Our first glimpse of real nature in New Zealand was Puhoi. A tiny town outside of Auckland, it has a church and a restaurant, and a lovely hike up the local mountain with great views of the surrounding country side.
Not more than an hour out of the city, there is almost no human construction to break up the view. It’s not exactly wilderness in the untouched sense, but it abounds with natural beauty. We found this to be generally true of the north island outside of cities – vistas literally around every corner, hikes almost as plentiful. The beauty of rolling hills, windswept trees, and colorful flowers was everywhere we looked.
Our hike around Puhoi finished near sunset, and we kept driving in a misguided attempt at reaching a purported free campsite. After realizing we would not make it, we looked for a good spot to freedom camp. We didn’t find one, and so pulled off to a small side road – watching out for kiwis that like to cross small roads at night – and prepared to sleep in the car. After our first dinner of beans of beans and tomatoes, a handful of bug bites, and a somewhat comfortable night of sleep, we continued on the highway heading north.