’s queen size, really comfortable, and folds up at either side, although we were happy just keeping it extended for our stay.” The two-burner cooker and a good-sized fridge and freezer was perfect for Lyn, who says the kitchen layout made cooking all meals in the vehicle pleasurable. More so, explains Steve, because of the sliding door that opens right by the kitchen and dining area. “It felt like we were cooking and dining outdoors which was lovely.” Plenty of vents made for good airflow, and the space never felt stuffy even though the weather was warm.
Although the allure of the resort’s free hot showers meant the couple barely used the convenient wet room bathroom inside, they waxed lyrical about the vehicle’s hot water outdoor shower – very handy for rinsing off sandy feet.
Driving into Hahei Holiday Resort on a sunny day “…was like driving into a resort in Fiji,” Steve says. “Blue sky, palm trees, white sand, views across the ocean to the islands – it was absolutely stunning.” The beachfront campervan sites at the resort perch up on the dunes, affording campers an uninterrupted outlook of the beautiful beach vista.
“The resort is well-established, with great facilities,” he says. “There’s a bar, which also serves up juicy burgers and is open over the summer, a good café serving Allpress coffee, a general store, and a smoothie bar.” A playground, free gas barbecues, generous kitchen, laundry, shared dining, and bathroom facilities complete the picture. “The showers were nice and hot – and had the bonus of being free!” laughs Steve. One of the resort’s biggest drawcards is the large outdoor cedar hot tubs that are positioned right on the beachfront overlooking Mercury Bay; given Hahei is considered one of New Zealand’s top beaches, this is an experience not to be missed.
Not being motorhome aficionados just yet, the pair took the opportunity to do some research as to whether RV life was for them. “There were various other motorhomes and caravans parked up at the resort, so it was a good chance for us to have a good nosey and chat to other owners,” says Steve.
As RVers well know, finding a decent dump station is key to a good road trip, and the Joneses were impressed with how easy it was to tick all the necessary boxes at the Hahei resort. “They have a dump station, so disposing of the greywater and so on was an easy, drive-through process,” says Steve.
The Joneses made the most of their new mobile lifestyle. They took visiting Cook’s Beach – where they were fascinated with the history behind the monument to Captain Cook (he timed his visit to the bay to witness the transit of Mercury across the sun). The pair then drove up the coast to Matarangi, and called into popular Kuaotunu spot Luke’s Kitchen for a delicious lunch. There, while a billfishing competition was held, the couple awoke one morning to “The roar of dozens of boats racing out to be first to get to the marlin!” says Steve. Later that evening at the fishing club, the couple took the next part of their prize, the passenger ferry ride, over to Whtianga from Cooks Beach, where they witnessed a 263kg marlin awarded first prize in the fiercely-fought for fishing competition.
Lyn kept a list of pros and cons on the go as they travelled, and while the couple aren’t yet decided, their week in the VW Grand California has certainly tipped the balance. “Before we won this trip, we were leaning more towards getting a caravan, but the flexibility of a motorhome really revealed itself,” says Steve. “If you wanted to only stay a night or two in various locations, a motorhome is so much more convenient. You just back in, plug in, and Bob’s your uncle. Caravans may offer more bang for your buck, but then you have the outlay of a tow vehicle”.
The couple say they still have some hard thinking to do, but their journey in the Grand California, they say, was hard to fault. “We just found it really easy, really straightforward, and we could’ve easily lived out of it for longer than a week.”
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