I feel embarrassed to admit this, but I have just completed my first foray around the Coromandel.
Too many years have passed before I finally surrendered to the abundance of scenic charms this most blessed of regions has in-store. Basing myself in the beachy township of Whangamata, before the heady Christmas rush, the medley of rich pickings along Coromandel’s Pacific Coast are as a sweet and succulent as sun-kissed holiday berries.
Few New Zealand beaches can compare to the sweeping magnificence of Whangamata’s main ocean beach, renowned amongst surfies as a most reliable performer, with the legendary “Whanga bar” delivering the best breaks. Big game fishing, golf, mountain biking and bush walks are all on-tap.
Don’t miss the cascading beauty of Wentworth Falls, a one hour walk through sublime native bush climaxing with the viewing platform and the swimming hole at the base of the falls.
In March, Whangamata crawls with classic cars, rock n’roll and Americana-themed diners, as the annual Beach Hop roars into life. Happy Days are yours and mine, indeed.
Heading north, with a cerulean sky and the cobalt waters of the Pacific Ocean stretching out in front of you, Hot Water Beach holds the unique distinction of doubling as your personal spa pool. For two hours either side of low tide, you can access an area of sand at the southern end of the beach, in front of the rocky bluff, which boasts a hot water spring. The real trick is to locate a spot with the perfect mix of hot and cold water! Pack a spade, or hire one from the adjacent beachside shop, and treat yourself to an indelible holiday soak.
Maori believe Kupe discovered the Coromandel coast in 950AD, originally attracted by the now extinct moa. Historic pa sites are studded along the coast, but I loved exploring Te Pare Historic Reserve in Hahei. The Ngati Hei stronghold, on a rocky headland with the sea on three sides, is a lofty vantage point to survey glistening Mercury Bay and Hahei Beach.
But the piece de resistance for all travellers to this locale is the chance to savour the pohutukawa-fringed splendour of Cathedral Cove. I deliberately timed my visit for very early morning, when the sky is still lemony with the first rays of the day. Make an early start on the 45 minute walk down to this scenic jewel, and like me, you may well be rewarded with the gift of solitude. The well formed track weaves you through a fabulous melange of tumbling open countryside, ocean vistas and groves of native bush. On arrival, I had Cathedral Cove and its ivory-sand flanks to myself, with the exception of a breakfast-hunting seagull. Photos cannot do justice to the colossal stone arch, the rocky limestone fang, the natural waterfall shower, bone china -coloured sand and iridescent water, that shimmers like sapphires. God must have blessed this cove.
Nothing beats the freedom to roam on a great New Zealand road trip. Wherever the road may lead you, get closer to your destination in mind, by flying close to the starting point and hiring a car, to maximise every moment on your self-drive holiday.
GO Rentals is a great Kiwi company, who have cultivated a superb reputation over the past 15 years as a leading vehicle rental firm. GO Rentals offers a spectacular range of brand spanking new and late model rental cars, people carriers, vans and four wheel drives. The company operates a large fleet of vehicles across both the North & South Islands, tailored to suit every taste and budget. You’ll find established locations in Auckland, Wellington Christchurch and Queenstown, servicing both airport and city locations.
I used Auckland Airport’s handily located branch and the highly personable, helpful and professional team made the experience fuss-free and efficient. Their commitment to customer service is second to none. Within no time of exiting the arrivals lounge, I was on the road to beautiful Coromandel in my gleaming Toyota Corolla.
GO Rentals offer exceptional special deals, so keep an eye on their website for the latest deals, and bag a bargain. To check availability and to make a booking jump to www.gorentals.co.nz or call 0800 467 368
WHERE TO STAY
Breakers Motel, overlooking the photogenic gorgeousness of Whangamata Marina is a terrific base for coastal Coromandel exploring. Apparently wedding-bookings are popular here, hence the addition of the new and luxurious honeymoon suite. Breakers comprises 21 contemporary units, with excellent kitchen facilities, super-comfy beds, private spa pools, swimming pool, playground and Sky TV. Contact Doug & Marie for a great-value and memorable stay. www.breakersmotel.co.nz
( Published in Mike’s weekly travel page, across all APN Regional newspapers. Jan 1,2013)