I arrived in Auckland almost a week ago now, and have spent almost all week with work. Even though I got a little time to explore the city itself yesterday, I am now ready to get out of the city. I have seen enough about New Zealand to know that the countryside is going to be beautiful.
The one thing about New Zealand and especially Auckland is that you have so many options. I had taken a look at some options such as Bay of Islands, Rotorua or somewhere near Hamilton. In the end, I decided on visiting some areas around the Coromandel Peninsula.
The drive looked to be around two hours or some 150km. It does depend on the particular destination on the Coromandel Peninsula that you are heading. I set out on the motorway heading to the southeast of Auckland before joining the winding Kopu-Hikuai Road. The road winds its way through the mountains of the Coromandel Forest Park before meeting with the eastern coast. It is here that I made my first stop at the small town of Tairua.
I stopped at the visitors center in Tairua to get some maps and further information about the Coromandel Peninsula. Mainly interested to see what some of the options are to visit in the area. It turned out there was an interesting spot quite close. A short drive of just two minutes and I was t Mount Paku.
Mt Paku has a height of 179m above sea level, and you can drive almost to the top. From the parking area, there is a short but steep walk up a trail, stairs and some large uneven rocks.
However, for the effort of this short walk, you are rewarded with quite a stunning view over the coastline. Looking out to the Pacific Ocean there are some small islands. To the south, you can see the town of Pauanui and the inlet to Tairua Harbour.
From Mt Paku I continued north along the coast driving along winding mountain roads. There were many spots where you could stop to see and photograph the fantastic views. Around 30 minutes later I arrived into another small town by the name of Hahei, which is around 1km from Cathedral Cove.
Before finding a spot for lunch, I stopped briefly to take a look at the beach. Hahei beach did look very nice, but there were few people here. I think the cooler weather today could have had something to do with that.
Since it was around lunchtime, I decided to stop and have something to eat before heading off to Cathedral Cove. A little back from the beach was a small cafe by the name of Grange Cafe, I enjoyed a burger and drink here.
In my original plan, I had decided not to visit Cathedral Cove. The weather today was not great, and the information I had found noted the walk as 90 minutes return. However, when talking with the person at the visitor center, Cathedral Cove was his recommendation. Even though it was quite overcast he suggested it as the best option with the time I would have available.
I almost thought I was going to be disappointed after coming all this way to Cathedral Cove. You see the parking here is rather limited, and it was very full. There were plenty of people parking in area’s that were not ideal. However, I end up getting lucky and finding a marked car park on my second loop around the area.
The walk itself down to Cathedral Cove is around 1.5km each way. It hugs the contours of the hillside in a meandering up and down the folds of the land. The last section of the path turns into a series of between 150-200 stairs to get down to the beach level.
As you can see above, there is some beautiful scenery as you walk the trail. But you will also find some breathtaking views as you step down onto the beach in this lovely sheltered cove. There are towering rock cliffs as you look both to the left and the right.
To the right, you will find a small cave in the cliff. While on the left you have a huge opening in the cliff which passes right through to the next cove. The opening itself in some ways does almost appear to be a cathedral with it’s pointed roof.
After spending a little while exploring the area, I retraced my steps back to the carpark. On the way back I followed a slightly different path, just to see a little bit different scenery.
Hot Water Beach
On my way back towards Auckland I decided to make one more stop, based on a sign I spotted. It was my second beach for the day, but this one is a little different. The beach is named Hot Water Beach, not because the water in the ocean is hot, but because of one section where there is a thermal spring.
With the cooler weather, it is a favourite spot for locals by the looks of it. Many people come down to the beach and dig into the sand to encourage the hot water to raise up. At the right time with the incoming tide, the cooler water will mix in and provide water just the right temperature.
Since it was getting later in the day, I started making my way back towards Auckland. I took roughly the same route in reverse and covered the distance in a little over two hours. It did take a little longer than this morning due to a bank up of traffic at a single lane bridge. You might be able to see to the right of the photo below they have almost finished construction on a new bridge for the area. The new bridge should make weekend traffic much better.
In the end, I was surprised when I got back to the hotel, and it was still daylight. So I took a short drive around the area nearby to the hotel and found this place to get some photos below.
Unfortunately, even though I am in New Zealand for 12 days, today is the only day I had to explore. However, I am extremely happy with what I have been able to see today. But not worried as I know New Zealand is a country that I am going to return and visit many times in the future. Especially since it is so close to Australia.