The Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand stretches along the coast directly east of Auckland. This beautiful peninsula attracts hikers and nature-enthusiasts from around the world because of its lush hiking trails, landscapes, and coastline attractions.
While our original plan was to spend a day or two hiking the Pinnacles, we had to make different plans after we learned that the trails were closed due to excessive rain (curse you, Spring). We therefore spent a couple of days exploring the Coromandel region and found these gems along the way.
This was our first stop on the way to the Coromandel and MJ had been talking of nothing else for the weeks leading up to our trip. She spent 15 weeks on a field studies program during college as a study abroad and was seriously looking forward to going back.
It’s beautiful, right on the coast in a small town called Kaiaua which has one bar and a seriously amazing fish & chips takeaway. We spent a night there in one of their cabins, resting and recharging before carrying on to Hahei Beach.
MJ recently wrote a post on her experience at EcoQuest and its significance to her and her studies. Check it out here.
Hot Water Beach, Hahei Beach
Hahei Beach was high on our list of things to do after we learned that hiking the Pinnacles was no longer on the table. We got two bunks at a hostel called On the Beach Backpackers, which is a crazy colorful and crazy awesome spot along the beach in Whitianga. We stayed the night, caught MJ up on Lord of the Rings before getting to Hobbiton later that week, and got up early to catch low tide at Hot Water Beach.
This beach is a pretty famous phenomenon and is usually pretty crowded. We happened to go on a cold, rainy day (again, awesome Spring we’re having here) which ended up working out for us because there weren’t too many people. So, after borrowing a shovel (this is a BYO-shovel location people) from our hostel, we drove 30 minutes and found the beach and the tell-tale group of people clustered around the “hot water” section of the beach.
This beach has a natural hot spring just along the edge of the water. This means that, at low-tide, you can literally dig your own hot tub in the sand between the spring and the ocean. The water can get crazy hot, so don’t try and dig too far up the beach, stick close to where the tide is just coming in.
Turns out, digging your own hole in the rain isn’t too fun. Lucky for us, we met a couple of German backpackers who invited us to share a huge hole that they had found already made once they got to the beach. We sat there, in the mixed rain and shine, for about two hours with people from all over who had managed to get there in time for the low tide.
We also befriended a couple of fellow Americans, who hitched a ride with us to our next location: Cathedral Cove.
Cathedral Cove, Hahei Beach
For those of you who don’t know me personally, there are a few things you should know. I am a Pinterest fanatic (seriously, I don’t even know how many hours I’ve spent on there) and the beach, any beach really, is my favorite place to be.
SO, after seeing, and pinning, many images of Cathedral Cove in preparation for this trip, I was SO excited to get there.
Yes, it was magical. Yes, it was everything I hoped it would be. Yes, I swam in the ocean even though everyone there was in full hiking gear. (And, yes, I paid for it afterwards by getting sick almost immediately.)
Unless you decide to go by boat or kayak, it’s about a 45 minute hike to the beach. It’s not particularly difficult, but it can be muddy and you should wear decent shoes (looking at you, American friends who decided to do it in sliders). The beach is beautiful and the “cathedral” cove is just as amazing in person as it is in pictures. We got lucky and managed to snap a couple of pictures before it was crowded with tourists.
After the beach, it was back to the hostel. We had an incredibly entertaining night of teaching our American friends about whiskey slaps (ask MJ about these) and trying to teach some French friends we met how to play Kings. In French. It got difficult a couple of slaps in.
This grove was a stop along our route out of Whitianga. We followed the Pacific Coast Highway, which started a little after this grove, to get to Matamata. It’s an incredibly beautiful route to take, you can read more about it in this post.
There are numerous Kauri groves in New Zealand, but the one we stopped at is particularly famous for its Kauri formation. The Kauri is one of the native trees of New Zealand and is both very important in the Maori culture as well as in the native New Zealand environment. They’re massive trees and awe-inspiring to look up at.
While we were here, MJ told me a little history of the Kauri tree. There used to be many Kauris in New Zealand, but they were so big that many were cut down in the early ages of the logging industry. She told me that there was one tree that was cut down that was so big that they used the stump as a dance floor. Now, the trees are protected, and for good reason.
Driving Creek Railways & Potteries
This was another stop along our way to Matamata. Its a beautiful, unique experience that has you boarding a tiny train that takes you up in to the mountain to a tower overlooking Hauraki Golf. We got lucky with yet another beautiful day and the view is absolutely stunning.
MJ wrote a more detailed post about our adventures at Driving Creek, you can check it out here.