The Coromandel Peninsula is not a place for people who suffer motion sickness. In particular, motion sickness of the car based variety. This is a place where the roads are windy. Seriously windy. And steep. And often, a surface that is just dirt with a sprinkling of gravel. In some places in fact, the road has given up the whole pretence of being a road, and has just fallen into the sea, tired presumably of its lot in life.
It would, therefore, be a shame to suffer from such motion sickness, because you would be feeling awfully queasy a lot of the time, when instead you should be feeling gently delighted to be alive. Delighted in the sweep and majesty of the gorges, such as that featured in a previous post, the Karangahake Gorge. Delighted in the pristine sparkling waters that lap up against such white sanded beaches as Otahi. Delighted in the sumptuous feast that lies before you in the form of local delicacies such as smoked, well, everything.
I get ahead of myself.
The Coromandel Peninsula is located on New Zealand’s north island. It juts out into the Pacific Ocean, one of two fingers that jut out this way, the larger being where Auckland sits. It starts somewhere around the Paeroa mark, of aforementioned L&P fame, and sweeps on up, with a spiny mountain range in the middle separating it’s East and West coasts. This is the home to such treasures as the Karangahake Gorge and the L&P bottle. Did I mention the bottle yet?
There is much more to it than the gorge and the drink though. Head east from Paeroa, through the gorge and open cast mine that is Waihi and you hit Waihi Beach, the 10km stretch of sand that goes all the way South to Bowentown. From here, you head North, past a number of towns with complex looking names. You’ll find the Hot Water Beach, for example, where you can dig down a few centimetres a couple of hours either side of low tide and gain access to a hot spring. Except if you visit, like we did, in the tourist season, you’ll be fighting for access to 10 litres of hot water a minute with a horde of other people, resulting in a lot of folk wallowing in some, well, mildly tepid water. It may be best to just take your camera and photograph the whole thing instead, and stick to Rotorua for thermal activity.
Just a little bit north of the Hot Water Beach is the spectacular Cathedral Cove, a beach which is accessed through a giant, and somewhat unstable, rock arch. Large signs warn of the danger of walking under said arch, signs which are ignored by all and sundry. No doubt one day someone will be crushed by a rock, and a responsible individual will be able to look at the sign and make appropriate “we told you so” noises. In the meantime, the rock arch is wonderfully impressive and photograph worthy, even on the sort of grey windswept day we visited.
From Cathedral Cove the road continues North, past myriad beaches and tantalisingly interesting looking islands, floating just out of reach in the sea. A turn off at Kuaotunu leads to two such beaches, Otama and Opito, one of which boasts a headland which plays host to the remains of a Maori village – a steep climb up some steps to reach but absolutely worth it.
From there, it’s over the back of the mountains, and into Coromandel town proper. Here you can head even further North on the dirt tracks, to wild and explorable landscape and beaches. Or, you can stop and spend some time getting seriously acquainted with Coromandel’s smokery, a seafood lovers delight, where pretty much every type of seafood you can imagine is smoked and presented for your consumption. It may not be cheap, but it sure is worth it. If you only try one of the things, go for the smoked mussels, they absolutely cannot be beaten.
Once you’ve finished with the mussels, or the exploring, or both, you can head back down the coast, past the fairly large town of Thames, having driven along some further spectacular tree lined coastline. And your journey around the Coromandel will be complete, much as ours was.
This was the last in the series of three posts covering a brief one week trip around a part of New Zealand’s north island. The first covered Rotorua and it’s magnificent volcanic scenery, the second touched on the southern half of the Coromandel, and the bit of land between Rotorua and Coromandel, which plays host to, amongst other things, Hobbiton. I hope you enjoyed the journey with me. Further pictures beyond those featured on these pages can be seen on the facebook page – no facebook login required to view! Enjoy :)