Beautiful Beaches

After our unusual train trip M and I got down to business, visiting some of the many famously beautiful beaches on the Coromandel Peninsula. Our hostel host recommended a place called New Chums Beach, which was on the way to Whitianga, so we decided to stop by and take a look. Another winding drive through the mountains later, we rolled through a small quiet town and parked up at a beach. It turned out that New Chums was about a half-hour walk away, which was fine, but involved wading through a river, which was not so fine with M. I couldn’t really blame him, though.

Not a day for swimming.
Not a day for swimming.

It still looked about to rain at any second, so we decided to leave New Chums Beach for another, sunnier day.

Our next stop was Whitianga where we found a hostel to stay the night, but that was not without some difficulty. It turned out that today was the day of Whitianga’s annual Scallop Festival, so after we booked into a hostel we wandered downtown to check it out. To our surprise, it was less street booths selling scallop-based food and more music/wine tasting festival with a vague scallop theme. The tickets to the event were also $55 at the door, so we quickly retreated back to a much cheaper fish and chips place for lunch.

After lunch, we drove out to the most famous of the Coromandel beaches, Cathedral Cove, trying to ignore the grey skies above. We did find that, unlike New Chums Beach, the parking lot for the cove was still well-populated despite the weather. The path to Cathedral Cove followed the cliffs above the sea, with more hills on the other side.

Ominous.
Ominous.

On the way, signs pointed the way to Gemstone and Stingray Bays, which the guidebook also mentioned as being quite nice, but we were on a mission to the main attraction.

Spot the man!
Spot the man!

The steps on the way down to sea level were muddy and flooded from the recent rain, but we finally made it down to the beach.

The vaulted arch does resemble that of a cathedral!
The vaulted arch does resemble that of a cathedral!

Even in the grey, it was beautiful.

Imagine it in the summer…

Unfortunately for us, we arrived around high tide and could not get through the arch to the actual Cathedral Cove beach (the path dumped us out on Mare’s Leg Cove).

We can just about see the beach.
We can just about see the beach.

As a consolation prize, though, the rain did mean that a small waterfall on the far end of the cove was probably much stronger than usual. We had a snack sitting on a rock by this waterfall, watching the strong waves wash closer and closer up the beach. This is definitely another place that we want to return to on a better day, especially since one of the bays on the way to Cathedral Cove has an underwater snorkeling trail.

Stingray Bay. We couldn't see the beach due to the high tide.
Stingray Bay. We couldn’t see the beach due to the high tide.

For now, we had one more beach to visit today. M insisted that, while we were here, we go to Cook’s Beach, the place where Captain Cook first set foot on New Zealand. We arrived as the sun was going down, but it was still a nice, if smaller, beach.

Sadly we did not have a flag to plant.
Sadly we did not have a flag to plant.

Of all the places to land it seemed that this particular place was perhaps not the easiest due to the many islands offshore, but at least it wasn’t surrounded by cliffs like Cathedral Cove. It seemed more peaceful than Cathedral Cove, which we didn’t have to ourselves even on a rainy day in the winter, but probably not worth a repeat visit.

Three beaches in a day tired us out, so after a seafood pizza (including scallops, of course) at a unusually busy restaurant (the festival plus a rugby game in the evening meant there was a lot of tipsy middle-aged people about), we collapsed at the hostel.

As we were so tired, what better way of relaxing the next day than by going to yet another beach? However, unlike most other beaches this one has a hot spring located under its sands, perfect for soothing travel-weary muscles. It is, appropriately, called Hot Water Beach and for two hours on either side of low tide, you can dig a hole in the sand that fills with water from the spring. We packed up and left the hostel early, rented a shovel from the local cafe, and headed to the beach.

Wonderful!
Wonderful!

By some miracle, it was a perfectly clear day, even if the wind was strong and a bit chilly. The beach was therefore busy and we had clearly arrived later than many, who had already excavated large pools. We staked out a spot and started digging, but the water was a little cold. We wandered around the area looking for warmer water, and were surprised to walk over an area of sand that nearly burned our feet! It appeared that most of the “Goldilocks” spots were already taken, but as we were about to resume digging out our cold pool the people next to us left, so we quickly moved into their large and warm pool.

Thanks, guy in blue swimming trunks!
Thanks, guy in blue swimming trunks!

It was like sitting in a warm bath, which was just perfect after the cold rainy day we’d had yesterday. After relaxing for a bit, periodically digging out sand that had fallen in, we offered the pool to another group, who’d been working hard to dig out their own, and tried to rinse off all the sand that had gotten everywhere. We then had a nice snack at the cafe where we’d gotten the shovel and set off on our way home.

On the way, we made one final stop in the town of Tairua. The southern suburb of the town is built on the steep slopes of an ancient volcanic core called Mount Paku, which the guidebook mentioned had awesome views.

Don't know why they would start building on such a steep mountain.
Don’t know why they would start building on such a steep mountain.

Since we were in the area, and because the suburb meant that we could drive most of the way up the mountain, we parked up and scrambled ten minutes up to the top. As promised, the view was spectacular:

The view towards Tairua.
The view towards the Coromandel range.

Even better, a fantail clearly made his home on top of Mount Paku, and after cheeping at us for a bit trying to get us to leave, he flitted around snapping up the many bugs flying around. After the previous two days of rain and cold, the sun felt so good that we sat on the top of the mountain for longer than we expected.

The path down.
The path down.

Eventually we said good-bye to the fantail and headed back down, wanting to get back into Auckland before the Sunday afternoon traffic set in. Happily, we were successful in this goal and arrived home in time to go grocery shopping, including a cake for M. His birthday weekend ended much better than it began!

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One thought on “Beautiful Beaches

  1. Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing. Reminiscing at the moment! We went to Whitianga in Feb2013. Totally unforgettable. http://admiraltylodge.co.nz – our favorite place to stay. We visited the Cathedral cove and had dinner at the local pub :0) We also went to Hot Water Beach 🙂

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