The time had come to start venturing away from the farm and Waihi to explore further afield, as up to now we had stuck to day trips. On the day we set off to explore the Coromandel peninsula it was a slow start. By slow I mean we were definitely out of practice in packing up and heading to the next destination. We had got it down to a fine art, as it would only take us 15 minutes to have all our belonging packed away in our bags. Having been living at Jono’s Mums, I’d got used to spreading out a bit. We did eventually get ourselves together and were ready to set off.
One of the real bonuses of travelling in New Zealand for us is that we get the use of a four by four Toyota Surf, thanks to David. It means we don’t have limitation on where we go and what roads we are allowed to use, as some roads are off limits if you have a hire car. It also means we are not reliant on public transport and this makes us truly mobile.
We packed up the Surf with what we thought we needed for a few days and headed out. The Coromandel is a mountain range that runs along the east coast of New Zealand just south east of Auckland and north of Waihi. Our first destination was Port Charles, a bay at the northern tip of the peninsula.
One of the things I struggled with before we headed out was how long it would take to drive around. After Australia where the distances were so enormous and you would travel for hours just to get a short distance on the map, New Zealand was more like travelling back home distance wise. If we’d gone straight to Port Charles it would have taken 2.5 hours but we meandered our way up taking the full day.
We took the west coast up the peninsula and I have to say the drive was so dramatic that it was difficult to take it all in. I think I’ll appreciate the beauty even more in a few months time. What I’ve found so far is that there is never a dull bit when traveling around New Zealand. Each scene you stop to take in is picture postcard perfect. The towns you pass along the way have a certain charm but are similar in feel and appearance, so the scenery is the attraction for me.
Jono did most of the driving on this occasion as he’s explored the Coromandel before. This left me free to enjoy the view and take pictures along the way. The roads are narrow and very windy which adds to the dramatic nature. The closer we got to Port Charles the road got worse. It turned into a ‘metal road’ which is a term I had not heard before. It’s a unsealed road but not a dirt road as it does have gravel on it.
We’d arranged to stay at a bach in Port Charles, which is basically a holiday home. It was owned by someone Jono’s mum knew and was very affordable. Our first task after arriving in Port Charles was to find and get into the bach. Finding it was not a problem as there were only a few properties in the area. It was pretty secluded and very quiet. The getting in bit was more of a challenge as we did not have a key. I did feel a little odd holding Jono’s legs as he slid in through a gap we’d made after levering the window open.
Once we’d settled in and I’d had a cuppa we headed over to Stony Bay, a cove further north at the end of the road. The road up to now had been rough but the next stretch was worse as a sign indicated - “Not maintained by the council – proceed with caution”, as a result we were rewarded by a secluded bay with a stony beach. I think the sign must put a lot off. As we rounded the corner after climbing up some hair pin bends, the view of the bay was breath taking. Once down in the bay, it was so serene and made a great place to take some photos. Which always makes me happy.
The next day we were up nice and early . As I was packing up the Surf I pulled my back and was in agony after that. As I’ve already mentioned the distances are not great and we made good time heading back to Whitianga our next stop for the night. Along the way we nipped into coves and beaches, one of my favourites was just outside Whitianga called Cooks Beach. It’s where Captain James Cook planted the English flag and declared New Zealand for King George III.
Once at Whitianga we decided to carry on and head back to Waihi as it wasn’t too far and we had plenty of time. One of the places to see along the way is Cathedral Cove. It’s famous and must be in all the guide books as it was packed when we got there. I’ve gotten so used to traveling off season that it comes as a bit of a surprise to see other tourists. We knew we were in for trouble when we saw a sign outside the tiny town of Hahei saying that the car park at Cathedral Cove was full and to take the park and ride in for $2. We ignored it and did find a space in the car park, pure luck on our part as a car had just pulled out. The walk down to the cove was pleasant enough but the cove itself was really disappointing. There were way too many people for the tiny beach and any charm had left with the boat that dropped off the ice cream vendor for the day.