Before I went away on the big trip in 2011, I spent an afternoon with two work colleagues who had spent some time in New Zealand, getting ideas as to where to visit.
Diane, who had lived in New Zealand for a year, told me that I must visit The Coromandel. Her absolute favourite place she said. Then she added that due to time restraints (we had only two weeks in New Zealand) that perhaps we should skip visiting here as it is out-of-the-way when driving from Auckland to Christchurch. I was somewhat taken aback, after all hadn’t she just said that this was her number one place to visit? Of course she was thinking it out from a practical point of view, yet of course now it was firmly on the list. Telling me not to do something has that effect on me.
We hiked part of the way down to Cathedral Cove. Signs informed us that due to some rock falls, we would not be able to walk all the way. It is about a 2 hour hike in all and we decided to take the shorter walk and take in the view as we had to be at the next stop at a precise time, determined by nature.
Hot Water Beach
The Coromandel is the weekend playground for Aucklanders. What Weston-Super-Mare is to Brummies, but better. With more sun. And a Hot Water Beach.
You have to time your visit to an hour either side of the low tide hence our short visit to Cathedral Cove.
Everyone comes ready with spades to dig holes on the beach and wallow in the hot water that bubbles through the sand. We just used our hands, although there is a shop selling spades on the entrance to the beach. And it is hot, very hot. I would hesitate to take young children there, although this didn’t seem to put off other families. Us risk averse Brits, I am forgetting that I was in a country where adrenalin is in their blood. Hot Water Sands, this is chill out zone in comparison to jumping of bridges attached only to a piece of rubber band.
We were there during low season on a Sunday. The car park was pretty much full as was the nearest campsite. The rest of the beach was deserted. When you get too hot, take a dip in the sea to cool off.
Purangi Estate and Pizzeria gets interesting reviews on Tripadvisor. I recall the guy in the tasting room, being completely crazy but in a good way. I have just asked Phil if he recalled the visit and he said ‘what that hippy dippy place?’ Sums it up marvelously.
There is a wood oven in the garden where they make pizza, which I regret not trying out. They also offer a volunteer intern scheme, providing food and lodgings in return for volunteering and learning about growing organic produce.
Danny, the crazy wine guy, advised us of a campsite at Cooks Beach although, according to the website, campervans can now park up for the night. Perfect if you want to spend a night tasting the range of wines, liqueurs and ciders with your pizza. And have the organic tea for breakfast.
Thanks to Danny at the winery, we scored a great place to park up for the night. He told us that he’d noticed a refurbished campsite had re opened after being closed for a while. It was so new that the girl in the reception didn’t know what the overnight charges were. We told her what we usually paid and agreed on a price.
There was one tent and one other camper on the site with us. We had all this almost to ourselves. The guy in the campervan was English, taking a few days out before joining Portishead on tour. In a bizarre and random conversation I discovered that he knew an old friend of mine, Mike, who was the lead singer of The Spics. Two campervans, Cooks Beach and this happens. It is indeed a small world.
Cooks Beach Holiday Resort is now fully opened with top notch facilities. We were so fortunate to have been able to stay here when we did as I reckon now it would be fully booked most of the time. When we were there, there was no shop and the new shower and toilet block was unfinished so we had to use the dated but clean one. We had the pool to ourselves and look at those kitchens.
At almost every campsite we stayed on in New Zealand, the facilities were excellent. A well equipped kitchen, BBQ area, lounge rooms with games and a TV, a laundry and clean toilet facilities with hot showers. The only thing that was shocking was the cost of the wi-fi. My solution was to find the local library where internet access was free.
Cooks Beach was a sleepy place when we were there in November. One shop, one restaurant. However in the high season it gets very busy and there were lots of top end holiday homes here. And the odd one or two that were not so top end.
We enjoyed a very laid back time here and were sorry to leave.
Not before checking out what to do if there was a Tsunami.
Back on the road, we stopped off at a the Colenso Cafe. The cafe specialises in local and seasonal produce and there is also a shop and a gift shop set in beautiful gardens. I would definitely recommend a visit.
The Coromandel is a stunning part of New Zealand that deserves more time. Two days wasn’t enough. As we drove south heading toward Tairua, we knew that this beautiful country would call us back to explore for longer.