Not too long ago my friend Ronna (from Five Foot Ronna) and I went on a whirlwind tour of the Coromandel Peninsula. Coromandel Peninsula is located in the North Island of New Zealand. It is close to Auckland and Tauranga but it is relatively isolated due to its rugged nature. The Coromandel Peninsula is known for its laid-back lifestyle, spectacular beaches and temperate rainforest. Running through the Peninsula is the Coromandel Range making for a windy, often desolate drive.
Neither of us had been before and it was on both of our to-do lists so what better place to go? On our agenda was Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. Anything else we could fit in would just be a bonus as it was such a quick trip. Ronna tends to prefer travelling alone, it was a bit out of her comfort zone to let someone else tag along.
Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way – Emma Chase
Reconnecting with old friends
I was so grateful Ronna decided to get out of her comfort zone and let me tag along. We have been friends for a good number of years now but hadn’t seen each other while I was overseas. A lot had happened in the 18 months since we had last caught up. The years faded away and the familiar comfort of friendship took its place.
Road trips are a fantastic way to spend quality time making memories with friends. Laughter, deep conversations, not so deep conversations, music and many photograph stops were the order of the weekend.
Twin Kauri Walk
Hiking time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Low, just watch out for tree roots and the occasional shallow stream crossing the path
Fitness level: Low, there are a few slight inclines but they aren’t long or strenuous
Access: Public road
Hidden on the side of the road, tucked into a corner sat a little waterfall that caught both of our attention as we wound through the hills. We parked the car on the side of the road and abandoned it, set for an impromptu explore. As we were taking photos of the waterfall we spotted a sign for a short walk to the Twin Kauri Trees. Naturally, we kind of had to do it while we were there.
One of the best thing about road trips is the spontaneous stops along the way. We hurriedly chucked on our boots and trekked up through the bush in search of these twin trees. Not long into our walk, we spied them. Two trees leaning against each other, tired from years spent standing to attention. Intertwined and reliant on each other. Much as an old married couple are. Their roots stretched out, yawning.
The walk took us around about 40 minutes there and back and worth the quick stop after hours in the car to refresh ourselves.
Hiking time: 2-3 hours there and back
Difficulty: Low, the track is concreted the whole way down to the bay and very wide
Fitness level: Low to medium, the track is mainly uphill on the way back but there are plenty of spots to stop and enjoy the view as an excuse for a breather
Access: Public road and carpark
Cathedral Cove is located in Hahei. It is relatively easy to get to but quite remote. The drive is worth it though as Cathedral Cove boasts postcard worthy picturesque views.
Ronna and I arrived in Hahei in to a wet, wild and windy greeting but we donned our jackets and headed down the path to Cathedral Cove. The walk down is fairly easy with a well-maintained path that meanders along the edge of the cliff line. Cathedral Cove is a favourite destination for many. We frequently came across smiling, if a little wet, tourists in various stages of puffing from the walk back up again.
Cathedral Cove is a 1-2 hour round trip but allow for longer as you will be stopping to snap photos at regular intervals. Well, I was anyway. The walk is downhill practically the whole way to the Cove. This means you’re walking uphill nearly the whole way back. It is never too steep however and easily achieved by everyone regardless of fitness levels.
Cathedral Cove emerges
Cathedral Cove slowly emerges from behind the trees. As you round the final corner and step down the last of the stairs you are greeted with the bay in all its glory. A beautiful sandy beach, islands of rocks dotted in the water, imposing cliffs and of course, the natural arch in the rocks that Cathedral Cove is famous for. A gushing waterfall spilled over the edge of the cliff at the far side of the bay and waves crashed into the natural arch formed into the rocks. The walk back up to the carpark is slightly more difficult as it was mainly uphill.
As it was raining when we trekked down, the bay was secluded. However, this is rare as Cathedral Cove is a popular tourist spot, especially in the summer. Be prepared to enjoy it along with plenty of others. This is definitely a must if you are visiting the Coromandel Peninsula.
A Hahei Sunrise
Both of us woke early so we figured we may as well make the most of it and took the three minute walk to the beach to watch the sunrise. As we sat on the dunes and watched the sun slowly emerge from behind the hills, a sense of calm lay over the beach. Seagulls, brave in the half light dotted the beach and the sky. Waves formed a rhythmic background noise and the clouds painted an ever-increasing pastel hue painting. No filter needed! The world woke up around us, as we headed back in search of breakfast as locals slowly emerged from their houses to take their dogs for a walk in an effort to start their days.
Our search for breakfast was unsuccessful so early in the morning. Apparently the locals like to sleep in. This goes in with the laid back atmosphere of the Coromadel Peninsula that we had come to recognise. We set off in the direction of the nearest town. The only shop open was a small supermarket so we stocked up on snacks for the day ahead and found another beach.
Cooks beach is yet another sickeningly beautiful beach pearched along the coast. Named after Captain Cook who was one of the explorers to discover New Zealand. No wonder he wanted to come back!
As we sat in the warmth of the sun, admiring the beauty bestowed upon us, I found a swing. Do you have one of those things that you are drawn to everywhere you go? Swings are like that for me. This was particularly pleasing swing as you faced the beach. Bliss.
Hot Water Beach
Another Coromandel Peninsula must see is Hot Water Beach. An underwater spring makes for a unique place to dig your own natural spa in the sand to sit back, relax and watch the rolling waves. Just don’t dig your spa too close to the waterline or it will quickly get filled in again! We settled for dipping our feet in and being slightly surprised that the water was actually warm.
There are only certain parts of the beach where you can dig to find hot water. “Hot Rock” waits 200 metres past the stream. This is where you want to dig. The best times to dig are 2 hours either side of low tide.
Hot water beach is a stunningly attractive beach. Pohutakawa trees line the rugged cliff encasing the beach. Golden sand lies in abundance and waves crash softly against the soft ground. A shallow stream lies defiantly in the path of the trek to the sweet spot where visitors vie for a digging spot.
If you don’t want to cross the stream (or pay for parking) there are alternative (free) car parks, you just have to walk down “Pa Track”. The stream is not too deep though. As Ronna and I are both not terribly tall, we watched others cross the stream before us to avoid stepping into the slightly deeper pockets of the stream where we would see the odd tourist stumble. This was a method that seemed to work well.
When to go to the Coromandel Peninsula
Both of these places are easily accessed by main roads and there are plenty of places to stay. It pays to book ahead, especially in summer. We stayed at Hahei Top 10 Holiday Park in a self-contained cabin. It was basic, but perfect for what we needed. As these are very popular places, the prices rise over the summer season and you will be sharing the views along with many others.
The Coromandel Peninsula is easily accessed from Auckland or Tauranga and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery (in my humble opinion!) in the North Island.
Road trips are the equivalent of human wings. Ask me to go on one, anywhere. We’ll stop in every small town and learn the history and stories, feel the ground and capture the spirit. Then we’ll turn it into our own story that will live inside our history to carry with us, always. Because stories are more important than things.– Victoria Erickson
Where to stay
Where is your favourite place to road trip?