Dre and Sierra have stepped out of the 9-5 and to kickstart it they did a roady the length of New Zealand…
This is our story of longing for something different. Looking to find something just down the road that we never knew was there. Searching for something that’s lost in the traditional nine-to-five struggle and that was only a short adventure away.
For months we’d been stuck in the box of our house. Like the rest of New Zealand, our lives were Netflix, neighbourhood strolls and never ending supermarket missions. We needed something more. We needed the next adventure. With no end to our closed borders in sight, and the prospect of international travel remains uncertain, we still had to get our fix. We had to ask ourselves: what’s the perfect adventure in Aotearoa?
Here it is: our search for Southern serenity. Navigating through Northland, past the vast Waikato farmland all the way through to the mighty mountains of Central Otago. We were adventuring from the top of the North to the bottom of the South in search for our Southern serenity.
Northland was the kick off point. From Kerikeri to Whangārei, we adventured in and out of beautiful bays and sandy beaches. This was the first big test for the ol’ girl. Our 2002 Ford Econovan had a personality like no other. After months of lugging around pellets of Central Otago fruit, she had finally been called up for duty. We had been lucky to have friends help with various wood work to get her to the final stages of travel, but we hadn’t driven around enough to test the new and improved van. Luckily she handled those northern roads with no worries and got us to local hidden gems. We spent the early days of our trip driving windy, West Coast roads, gazing at beautiful farmland and enjoying the local pubs. We wouldn’t have asked for anything different and highly recommend the Opononi local. If you stop by, mention we sent you.
Our just down the road mentality had kicked in. We were open to going wherever the van could take us. From bustling big smoke cities, to coastal Bay of Plenty roads, we ventured far and wide. We especially loved the quaint Waikato towns and cafes like Punnet Eatery located in Tamahere. State Highway one lead us past a beautiful blue lake, a desert fit for a small Island and Mountains that you would think had been made for movies.
Heading due East from the world’s smallest capital, we traversed across the Remutakas and appeared in Featherston. The sun peaked out from the clouds and glowed over generations old farmland. As we made our way to the coast, we were blown away by New Zealand’s picture perfect landscapes. Within minutes we had the wild ocean on one side and huge towering cliffs of rugged rocks on the other. The coast was the ideal location to park our bedroom on wheels, open the boot – aka our viewing platform – and catch the last little bit of sun that settled over the mountain ranges. The perfect sunset to end the perfect North Island departure.
The North Island had treated us well. We had seen such beautiful spots and enjoyed going just down the road, but to find our Southern Serenity we needed to carry on. A one way ticket to the Sounds was the only option.
Our first mainland adventure had us searching for beautiful lakes inside our native forests. Our trusty Ford zigzagged, climbed, coasted its way to Mt Robert, a beautiful hike on the Nelson Lakes. This was the ideal spot to park the van and get to it. With no tourists (bar ourselves) around, we were able to enjoy the beauty and calmness of the Tasman region. From the bottom of the lake, to the top of Mount Robert we shared the track with only birds and small creatures.
Our favourite part about New Zealand is that you can hike in the morning and surf in the evening. It’s truly like nowhere else in the world. We wanted to stop taking Aotearoa for granted. We wanted to start truly appreciating the Land of the Long White Cloud. From the Tasman region, we went just down the road looking for some swell. That’s where we found the stunning Kaikoura coast line. What a place. Surfing secrets spots with some local friends was the cherry on top and that cherry got even sweater when some other friendly seal locals joined in on the action. Surfing southern water with snow-capped mountains in the background is something that stopped us in our tracks. Talk about heaven on earth. This was the start of what we had been looking for. We picked up some freshly caught kaimoana and retreated to our humble van for another night tucked away under the stars.
Visiting old friends had been an amazing part of our search. There is something nostalgic about seeing an old buddy, thinking that relationship has been lost in time and arriving to the fact it feels like just yesterday. Canterbury has always held a special place in our hearts. Dre went to University there before, during and after the 2011 earthquakes. The city has flourished since then, overcoming the devastation to become something beautiful. We enjoyed every minute exploring the Riccarton cuisine, Banks Peninsula surf havens and the foot of the Southern Alps.
We left knowing we were only days away from our serenity. As the Mountains grew bigger, so did our excitement. We found beautiful reflective lake views, cute coffee corners and utter excitement for what was just down the road. We had made it. We had found our Southern Serenity. Within days of arriving we had signed a new lease for a new home in Arrowtown. Our trusty stead was parking up and getting some much needed rest for her next adventure.
In a time when parts of Aotearoa and its people are hurting we decided it’s time to move. We are very lucky and appreciative that we are in a situation where we can head off on this adventure. We know there are people that would love to be in this situation; but unfortunately can’t. This is our small way of giving you, the reader, an insight into it what it was we decided to do. If you would like to talk to us about tips for making the trip more affordable, recommendations for spots to stay, or just have a good ol’ kōrerorero please don’t hesitate to reach out.
We have started Just Down the Road as a platform to showcase the beauty of Aotearoa. If Planet Earth had a beautiful country award, we believe New Zealand would be the undefeated champions. It’s not just its magnificent landscapes and scenery though. It was also about highlighting all the beautiful and quirky businesses around us. Just Down the Road is a community driven movement to share and enjoy Aotearoa. If you’re interested in exploring New Zealand’s backyard and would like any inspiration please visit us @justdowntheroadnz or www.justdowntheroad.co.nz
Dre & Sierra