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Van tour of the op shops

Bette Cosgrove

Not only do we love freedom camping, we’re also keen on finding great charity recycle shops to purchase anything we need. So my vintage-clothes-obsessed daughter and I did a wee roadie in ‘A Van Called Wanda’ and filled her with treasures, found on the west coast, lower North Island.

We freedom camped all the way. So it was a great way to spend some mother daughter time doing what we both love. Adding to the vintage wardrobe collection and finding top spots to camp.

Heres a summary of all the places we found and the fabulous spots to camp along the way. Map images show the op shops we found.


First stop on the new expressway out of Wellington was the Ōtaki River mouth — right on the beach is great. Part of the Kapiti District Council responsible camping site network.

Down Mill Road there are three great charity stores run by lovely local volunteers and plenty of $2 bargains to be found.

Ōtaki has 3 opshops, Main St Otaki, down Mill Road. Plenty of on-street parking. Large vehicles can park in the carpark behind the shops. Toilets are in the library and the park beside Little Theatre.



Levin has a great selection of opshops trailing along the main highway on both sides, and if you need to stay over, freedom camping is available during summer at Kimberley Reserve.

We passed through Levin heading north and picked up some excellent deals along the way.

Levin has 8 opshops & Save Mart. Most along Main St (SH1). Parking behind the shops on east or west sides.



Whanganui is opshop heaven with 4 great stores in the central city and three suburban shops worth seeking out on Google Maps.

We spent a lovely night at the Barrage Road site beside Virginia Lake which was perfect for a morning walk and spending time with the birds in the lovely aviary.

There are several great places to free camp here thanks to Whanganui Council and because there are many opshops plus a SaveMart you could stay a couple of nights in different places.

Whanganui has 8 opshops plus Save Mart. Mostly in the Victoria St area. Easy parking, weekdays. Worth visiting the suburban stores.


Hawera is a great little town in the South Taranaki District where there are a good selection of free sites to camp.

We enjoyed the dramatic coastal spot only 6 min from town at Waihi Beach Reserve with shelter belts and accessible toilet. This site accesses the dramatic Coastal Walk from a historic pa site and it was the perfect backdrop for a crazy photo shoot of the 80s classic wedding dress my daughter couldn’t resist in Gonville, Whanganui.


Hawera has 4 great opshops along High St, Hawera. Parking & toilet off Little Regent St with walkway to shops.


Returning home

Returning home via the Kāpiti Coast, there were quite a few opshops in Waikanae Village, Paraparaumu and Raumati.

Our favourite spot to overnight on the way home was the beautiful, North Waikanae Beach, Field Way site next to Waimeha Stream. Our van was packed full of treasures by then.

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