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                                 HAMILTON TO WEST COAST (Raglan)             

TOURING THE NORTH ISLAND (con't)

Our drive through Waikato took us through Thoroughbred Horse territory. Our destination was the West Coast of New Zealand's North Island, where we hoped the sun would shine and we could spend some time on the beach.

Our plan was drive off the beaten track, down the coastline, to get a glimpse of some of the more isolated spots in the remote farmland back country.

DRIVING ROUTE-click to enlarge (then HOLD mouse on pic until icon appears & click icon again to expand)

Hamilton

We arrived in Hamilton early enough in the day to explore the city.

We visited the 50 ha Hamilton Gardens, which has a world-class reputation with it's feature gardens from herbs to English, Japanese, Chinese and Italian Renaissance themes.




From Hamilton we drove the twisty 48 km road to Raglan, where surfers flock to the ironside beaches, famous for their left handed surf break and laid back lifestyle.

The Land of Black Sand

Raglan is a small friendly community, situated in a protected bay and surrounded by an estuary. The beaches around Raglan are all black sand and the surf is impressive as the Tasman Sea meets the coastline at an angle, creating long uniform waves that can produce incredible surfboard rides lasting up to 10 minutes.

The Coastal Drive

Our adventures on the road less traveled began on a narrow gravel road referred to as a "middle road." We could only surmise that it is so named because you have to drive in the middle of the road because the road is only wide enough for one car. It was always exciting to wonder if you would meet another vehicle head-on around each twisty blind turn in the road. However the road was almost deserted.

We passed numerous beaches, some rocky, some with miles of sparkling black sand. There were usually surfers in abundance at all the beaches. We chose to spread out the mat and soak up some rays at Ngarunui Beach first. The road down to the beach afforded some great views of the strip of sand below.

Fun in the Sun!

We continued down the road passing through small towns, which comprised of surfer summer homes perched on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. At Ruapuke Beach, we took another break and planted ourselves on the sand. We all took long walks on the beach, had some lunch and just relaxed. The illusive sun felt so good that we planned to make the most of it! Chris even tried his boogie board in the Tasman Sea.

 

Norman Greenbomb was really put to work on this trip. Loaded to the hilt, he safely took us along many roads that were barely more than cattle trails.

Rugged Wilderness

The road not only took us along the rugged coastline but through paddocks and farmland. It was sheep country for sure. At one point, we were the entertainment for two border collies who decided that they should run out and herd the car... one was heading Norman, and one was healing! They ran with the car for quite some time making us really nervous that one of them would end up under a tire!

Bridal Veil Falls

A 20 minute walk descending to the base of the Falls gave us a great view of the water plummeting over a 50m cliff formed from an enormous slab of columnar basalt. It was a great walk through the mossy, native bush and a forest of Pango trees. (pictured right)

 

Slippin' and Slidin!

We had driven for most of the day and were within 10 km of our destination of Kawhia. We had made reservations at a motel there and we would arrive almost on time. Suddenly we came upon a sign that said SLIP. What is a Slip? we all wondered. Around the next corner we got our answer. The road was completely washed out as a result of all the rain. Chris got out to assess the situation but, while probing the depth of the washout, his shoe was sucked off his foot and buried in the sticky, gooey red mud. Gord removed his footwear and waded through the slop to recover the shoe. We decided that this was one challenge that Norman wasn't up to so we had to turn around and drive all the way back to Raglan, then take the highway route to Kawhia.

Kawhia (kar-fee-a)

We got to Kawhia just before dark. We felt like we had gone back in time in the tiny, sleepy village of Kawhia. There was definitely a Maori influence and everyone was very friendly. The only place in town to eat was at the bar where the only thing on the menu was frozen, pre-packaged store bought pizza, cooked to perfection in the microwave. The bar was entertaining and we were so hungry it was all good.


Ocean Beach and Te Puia Hot Water Beach

There is also a Hot Springs on the tip of the peninsula west of Kawhia but we missed low tide so took a drive to the beaches to enjoy the sun anyway. We found amazing sand dunes on a long expanse of beach that was totally deserted.

 

Coastal Road to Marokopa

We continued our drive down the coast road, hoping that we wouldn't run into any more Slips by following the back road again. We were rewarded with beautiful black sand beaches all to ourselves and we made several stops along the way to enjoy them. Our next destination was the Waikato area to explore some caves.

Click here for PHOTOS OF HAMILTON TO THE WEST COAST

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