It’s a long drive from sunny Northland to the wild East Cape but with your mates in the car, some beats sorted, and a lose plan then you're ready to hit the road. We've mapped out some options from bridge jumps to breweries that will look after your taste buds, your temperature gauge and your post party hangover. Set off early so you can nail a swim or two along the way and stop at places like Ohope Beach (voted New Zealand's favourite but they were probably all east coasters).
The drive is initially pretty straightforward down SH1 until you get to Warkworth. If it’s a scorcher then you should take a left at Warkworth and head to Pulham Road and then turn off into Wilson road where you’ll find the beginning of the track that leads to the old cement works (there’s a signpost, so it’s not too tricky to find.)
Leap off the banks into the lake beside what’s left of the Mahurangi Cement Works, which are both creepy and interesting to explore. Or grab one of the rope swings from the trees (but check where you're leaping for tree branches submerged in the water as you don't want to go to A&E on your way to R&V). The deep water in the lake is a great way to chill out - no waves, no currents, just some essential floating.
Back in the car head to Auckland. Once over The Bridge, keep going destination South. Or, if you need an adrenalin hit, make sure you’ve booked yourself a bungee off Auckland’s icon - The Bridge. As AJ Hackett is a bit of an NZ icon himself, this is the perfect spot to take a leap of faith (and get your voice box match fit) and give you a full on pre festival buzz that you won’t shake off till you hit Gizzy.
If leaping 40 metres into the drink isn’t your thing, and you’ve got a little extra in the budget, then save your thrill seeking till you’re further South and take the exit at Hampton Downs - just before Te Kauwhata. You can throw on a helmet and jump from your car into a “Lambo” and race round the tracks whilst your cheeks wobble from the g’s you pull dropping into 6th gear.
At about this time you’ll all be getting the hunger on, so head to Rotorua and stop in at Abracadabra cafe for their rattlesnake salsa accompanied Californian burrito, an open sandwich or a falafel salad accompanied by a glass of Crouchers Roto-vegas brewed beer (and great coffee for the driver). This stop will restore your bodies and line your stomach in prep for the next few days. They also have a great range of lip licking sweet things so there’s something for everyone.
And from Rotorua we have a couple of options. If you need a swim, head out on 85 towards Whakatane and the glorious Ohope Beach. Ohope’s 11 kilometre white sand beach has warm water and safe swimming so its a perfect pre-fest stop. However, if you’ve still got a little mojo left, take a 15 minute walk from West End in Ohope over to Otarawairere beach - a stone/crushed sand secluded bay where you just might be the only bods there.
And now off to R&V and fabulous Gisborne. Reached by State Highway 35, The Opotiki, Eastern Bay of Plenty, East Cape to Gisborne road had earned a reputation as being a dusty trek. Now that it has been almost completely sealed, it’s sweet and is your highway to the beats and capers of R&V.
If you’re not into a salty dip but do want a swim before R&V, head out of Rotorua on 21 towards Te Urewera National Park and Lake Waikaremoana. Its not as balmy as Ohope but the clear waters of The Lake are cool and you'll come out feeling clean and ready for anything.
Post swim, head to R&V via the twisty turny dirt road direct’ish to Gisborne, or take the longer sealed route via Wairoa and then up the coast to hit Gisborne with some semblance of your paint job still visible.
Before starting off, check your driver is good to go (remember there are police checks along the way) and to give yourselves the best start to your trip, drive south along 96 to Mahia for a dip.
Mahia is a cracking long white sand beach with the clearest of water - the best way to wash away seediness.
If you’re after a coldie (sorry not you driver), pop into the Crafty Trout Brewery’s Bier Kafe to sample some of their Taupo specially brewed beers and ciders. Upstairs they serve a great selection of wood fired pizzas and burgers, so if you’re in need of a carbo load to offset your post festival head, then this is the place for you.
Back in the car you have two options - if you just need a shower and your bed hit hit 99 headed for Tokoroa then Hamilton and up onto Auckland. Or, if you’re in need of one last buzz head out on 99 and detour onto 85 destination Te Kuiti and Waitomo’s fabulous sparkly caves. Once you’re at Waitomo you have two options to let the darkness take you. Don your helmet and launch yourself into the ethereal but yell inducing Black Abyss, where you descend into the seemingly endless depths of Ruakuri Cave, before taking the zipline through the crazy glowworm-starlit halls and climbing underground waterfalls.
If you’re more of a water junkie, grab a helmet and join the original black water rafting tour - into Ruakuri Cave. Beneath a canopy of twinkling glow worms you’ll float along on your rubber tubes before plunging into the cascading, frothing tumult of the underground waterfalls that reflect the starry blanket of the glowworm covered ceiling. Don’t worry if it’s a tad chilly as the lovely folk at Waitomo will give you a hot shower - probably your first in days - soup and a bagel once you’ve completed your black water adventure.
Fully spiked, warm and clean, leap back into the car and head north on your way home.