Even though we only scratched the surface of the Coromandel peninsula, we fell completely in love with it in a heartbeat. There is so much to see and do and what we did see was pretty magnificent. We feel the need to come back here and explore it more before we can put together a ‘top 10’ list but here are our favourite spots so far:
Hot Water Beach was such a fun and surreal experience. It was mostly deserted when we arrived at low tide, until we looked more closely. There were actually swarms of people all gathered around one spot, marked by the sign: ‘Very Hot Water’. It turns out that there are two natural springs which spit out water as hot as 64ºC at the rate of about 15 litres per minute. People turn up in their dozens with spades and swimwear and dig their own hot water pool. There seem to be two main approaches: either wade your way into the crowd, put your stake in the ground and start digging, or choose an uncrowded already-dug-out hot pool and cosy up with some new friends. We did the latter and ended up walking to Cathedral Cove with our new pals later that day, then meeting up in Wellington three months later! There is a very cool and relaxed vibe with people travelling around NZ. Anyways, we recommend that you make sure to check the tide times before planning a visit to Hot Water Beach, as the beach is only accessible two hours either side of low tide! There are very strong rip tides too, so swimming to the offshore rocks is not recommended.
We visited Cathedral Cove after our hot pool at Hot Water Beach was engulfed by the cold ocean tide! It’s only 10 minutes drive from Hot Water but is also somewhere to check the tide times for as the picturesque archway and adjacent beach can get completely cut off at high tide. We managed to get a highly sought after car parking space at the busy Grange Road carpark and walk down along the coastal path to the cove. The walk was beautiful, took about 40minutes, involved steps (baby carrier essential) and was steep in places on the way back. There were plenty of beautiful bays signposted along the path to stop off at and rest or swim to cool down.
Cooks Beach, located not far from our incredible boutique campsite near Purangi (Flaxmill Bay, the fanciest campsite ever!), is said to be the place at which Captain James Cook anchored his ship in 1769 to observe the transit of Mercury. The views and coastal drives in and around this area are beautiful. You can catch the passenger ferry across to the shops in Whitianga and the famous Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove are only about 20 minutes drive away. Shakespeare Cliff lookout is 2 minutes away from Flaxmill Bay Campground, giving panoramic views of the bay. Camping on Christmas eve was pretty fun too, apart from the screaming, that wasn’t fun for our fellow campers…
Pauanui was one of our first stops in the Coromandel. After a long journey, we saw a playground and toilets and pulled in to stretch our legs! It was such a bonus that there was a beautiful beach there too. It was such a gorgeous day that Jeremy cycled the remaining 70km from here to our campsite! What?!
Donut Island, just off the coast of Whangamata, is a tiny bit of paradise, accessible only by kayak. The sun streams through the huge hole in the roof and once you’ve kayaked through the cave entrance, the sparkling water and lush vegetation inside are breath-taking. Lifeguards patrol the area to check that everyone doing water sports is wearing a life jacket. We witnessed a fellow kayaker tragically lose the fight for his life whilst we were at Donut Island…We tried to get one of our life vests onto him, but we think he suffered a heart attack in the water and although we did all we could to help with the CPR until the lifeguards got there, he didn’t make it.
Tapu was where we met up with our friends for Christmas. They live right across the road from the beach and it was a Kiwi Christmas to remember (of course we had pavlova!). The house was packed, the driveway filled with campervans and the garden full of tents! Not far from here is Rapaura Watergardens which we didn’t have time to check out on this visit, but next time! We thought that after 5 days in the Coromandel we could happily tick it off our ‘Tiki Tour’ list, however the opposite has happened- we want to spend about another fortnight here, exploring even more!