We packed up Blanche on Friday morning in Orewa and drove through the rain in Auckland and along the scenic coast route around the Hunua Ranges to our destination, the Coromandel Peninsula.
We planned to spend several days travelling round. I had a few walks in mind after reading various brochures and looking on the internet - the Port Jackson coastal walk to Stony Bay in the far north of the peninsula, the cliff top walk from Hahei to Cathedral Cove, and the more strenuous tramp to the Pinnacles.
Our first stop was overnight just north of Thames at a small place called Tararu. We then drove up the coast road towards Coromandel town. The views around Manaia Harbour were lovely and we stopped several times to take a few snaps.
We drove into Coromandel town past all the expensive looking touristy shops and restaurants and could see they were aiming at the higher end of the market. The town itself was relatively pretty although I felt its location away from the harbour area meant it lacked the quality of Russell in the Bay of Islands.
After parking up Blanche at the campsite we walked into town to the iSite. The walk I fancied from Port Jackson to Stony Bay involved a 34km drive on a gravel road. Richard really didn't fancy taking Blanche along the road and we'd seen a leaflet about a coach that takes you to Port Jackson from Coromandel and picks you up at Stony Bay. Ideal we thought. In the iSite Richard enquired about the price, we couldn't believe it, they wanted $95 each. What a rip off. We decided to give the whole idea a miss rather than line their pockets.
Instead we found a leaflet about another walk, this one was to Castle Rock, the core of an old volcano and was just a few miles from Coromandel town. We headed off there the next morning. I have to say the 360 degree views from the top were pretty impressive, although from the leaflet I didn't expect the walk to be a mountaineering exercise, climbing up steep inclines, barely being able to workout the pathway and using tree roots as foot holds. I left Richard about three quarters of the way up, but I think he lad the last laugh as my legs still ache three days later. There's no way I was going to do the two day walk to the Pinnacles after that.
Later that day we drove up the coast to Colville. As we approached the sleepy village the policeman stopped us to check we had our seatbelts on. The place looked and felt like we were on the set of Heartbeat. The only thing missing was the theme tune.
After a night in Colville we drove south to Hot Water Beach. On the beach there are two underground springs and at low tide you can dig a hole in the sand with a rented spade and bathe in the hot water. The beach was pretty big with a small area by some rocks filled with people laying in hot pools. I assumed you just dug anywhere in the area and hot water would pop up. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. The hot water comes up in a certain place and you have to channel it to your pool. You don't want to get too near the centre of the spring as the water is too hot to stand in as it gets up to 64 degrees celsius. My tip is to arrive at the beach towards the end of low tide and sit in a pool someone has left.
The next day, not realising quite how sore the muscles in my thighs were, I happily joined Richard on a two hour return walk along the cliff from Hahei to Cathedral Cove. The beach there was lovely and we went at low tide which meant we could walk under the cove to another part of the beach. I wouldn't say the Cathedral part was as impressive as the Cathedral cove in the Catlins on the South Island, but the beach and views looks like photos I've seen of beaches in Thailand.
Hahei looked rather upmarket and the most picturesque town we've seen in the Coromandel. We didn't stay overnight there, but it certainly looked worth the $36 a night at the beach side campsite.
Later that day, we went further along the coast to Cooks Beach. It's where Captain Cook made his second landing in New Zealand. The beach and town were a little disappointing and nowhere near as nice as Hahei so we left pretty swiftly.
Today we drove along the twindly roads from Whitianga to Waihi where we will spend our final night in the Coromandel. We had a look at the working open-cast gold mine this afternoon. The mining here has pretty much come to an end with only 10 teaspoons of gold in every truck load.. They will shortly be turning the huge 250m deep hole into a lake for swimming and fishing.
We also went to Waihi beach which is long and sandy, but today was on the windy side. There are four campsites along the beach but all seem on the pricey side - which seems to sum up the Coromandel pretty well. There is some lovely scenery, but the area seems over priced compared to other places which are equally as nice or better.