After deciding ages ago that we wouldn’t go away between Easter and ANZAC day, but instead make two consecutive 4-day weekends, I managed to persuade Mark that we should go camping at Mistletoe Bay for ANZAC weekend, despite this being well in to Autumn, and potentially very cold.
To get there, we took the Interislander’s Kaiarahi. Service on board the services both ways was fantastic, and there are actually some really great gluten free options on board, especially for breakfast.
We had considered walking on and then taking a water taxi to the campground, but the cost to drive was about the same, which made packing easier.
From Picton, its approximately 40km / 1 hour drive.
The great thing about camping in Autumn is how quiet it is! There was another family on the site, who had been there for a week, and two other groups came in for a night each. Otherwise we had the campers facilities to ourselves. The kitchen was warmed daily by the sun, and the deck outside was a lovely spot to relax in the morning.
The downside of camping in Autumn is that you have limited daylight hours.
We had a choice – first morning sun, or last afternoon sun – for our tent site. We opted for last afternoon sun. Which meant the inside of our tent was still cold (and the outside still damp), until the sun arrived around 11:30am. However, we also kept the sunshine until after 4pm. Other than one foggy morning and one breezy evening, we had still, calm, clear weather for 4 straight days.
The facilities at the campground are a little basic for the price you pay. At $32/night for 2 guests, and $10 for the additional child, the amenities are less up-to-date than a Top10 for example. It costs ($2/4mins) for hot showers, for the laundry ($8/load, no dryer), and for kayak hire ($10/hr/boat). There is a free-to-use drying room, which we took advantage of for damp clothes after kayaking. They have a small shop, which is great for icecreams and fizz (although unsuprisingly expensive), and they supply their own free-range eggs at 50c each (divine!). You need to be completely self-sufficient, the only things you dont need are a cooker and chiller (although in summer I imagine the fridges would struggle).
We had a whole heap of really awesome experiences – like when Mr4 was beside himself with excitement over his first weka, or the Karearea (Falcon) we saw hanging around. Then there was the kayaking on the bay, the glow worms, the Pukeko and Tui up at Kenepuru Head when we went for a drive and the incredible stars at night. The aurora was busy while we were there, and the hills nixed most of our view, but I did catch a glimpse with the naked eye, and managed to grab one shot showing it.
Our only negative was a pair of kiwi trampers doing the Queen Charlotte Track, who were a bit inconsiderate in the not-large kitchen / dining area. They took up one of the two tables through two families preparing dinner for their kids, so they could play a game of monopoly, not even thinking to shift to one end of the table. But honestly, if thats the worst that happened, its hardly worth complaining about!
We always forget something. On our summer trip, this wasn’t a big deal (a cheese slice and potato peeler, which we could grab at the supermarket). This time we forgot to bring a serving spoon or wooden spoon. Made cooking a little difficult.
Overall, we were stoked with our decision to camp in autumn, and are totally planning to do it again another year! We would also highly recommend Mistletoe Bay as a destination. The stars at night are incredible, the management are friendly, the campsite is lovely. If we had known about it before our wedding, we may have seriously considered it as a venue (at $5k for 2 days for 48 guests, provide your own food, its seriously good value!)