January 4

"Norman Greenbomb" was stufed to beyond capacity with everything I thought we may need for our 8 day road trip, including a good supply of food, an array of pots, cookware, plates, bedding, pillows, towels, clothes for hot weather and clothes for wet weather, and of course...lots of snackies. Chris, Gord and I squeezed into the car and headed to the Town Basin to pick up Ali from Twix who agreed to join us on this adventure. Somehow she was able to shoehorn her belongings into the trunk and we were off!

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

The Land of the Long White Cloud!

Coromandel Peninsula

Some of New Zealand's most beautiful scenery and much of its early history lie in the north. We drove straight down Hwy 1 from Auckland and then turned east toward Thames and the Coromandel Peninsula, our first destination. The mountain backbone of the peninsula is made up of rugged volcanic peaks and steep gorges shrouded in forest. The beautiful landscape was enhanced by the remoteness of the area.

Unfortunately much of the scenery at the higher altitudes was concealed by the misty rain that clung to the hill tops.

Views from high up on the hills were cloaked in mist from the rain and low lying clouds.

Dozens of excellent beaches fringe the Peninsula and driving around the Firth of Thames Bay, we encountered several marvelous beaches, all but deserted as a result of the rain.

Kauri Forest

A few remnants of kauri forest managed to survive heavy logging in the early nineteen century followed by the devastation caused by thousands of miners who flooded into the area after the gold strikes were made. We took a stroll along the boardwalk that ran through a 1200 year old stand of kauri trees.

Surf and Turf!

Past the town of Coromandel we headed to the east coast of the peninsula, where there are numerous beautiful unspoiled beaches and some famous ones too, like the Hot Water Beach.


A sweeping sandy surf beach fronts the expansive Whangapoua Harbour.

Opito was also gorgeous beach and we would have loved to spend some time if the weather had been better.

Mercury Bay and Cooks Beach

This was a gorgeous stretch of coastline. The seascape was awe inspiring. At Cooks Beach we drove up to Shakespeare Cliff where there is a lookout point across Mercury Bay. This is where Captain Cook landed in 1769 to observe the transit of the planet Mercury.

At Hot Water Beach you can dig your own mineral spa in the sand

Hot Water Beach was a very popular spot. It gets its name from the hot water that seeps through the sand near a prominent rock outcrop. At low tide each day, you can dig yourself a hole in the sand, then relax in your own natural spa pool. There were so many people there that we just decided to share someone else's bath and were very surprised to feel how hot the water was...it can reach 100 deg. F!

Hot Water Beach has dangerous currents and it's one of the four most dangerous beaches in New Zealand so we took a long walk down the beautiful shore. Apparently there are other locations where you can dig a hot bath along the beach, evidenced by holes dug along the way.

Sand Between Our Toes!

It felt good to walk on the firm white sand so we stopped to take a footsie foto.

Cathedral Cove

The hike to Cathedral Cove was a great walk through the trees and along the coastline, beginning on a boardwalk that overlooked Cook's Bay. On the way we stopped at Gemstone Beach where there is a snorkeling trail. The next offshoot took us down to Stingray Bay where there was a sandy cove. The walk along the coast to Cathedral Cove passed some fabulous vantage points affording fabulous views of the ocean.

Eventually, a long stairway led to the beach but not many people were at the popular Cathedral Cove as a result of the intermittent drizzle.

Cathedral Cove is famous for its huge limestone archway that connects two beautiful beaches.
We spent a while just walking the beach and then relaxing under the shelter of some large trees, trying to stay dry and waiting until the rain stopped before heading back. Pictured left is Gord who found himself a comfy spot on a tree trunk.

Wharekawa Wildlife Refuge

From a beautiful beach on the Wharekawa Harbour we took a walk to the Wharekawa Wildlife Refuge, a breeding ground for the endangered New Zealand dotterel and the variable oystercatcher. The dotterels were nesting so we could they were in a confined area that we could not access. Only 1500 exist and 18 pairs were breeding there. However, there were lots of oyster catchers bopping around the sandspit.

We walked out to the impressive surf beach through deep, soft sand. We were treated to a sighting of dolphins and spent some time watching them swim by. But the air was chilly and the threat of rain still clung so we headed back to the car.

From Cathedral Cove we drove down the eastern coastline toward Tauranga. The Bay of Plenty is known for its sunshine so we were looking forward to seeing some of it. The region is famous for its avocado, kiwi and citrus fruit and we saw lots of orchards.


We arrived in Tauranga, a pretty coastal town with a back drop of Mount Manganui. Tauranga is the largest export port in New Zealand. It has a population of 58,500 and is one of the country's fastest growing cities. I can see why because we all thought Tauranga was an enchanting town, with lots of facilities, beautiful beaches and an array of great restaurants and nightlife. Tauranga has several marinas and some of our cruiser friends had chosen to take their boats there.

Chris and Ali did some shopping around town and Gord and I visited the marina and drove to Mt Manganui a 232m volcanic cone that rises from the sea. There was a marathon happening at the time, so many of the streets were closed off but we could see that the area was a real tourist attraction.