EAST COAST LIFESTYLE: Clem Richards and Wayne Marks are the new managers at the Maraehako Campground. Photo Sven Carlsson OB4639-01

HAVING lived in Australia for 40 years, the New Zealand heatwave isn’t really that hot for Maraehako Campground’s new co-managers.

“It’s nice and cool, we get a lovely breeze,” says Clem Richards.

Having taken over the management of the Maraehako Campground three months ago, Clem and Australian co-manager Wayne Marks are revelling in their new East Coast lifestyle and making new discoveries at the campsite almost every day.

“There’s a pod of dolphins coming to the beach and many people have seen penguins.” A “nursery pool” where stingrays hang out has attracted orcas and he has seen seals and a manta ray. The diverse sea life contributes to an idyllic lifestyle.

“I think I’ll wake up one day and it’s not real. I must have done something really good to end up here.”

With campers able to spread out, unrestricted, and light fires at their campsites or on the bay’s stony beach, no internet or cell phone reception, a beautiful swimming hole, a waterfall nearby, quiet bays for kayaking and fishing and the sounds of kiwi and morepork at night, Cam says this is “Kiwi living at its best”.

“This is pure camping, we don’t have cabins,” he says. “We’re on spring water that’s purer that the water we sell in the fridge.”

Fishing is a highlight here with many campers bringing their boats, launching their tinnies and kayaks from the bay or travelling with bigger boats to nearby Te Kaha and Waihau Bay.

Often they will share their catch – fish and crayfish – with Clem and Wayne.
With a background in tavern and hotel management, this is the first time the couple have tried their hands at managing a campground.

“We have done a lot of camping,” Clem says. “We’ve lived in both West Australia and Queensland, driven across the country many times.”

He says last year the Maraehako Campground saw up to 1500 campers a day, but this season the numbers have dropped to 750.

“This is because this was the first year the campground was closed for a period during the winter. People mistakenly thought it was permanently closed.”

The camping season now stretches from September 1 to the end of April.

“We’ve had many long-term customers say they’ll come back next year after having missed out this season due to the misunderstanding.”

Plans for the next summer season include putting out half-drums with soil and herb gardens across the campground.

“We’re also looking at running flea markets,” Clem says. “There are many talented people making crafts on the coast.”

REAL CAMPING: Being able to spread out, light campfires on the beach and visit nearby waterfalls and swimming holes are just a few of the factors that make Maraehako special.