Regular readers know how much I love New Zealand. I’ve travelled here often and am convinced that working for the NZ Tourist Promotion whatsit would be the job I’d love to do more than any other – except perhaps the be an extra (preferably a dog walker in Badger’s Drift) in an episode of Midsomer Murders. That aside, despite having tripped around in the Bay of Plenty I’d never turned left on the highway from Auckland and headed up the peninsula towards The Coromandel.
This trip is a relatively quick one – my Wellington-based bestie is having a party in Martinborough; a wine region just outside of Wellywood – so we’re making a mini road trip of it and after landing in Auckland, Coroglen on the Coromandel Peninsula is our home for the next 2 days.
The Orchard Homestay, Coroglen
There are not enough words to describe how completely perfect this place is. Not only is it clean, comfortable and spacious with a view down to the kiwifruit groves, but the stars at night…oh my goodness.
Anne and David, our hosts, have forgotten nothing. The fridge has enough provisions to make a country brekky, and anything you could possibly need is tucked away – right down to the spades for Hot Water Beach (see below) and a sensor light in the bathroom for those late night visitations.
We found it on Air B&B, but they have a website here.
Ferry Landing, Shakespeare’s Cliff and Cook’s Beach
Ferry Landing is one of NZ’s oldest Maori pa sites with, according to Maori story, Kupe, the famous/mythical Polynesian explorer and his people setting foot in Whitianga – just across the water – in about 950AD and calling it Aotearoa. In fact Whitianga’s full name – Te Whitianga-Nui-a-Kupe, means ‘Kupe’s big crossing place’. Ferry Landing is also the oldest stone wharf in Australasia, built in 1837 with the ferry taking passengers across to Whitianga.
Just down the road is Shakespeare’s Cliff – so called because the side profile is apparently very similar to that of the Bard. Yeah, whatever. Anyways from up here you can see for miles.
Captain James Cook ducked in here on HMS Endeavour when he sailed into Mercury Bay (so called because he mapped the progress of Mercury from here) in 1769 and dropped the anchor at Cooks Beach. There’s a very unimpressive sign at the actual spot.
Cook and his crew used Lonely Bay to “careen and clean” the Endeavour – I think that’s nautical talk for tipping the boat on its side so they can clean it up. That’s Lonely Bay in the pics below. Looking at it from above if you close your eyes you can perhaps picture the sight of the tall masted ship on its side, crew scurrying around. No?
Like lots of places worth visiting in New Zealand, this isn’t a drive up, take a photo and move on sort of deal. You need to walk for your views – around 45 minutes from the start of the main track.
In the summer months – from October to April – the carpark at the start of the track to Cathedral Cove is closed. This means that you either take a shuttle ($5 return) from the park and ride at Hahei to the start of the track or you walk to the start of the track from Hahei Beach – an extra 25 minutes…and mostly uphill. Naturally, that’s what we did. We had, however, decided that we’d catch a water taxi back from the cove. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: these guys are smart.
The track from the beach is a steep bush track and from the carpark is what my friend John would call “undulating” ie it goes down steeply and up the same. At the end to descend to the Cove are about 150 steep steps.
Having said that, the track is pretty and the Cove at the end worth every drop of sweat. Do make sure that you check tide times though and avoid arriving at or around high tide.
As for the water taxi? After smugly congratulating ourselves that we didn’t need to walk back up the stairs and the steep bits we found out that the water taxi wasn’t running due to…wait for it…adverse sea conditions. Seriously? It was like a millpond out there. Note to self – check with water taxi before starting out.
Another warning – wear proper walking shoes. We saw so many people in jandals (that’s Kiwi for thongs or flip-flops) and swimmers. I have just 3 words for them: blisters and chaffing.
There are toilets (long drop composting loos) at the start/end of the main track and a couple of vans selling cold drinks and popsicles.
If you want anything else to eat you’ll need to call into Hahei. We stopped at the Beach Store for a mince pie and can of L&P – Kiwi as, hey? They also sell over-priced spades in case you need them.
Hot Water Beach
Okay, this place is seriously freaky. For a couple of hours before and after low tide, the beach is packed with people with spades digging holes in the sand. The water that comes through is hot – sometimes warm, but also sometimes boiling. It mixes with the cold waves as they roll in but its definitely hot.
Some people seriously bring their noodles, eggs and veggies down to cook. Completely non ironically.
Where we ate…
Our first night was spent at Coroglen Tavern – just up the road from our cottage. I don’t know if it was because our alarm had gone off at 3.30am and we were knackered after travelling all day, or if it was just the ambience of a mild Kiwi evening in the country, but our fish and chips were fabulous – and the beers went down easily.
Our second evening was spent at Salt in Whitianga. On the marina with good food, fairy lights and exhausted bodies it all couldn’t have been more perfect.
Next time…off to Rotorua…