Our journey to the Coromandel started off a little rocky. Our car wouldn't start and it had rained all night so our car was a little stuck. Luckily the Holiday park gave us a jump and helped push us out so we were quickly on our way. The forecast called for rain all day so we took our time going to the Peninsula. We stopped on the way in Hamilton to visit their Gardens. It's different than the other botanical gardens we had visited (that Chris loved oh so much). The Hamilton Gardens are themed from different places and eras. They have a Japanese, Italian Renaissance, Tropical, Maori, Indian Char Bagh, and more. There were other sections that were being renovated. We quickly walked through the gardens during a break from the rain then continued North. Once at the Peninsula we stopped to get some maps and information on the area, grabbed some fish and chips for dinner, then camped that night behind the Ngatea Public Library where freedom camping is allowed. Most free camp sites in New Zealand are only for self-contained (bathroom onboard) vehicles, but they do have a select few that are free for all types.
Our first full day on the Coromandel peninsula we drove up the west side of the Peninsula to Coromandel town. We stopped just south of town and did two 10 minute hikes to see the waterfall and Kauri trees. Kauri trees are some of the most ancient trees in the world. They are incredibly sensitive to their environment, so at the beginning of the walks to see them there are shoe cleaning stations. The trees are very large, like Redwoods, but do not grow as tall. That afternoon we went to Driving Creek Railway. Barry Brinkell originally built the railroad on his land by hand to get clay to use in his pottery studio. He then extended the railroad up the mountain to a lookout called the Eyefull Tower and charged people to ride up to help pay off his mortgage. It was impressive that he had built the thing himself. Chris of course asked about the bridges that were built and if everything was up to code (it is!). We spent the rest of the afternoon driving a loop from Coromandal Town, up to Colville, over to Kennedy Bay and then back to Coromandal Town. It was one of the scariest roads I've ever driven on. They were very curvy and narrow, but the speed limit was 100 kph so people were flying. I was going between 50-70 with a white knuckles grip on the steering wheel. I was so relieved to make it to the Holiday Park that night and even happier to go to the bar across the street after for a much-needed drink!
The next day we stopped to walk to New Chums beach. The forecast called for heavy rain, but it looked clear so we made the 45-minute walk along the coastline to the beach. We arrived to a mostly deserted beach with beautiful cliffs surrounding it. We were there approximately 10 minutes before the sky turned dark. It was like someone had flipped a switch from sunshine to dark threatening rain clouds. We quickly made our way back but failed to make it to the car before the downpour started. We arrived to the car completely soaked. We dried off and changed laying out the wet clothes all over the inside of the back of the van hoping they would dry. We drove the rest of the way to Hot Water Beach and stopped for lunch and beers at Hot Water Brewing Company. The rain kept falling so we hung out at the brewery with a paddle (flight) of their beers for a bit. A lot of local brews we had tried over few months traveling have not been very comparable to craft beer in the US, but the beers at HWBC were very close. Later that afternoon we scoped out the Hot Water Beach for the next morning before checking into the Holiday Park right down the road. The Holiday Park is the only place to stay near the beach, so it was full with people.
The next morning, we woke up at 7 to walk down to the beach to shovel out our personal hot tub. Hot Water Beach has hot springs that run underground. At low tide, you can dig into the sand and it will fill with almost boiling hot water. Low tide was at 9 am, so we went early to try to beat the crowds. We were a little skeptical of the fact that there would still be a crowd since it was winter. That morning was in the low 40s, and we walked to the beach in gloves, hats, coats, and socks with sandals (all our fashion sense has gone out the window at this point). When we got to the beach we could see the steam rising from the pools the 30 or so people had already made and were enjoying. We found an abandoned one, but it ended up being too far from the underground spring. When we dug down we could feel the warm water, but it wasn't warm enough to sit in comfortably. Luckily, after about 30 minutes someone left their very hot pool. We expanded it a bit to make it big enough for two people then enjoyed it for an hour. The closer it got to 9 am, the more people started showing up. By the time we left, there were 80-100 people there trying to enjoy their own personal hot pool. Next we drove over to Hahei to explore Cathedral Cove. It's about a 45-minute walk from the car park and has a few trails leading off of it to other beaches. We stopped by Stingray bay and took in the beauty of the blue water against the white cliffs. It turned into a warm sunny day, so tons of people were out enjoying the beaches. Some people were out swimming, but one touch of the water determined they were crazy because that water was freezing! We continued the rest of the way to Cathedral Cove. A large tunnel has been carved out by the sea connecting Mare's Leg Cove and Cathedral Cove. In both coves there are rock formations that are slowly being eroded by the ocean waves. We walked around the Cove enjoying the sun and view before heading back to the car. We spent the rest of the day driving south along the east coast of the Peninsula enjoying the view before cutting back west towards Auckland.
Chris & Taylor
Read our travel blog as we visit three continents in 2017.