We decided to spend the next few days exploring the Coromandel Peninsula, a popular Kiwi summer holiday destination with its great location just a few hours drive from Auckland.
Luckily for us, for this part of our trip we would have a local expert joining us, with Rachael’s friend Sian offering to show us around. We met Sian at her families property, near the small town of Waiuku just south of Auckland.
After some delicious breakfast, we were given a tour of the stunning ten acre site including animal paddocks and orchard. We picked some plums and peaches for the journey, before setting off towards the Coromandel. The drive took us through thick forest, with more of the steep climbs and amazing views that we were quick becoming accustomed to.
Our first stop was at the famous Hot Water Beach, which is renowned for the underground river of hot water that flows to the surface in the middle of the beach. Only accessible for two hours either side of low tide, the hot water can be reached by digging a shallow hole in the sand to create a personal spa pool.
With spade in hand, we made our way across the beach to where there was already a large crowd busy trying to locate the hot water. We began by trying to dig our own hole, however our attempts were a complete failure with ice cold water coming to the surface.
Changing our tactics, we realised it was a lot easier to wait for people to leave their successfully dug holes and quickly jump in. We were soon able to find ourselves a beautifully warm pool, and with minimal effort required! However with it being such a warm day, we soon abandoned it for a swim in the the far more refreshing sea.
We followed this with a drive to Cooks Beach, where we picked up some ice creams from the local Dairy before enjoying a relaxing stroll along the deserted beach.
Although we had only been staying in the van for a few nights, the offer of a proper bed for the night was too hard to resist, and we spent the night in Sian’s bach (holiday home).
Just two streets back from the beach, the small property was the perfect place to spend a relaxing evening, and we were also treated to a beautiful sunset.
The following morning began with a great coffee at the local cafe, and continued with a relaxing walk to Lonely Bay, the next beach along the coastline. As the name would suggest, the beach was deserted and we spent the rest of the morning sunbathing and swimming in the calm water.
Our next stop was the small beachside village of Hahei, which is the starting point for the popular Cathedral Cove walk. The walk began with a steep climb along a shaded trail, before emerging on the clifftop, with Hahei beach stretching out below us.
The 2.5km trail continued along the clifftop, with several more steep climbs and no shelter from the mid-afternoon sun adding to the challenge. Thankfully the views of the dramatic coastline were more than enough to keep us going, and we stopped for breaks at a number of viewing platforms.
After one final set of stairs we reached the end of the trail, with the amazing beach immediately making it worthwhile. We walked along the baking hot sand, with the imposing rock archway that gives the beach its name towering over us.
We were visiting on the Waitangi Day public holiday, and the beach was packed with a mix of tourists and locals. There was lots of people enjoying a swim in the beautiful clear water, but we instead decided to look for a shady spot to try and cool down from our walk.
Although it was still hard work, the walk back felt considerably quicker, and upon reaching Hahei we rewarded ourselves with some well deserved cold drinks.
After what had been a very enjoyable few days, we said our goodbyes to Sian before beginning our journey inland, making one final stop at Pauanui for some fish and chips overlooking the beach. Only a week here and this is already in danger of becoming a habit!