Having spent a week in Northland, we decided we had time to see a few highlights of the Coromandel Peninsular – one of New Zealand’s most popular and best-loved holiday destinations.
Because our first day was such a wash-out, we ended up driving straight to a freedom campsite we found in our Coromandel guide book that was in a small coastal town called Kuaotunu.
Our bad luck continued when we were woken early by an irritable council worker banging on the windscreen. Trying my best to look like I was fully awake and that my hair was not all over the place, he told us we weren’t meant to be there and that there’s no freedom camping allowed in the Coromandel at all, despite what the guidebook says!
Getting out of there as quickly as we could, we ended up trying to visit the Waiau Kauri Grove and driving along the notorious ‘309’ – one of the bumpiest gravel roads I’d ever come across. When we eventually found a place to park, I was horrified to find our sparkling new home was covered in a thick layer of mud!
We managed to time a quick visit to the trees with a break in the rain and found that, unlike the trees in Northland, you can walk right up to the Kauris and touch them.
Although it was a short visit between downpours, it made a nice little detour on the way to our next stop – Hahei – where we took refuge in a holiday camp until it stopped raining enough for us to visit the Coromandel’s famous Hot Water Beach.
This beach has two springs that come from 2kms under the sand, where the water is heated to temperatures of up to 64 degrees celsius by remnants of volcanic activity that happened millions of years ago. The result is that, two hours either side of high-tide, you can dig your own little spa on the beach that fills up with a mix of spring and sea water to get just the right bath-like temperature.
Armed with our rented spades, we set about finding a patch of sand close to the spring that hadn’t already been claimed by the coachload of tourists that had arrived just before us. We found the best way to do it was to keep sticking a toe into the sand until you feel the perfect temperature and then start digging. If you’re not careful you might end up with a hole full of scalding hot water – like the people next to us did!
After relaxing as much as you can surrounded by people digging, we decided to take advantage of the sunny evening and see Cathedral Cove – one of the most picturesque places on the peninsula.
The bay is named after a ‘cathedral-like’ naturally-formed archway in the rock that you can walk through at low tide to get to the secluded beach on the other side.
Getting there involves a 30 minute walk along the coast from the closest car park and by the time we reached it the sun had already disappeared behind a white blanket of cloud. At least it didn’t rain again.
We felt a little disappointed leaving the Coromandel. There’s no doubt its very pretty, but I think it’s the kind of place where good weather is the difference between a fantastic time and an ok time. We would have liked to hike to the Pinnacles – a mountain range in the centre of the peninsular – and also to have spent more time enjoying the stunning coastline, but this time the weather just wasn’t with us.