Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

A view on our drive

Hot Water Beach

Evening view from our Hahei campsite

Morning view from Cook's Beach

A friendly sea bird at Ferry Landing

Shakespear's Cliff

A view over Lonely Bay and Cook's Beach

On our way to Cathedral Cove

Hahei Beach

Cliffs at Sting Ray Bay

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

Whitianga looking towards Ferry Landing

A view over Coromandel Town


Today’s journey is to travel 65 miles up the west coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. We took the back roads to the west of Waihi and joined the main road 10 mile above Waihi. The day is another one of winds and showers for us and snow on ski fields of the north and south islands. Despite the weather the views were worth seeing as we once more traveled up and down high hills and round many bends. At the motorhome rally most vans were named and it was enjoyable reading them. My favorite was ‘Sleeping Around’ and I thought we should now call ours ‘Over the Hill and Round the Bend’ as both names seem to apply to me.

There was no reason to stop, other than to shop for fresh food at Whangamata. Due to the poor day we decided on an early night and so turned off to the coast for a camp site recommended to us at Opoutere. This site is by a wild life refuge at Wharekawa Harbour. Unfortunately it was shut and would remain so until after the winter. This is the first site we have found to be shut but may not be the last.

We carried on until we reached Whenuakite and turned off to the right. Before going to out camp site at Hahei we again turned off to the right to visit ‘Hot Water Beach’, a volcanic intrusion about 5 to 9 million years old. If you read the beach information and dig a shallow hole in the correct spot two hours either side of low tide, it is possible to create your own ‘thermal hot pool’. The northern spring can reach a temperature of 64 C, (147 F) and the second 65 feet south can reach 60 C, (150 F). A hot bot spot.

Our walk along the beach to the thermal area was completed between showers and as it was cold, (it is winter), neither of us felt like stripping off. Fortunately I had forgotten the spade, which was just as well as due to the high winds over the last few days the tide hasn’t been bothered to go out very far, and the thermal area wasn’t accessible.

We have chosen the camp at Hahei because it is near to Te Whanganui-A-Hei, Cathedral Cove; the scenic site of the cave in the opening sequence of the new film about Narnia. As we wish to visit Cathedral Cove and walk on the beach and through the cave, the cove has to be visited about an hour either side of low tide; which tomorrow will be at 4.30pm. I declined the camp offer to pay an extra £1.60 for a sea front spot as it would be dark in 40 minutes, and once on site we walked through to the beach and viewed it on the cheap.

Next morning we went sight seeing around the area before our return in the afternoon. Further around the coast is Cooks Beach, formerly named by Captain Cook as Mercury Bay. In November 1769 he anchored in the bay and spent 12 days in the area. Along with Charles Green he observed the transit of the planet Mercury across the sun on 10 November. This enabled them to calculate the longitude of the bay. James Cook, my fellow Yorkshire Man, was not just a pretty face.

Our next stop was at Ferry Landing where we looked across at the town of Whitianga, a short ferry ride but 22 miles and 45 minutes travel by road. After speaking with a local friendly sea bird we retraced back as far as Shakespeare Cliff Scenic Reserve; (no idea why Captain Cook named it this). A sign stated no vehicle over 6 metres should drive up the road to the cliff lookout, so we parked our 7 metres van and walked the 1 ½ mile up the steep road. The views were magnificent and the work out worth while, even if it did turn out our van could have made the journey and saved us the walk.

On the drive back we again visited Cooks Beach and sought out the commemorative plaque to James Cook. Whilst taking photographs it began to rain and we retired to the van. So far we have been very lucky and had dry weather on each time we have been out of the van. We drove round to Cathedral Cove car park and the rain stopped by the end of our lunch. It was now time for the 45 minute walk to the cove.

Needless to say the car park was high on a cliff and the cove, as is usual, was at sea level. Fortunately we had the best weather of the day and a great walk in sunshine, visiting an extra cove on the way their and another on the way back. Cathedral Cove proved to be as lovely as the brochure pictures portray it. After walking through the large hole in the cliff face to the north side, we looked back and tried to envisage the start of the film when the children walk out of the ‘cave’ as if they have left earth and appeared in the new land. I bet the stars of ‘Prince Caspian’ don’t have to do the 45 minute each way walk, and the 740 wooden steps we met along the path. Still it was well worth the effort, even if the word ‘tired’ is a vast understatement; and not the word I used when getting back to our van.

There was still time to drive around to the town of Whitianga where we stayed the night, and it rained heavily once again. We had been really lucky to get sunshine today at the right times for us.

Another day and the showers continued. The main rain is at night and the day showers always give me time to wind up the electric cable and water pipe, (when used), in the dry. Before leaving town we visited the harbour and looked across at yesterdays wharf at Ferry Landing. Today’s journey will take us along SH 25 to the town of Coromandel. Ten slow winding miles over the hills later we came to a turn off on to a narrow road to Opito where we planned to visit. A sign informed that only small vehicles should attempt this road and we had to turn round.

Once over the next hill was a sign to Matarangi. This proved to be a small old town with a vast property development taking place for houses. The large flat area had a housing estate, golf course, and many more areas marked out for sale. Most of these dwellings will only be used as a second home in the good weather months by people who have boats and like fishing. After the hills this area seemed featureless and we were glad to be on our way and heading for the hill range between us and the town of Coromandel.

Before reaching the hill range we drove back to the coast to the much more traditional village of Whangapoua where we enjoyed lunch by the beach; then westwards once more. When we reached a sign stating there would be tight bends for the next 1 ¼ mile, (2 kilometers), I knew I was about to drive up a long steep hill using only second or third gear; and I was right. At the top was a lookout point over Coromandel Harbour and the off shore islands, and another sign about tight bends for 1 ¼ miles. At the bottom we drove through the town and as there was still time to drive further north, we decided to visit Coromandel Town on the way back.

The road from now on is forbidden by the van hire firms to their clients. Apart from it being narrower in parts it is still a sealed road as far as our destination tonight near Colville Bay. After a small detour inland the road followed the coast line round each bay before going over a hill to the next bay. Eventually after climbing a big hill we were dropping down to Colville Bay and a Park Over Property (POP site) on a farm almost a mile before the bay. The people in charge were house sitting the property and the lady told me to turn to the left through the gate and hook up to the electric point. These directions took me straight into a very soggy grass area where I got stuck. Luckily the male farm house sitter knew how to drive the farm tractor, and we were pulled out and parked on a drier but still soggy bit for the night next to the farm track.

A young Irish man who had found his way to this remote spot informed us he was going to the Buddhist Temple just down the road tonight, as some singing session was taking place at 8pm. We knew there was a Temple in this area but it was a surprise to learn it was so close. The Temple will be the first place we visit tomorrow.

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