The North Island's west coast boasts plenty of good surf spots, including Piha and Muriwai near Auckland – the starting point for this 1200km or so Mighty Campervan road trip, for which you should allow 7–10 days. By the time you've hit Raglan and Taranaki, you will have caught many of the country's best surf breaks.
Just two hours' drive from Auckland, Raglan is a sweet little town with a beachside holiday park and a generous sprinkle of 'endless summer' vibe. Seasoned surfers should head to Manu Bay, rumored to have the world's longest left-hand break. Raglan Surfing School runs beginner lessons at friendlier, fun-time Ngarunui.
Raft Waitomo Caves
Head towards Taranaki via Waitomo Caves, amazing ancient limestone caverns adorned with weird formations and galaxies of glowworms. Intrepid adventurers should leap on to a Legendary Black Water Rafting trip then recover from all the excitement at the lovely, lawny Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park.
Cruise the Forgotten World Highway
Head south via SH4 to reach Taumarunui, the start of the Forgotten World Highway –an intensely scenic countryside route. Take the 160km-drive slow and enjoy all the ups, downs, and winding around, stopping to stretch your legs at various lookouts, waterfalls, and roadside attractions. Linger awhile in Whangamomona, a middle-of-nowhere settlement with a charmingly historic pub.
Discover New Plymouth
Taranaki's capital treads an enviable line between a busy industrial service centre and a vibrant small city with a walkable waterfront, notable gardens, and decent shopping and dining. Your New Plymouth hit list should feature Pukekura Park and Puke Ariki museum, and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery that holds the collection of Len Lye: filmmaker and kineticist extraordinaire.
Explore Egmont National Park
From New Plymouth it's just half an hour's drive to North Egmont Visitor Centre, sitting around 1000 metres above sea level on the slopes of magnificent Mt Taranaki. It offers a satisfying taster of the national park, being the starting point for numerous view-filled walks and housing illuminating information displays.
Hit Surf Highway 45
Ready to hit Taranaki's surf spots? Point your Mighty campervan south along 105km-long Surf Highway 45 from New Plymouth to Hawera. The semi-circular coastline is consistently pounded by the Tasman Sea swells, offering dozens of superb breaks for beginners and boogie-boarders, to experienced board-riders looking for big thrills. Highlights include Stent Road, the Kumara Patch, and Arawhata Road. Change down a gear, head down the side-roads, and enjoy the ride.
One of several significant settlements along the Taranaki Surf Highway, Oakura is a particularly family-friendly beach complete with big, fun rollers that wash up in front of the surf life-saving and boardriders' clubs. Oakura Beach Holiday Park has waterfront sites, with a pub, cafes, and shops completing the picture of the classic Kiwi beach holiday.
The spiritual home of Taranaki surf, Opunake has all the kit, coffee, and cold beer to get you rolling. Drop into Dreamtime Surf Shop to get the lowdown, and book in advance if you want to camp up at Opunake Beach Holiday Park – a gorgeous spot with a pleasant walkway on either side of it.
Near the southern end of Surf Highway 45 is Ohawe, the primo beach in the area popular with surf-loving locals and visitors who stay at the simple beach camp. Hawera itself is a likable rural town offering chance to stock up, dine out, and even climb a historic water tower for a bird's eye view of the area.
There are several routes back to Auckland from Hawera, our choice of which would be to head to Whanganui and over to Tongariro National Park via SH4, then onward to Taupo, Rotorua, and Hamilton.