Elliot writes: We hired a car then drove to our apartment, we were spending a week there and it was next to the beach. There was lego and Netflix worked on the tv, we went kayaking and paddleboarding and there was even a pool there. On the second day we went to cathedral cove and hot water beach (which when you dug a hole in the sand near the sea it filled up with hot water) it was quite hard for us to get our hole the right temperature so we had to put lots of cold sea water in it.
We drove north to Auckland to return the campervan – this involved a fair amount of waiting as it was extremely busy, but otherwise went without a hitch, and just 100m down the road, we picked up a cheap and cheerful hire car for our remaining week on the Coromandel peninsula. We had booked an apartment which was one of the most luxurious on our trip so far – dishwasher, TV (with Netflix etc.), lovely shower, washing machine, lego for the kids, and access to paddle-boards and kayaks, and a shared pool with jacuzzi. We were looking forward to a fairly relaxing week!
Just down the road from the apartment was Mercury Bay which we explored on the kayaks and paddleboards that we had access to. As first-time paddleboarders, we did ok (no falling in) and I even spotted a ray fish very close to shore.
Hot water beach is about a 40-minute drive south from Whitianga along route 25. If you dont mind walking a few hundred metres, the first sign for parking is the one to take here, just before crossing the river, as it’s free. If you need to park closer, there is paid parking further on. We had done our reserach and gone at low tide to access the hot water under the sand, and it was already getting busy. We managed to get a spot, but hadn’t come prepared with shovels like most, and had to do the digging with our hands! Not far down was hot water – some of it scalding hot, so you needed a bit of seawater to help cool your ‘pool’ down. Getting a comfortable temperature here was quite a challenge! We recommend that you come prepared with buckets (too add cold water) and spades…
From Hot Water Beach we drove up to Hahei, parking at the Cathedral Cove Park and Ride. After a picnic lunch on Hahei beach, we took the shuttle bus to the start of the Cathedral Cove walk (there was no other option as the first section of path up from the main beach was closed). Even from the bus drop-off point, it was a hilly walk, busy with other tourists, and a hot windless day. We reached the Archway (a busy spot with people getting their iconic selfie photos) and spent a bit of time relaxing on the beach, and cooling off in the cold sea, before walking back to get the shuttle bus back to the car. There are some stunning views offshore as you navigate this path…
On another day, we decided to take a trip to the town of Coromandel. We would have taken the SH25, but there were plenty of signs indicating that this was shut near Kūaotunu. So we decided to try ‘The 309 Road’ which is a 22km gravel road across the mountains. It had rained before using the road, and the hills were in cloud, so it was fairly muddy. It turned out to be ok in a two-wheel drive, but our white car was very muddy by the time we arrived. The town of Coromandel was a little disappointing; there were a couple of gift shops, bait shops, cafes and restaurants. We’d also arrived quite late in the day, so places were starting to close. We didn’t stay too long before returning home. On a nice day, if you just want to chill in a cafe, and browse gift shops, it’s probably worth a visit!
On the recommendation of a local, saying it was her favourite beach on the peninsula, we went to explore Otama beach – fortunately, the road closure at Kūaotunu didn’t prevent us from getting there. On the beach, where we only saw a few other people come and go, there was the start of a den made of driftwood which we added to and modified. It was a lovely beach with very soft white sand, but it’s pretty remote with no facilities, so you need to go prepared with food and drink etc.
Finally our time in Whitianga was up and we returned to Auckland, dropping off the car and getting a transfer to the airport to continue our travels onto Santiago, Chile.
Our journey for this post is shown on the interactive map below: