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We visited the Coromandel Peninsula region in September during the Whitianga Scallop Festival that takes place every year. This region is very popular with locals as it is only two hours drive from central Auckland and we had gotten raving feedback about its abundance of golden beaches, rainforests, crystal clear waters perfect for kayaking and the famous hot water beach and cathedral cove.
Since arriving in New Zealand earlier in March 2015, we have travelled far and wide across both North and South Island. From Bay of Islands, Northland region all the way to Lake Wanaka in the south island, we have covered many areas and the vast diversity of landscape – mountains, gorges, glaciers, lakes, volcanoes, forests and sea – of this beautiful country. Six months into our travels, we finally made it to Coromandel Peninsula and I must say the positive review did not disappoint! We fell in love with this region starting from the scenic drive to get here. The roads are really windy mountain roads and you pass through some spectacular views of gorges and rainforests with the blue sea behind them.
Hot Water Beach
One of the first things we wanted to experience here was the hot water beach, rated as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. So we stayed at the Top 10 Caravan Park – Hot Water Beach. You can only experience the hot water beach twice a day during for two hours on either side of low tide. They tell you the times at reception and you can bring your own spade or rent one of their spades. I must say it was an interesting and fun experience, but not relaxing at the least! You spend half the time digging a hole, guarding your space from others trying to do the same, and all the time trying to keep the hot water in your pool whilst not allowing the cold waves from the sea crashing onto your hot pool. The actual area where the hot water passes underneath the sand is very narrow and there are lots of people trying to get access to the same stretch of beach. Nonetheless it was quite amazing just experiencing such unique geological feature. We have never seen anything like it, at some points the water is scalding hot and you can’t even touch it, let alone sit on that hot sand. I think if we were to do it again, we would go on a weekday in the morning rather than a Saturday evening.
The next day we visited cathedral cove walking through the beautiful Te Whanganui- A-Hei marine reserve to get there. You can only access the cove by walking, boating or snorkelling there. From the car park to cathedral cove takes about 45 minutes and you pass through Gemstone and Stingray bay. The views during the walk were absolutely stunning, the blue sea, fringed with coastal forests and the water looked so inviting – crystal clear at each of the bay we stopped at. We can’t wait to swim here when we head back to this Coromandel in February! This area has some of the best kayaking in the North Island and just looking at the crystal clear waters, and the fact that it’s a marine protected area, I can only image the rich diversity of marine life in these waters :-)
When we finally reached cathedral cove, I was pleased to see how undeveloped and pristine it still was – no amenities, shops, or toilets. Given how popular the place is, I didn’t expect to find the beach so empty and peaceful. Mind you, we did go at the end of winter and it wasn’t during any holidays. It will be interesting to see what the place is like in the summer!
Whitianga Scallop Festival
The Scallop festival took place in the Whitianga town centre which you can get to by ferry from near the hot water beach area. We didn’t really want to drive into town so we took the ferry. Lovely town with a beautiful bay, boutique shops, plenty of restaurants to eat at, and the festival itself was a lot of fun! They had delicious scallops and other seafood as well, lots of wine tasting, good music and entertainment but it was all quite expensive. I am not sure too many locals get to attend this festival. I am glad we did go as a one-time opportunity, but I don’t think we would be going back again.
Whilst it was wonderful being here in Coromandel peninsula in the winter with few tourists and no traffic, we are really looking forward to exploring this region in the summer when we can swim in the beaches and kayak the clear waters of the marine reserve.
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