After a wonderful evening spent with Sue and Barrie we continued our road trip further up the Coromandel Coast. Some very twisty roads but stunning views later we made our first stop at Hot Water Beach – where we found the hot pools fairly cold but the sunbathing a bit more satisfying. Hot Water Beach is well known for its hot water, funnily enough. Underwater thermals mean that at low tide you can create your own private (or not so private, judging by the crowds on the beach) hot pool with nowt but a spade and a strapping young man (ha ha ha). Unfortunately all we managed was a rather cold puddle – it seems that there is a specific spot where you have to dig – but the morning was not ruined as it turns out that Nick can find hours of fun in digging holes on the beach, no matter how un-spa like they end up. Thanks Nick.
After a wander further round the coast and realising just how wonderfully quiet New Zealand’s tourist spots can be out of season (which only becomes a problem when you’re looking for a fish and chip shop that’s open) we had a picnic overlooking Hahei beach and then took a walk to the beautiful Cathedral Cove, so called because of its Cathedral dome-like cave. The cove is only reachable by a 45 min walk or a water taxi, and at times we had the whole bay to ourselves –lovely stuff.
On our second day we were able to see the best part of the day as we made it up in time to catch the sunrise over Whitianga bay, where we were staying at the (really excellent) YHA.
From then on it went rather downhill, with super strong winds and rain meaning that we had to explore the rest of the peninsula by car (although we did get out for an excellent stomp up a beach where we found the most amazing collection of sea shells).
Our last morning in the Coromandel was well spent back on Hot Water Beach (still no spa pool) with a cake break at the café there (didn’t need to eat for a week after) before driving to Mount Mauganui , near Tauranga, to stay with the lovely Chantal and Jamie for the weekend. Chants and Jamie moved out to NZ over 2 years ago, and though they are in fact moving back to the UK this month, having missed them hugely for such a long time it was brilliant to be able to stay with them and see what Chants has been describing to me on Skype all this time! The highlights of the weekend included a sunset walk to the pub, several walks along the beach as well as two walks up some very fine hills (the Mount itself included), a LOT of dancing in an Irish pub and skyping Kate in Canada who also happened to be drinking Oyster Bay at exactly the same time as us. Oh, and Chantal tripping over the BBQ. Typical get-together for us then.
Another big highlight: whilst in Tauranga and waiting for coffees we bumped into Rachel unexpectedly! Rachel was at our wedding with Joe for those that remember and it was great to see another familiar face in a very unfamiliar part of the world. It was great seeing you Rach and fingers crossed we can catch up with you properly in Auckland later this month.
We were sad to leave Chantal and Jamie’s but we had another lovely evening to look forward to ahead of us – this time spent with Gaylene and Mark and their fantastic family near Napier. Once again we were overwhelmed by such a brilliant welcome and would like to say a big thank you to Gaylene, Mark, Wendy and Rich for having us – it was so good to see you and to catch up (and the BBQ was bloody amazing too!!). If you are ever over in the UK then please give us a shout!
Heading out quite early to make the Wellington ferry (a good 4 hours drive away) meant that we were able to drive through the gorgeous Hawke’s Bay region just as the sun was warming up. Once again we were absolutely blown away by the scenery of this amazing country – I have never seen a green that is as GREEN as the grass over here. North Island – you’ve been awesome. We look forward to continuing the journey in the South Island.