I recently purchased a new camera and some other items, which made traveling overseas attractive, as here in Australia we can claim back the 10% GST if we travel within sixty days of purchase.
New Zealand is the closest country to Sydney, and there are usually cheap flights available.
Coromandel Coast at Sunset
Using a combination of loyalty points and searching the cheapest days to fly, I managed to purchase two return tickets to Auckland using Qantas to get there and Virgin to come back, for about the same as the tax refund. We stayed in NZ for four nights.
The first two nights were spent at the Sebel at Viaduct Harbour, which I recommend for the views alone.
The Viaduct is Auckland’s tourist harbour restaurant and bar precinct, full of interesting attractions including a maritime museum with an America’s Cup winning yacht.
Firth of Thames Drive
After a couple of days around Auckland, we rented a car and set off for the Coromandel Coast. We went the scenic way, around the Firth of Thames, which is a beautiful drive as you can see from the picture above.
We stopped at a seafood shack just before Coromandel town and enjoyed some of the local delicacy battered Paua, which comes from a shiny shell similar to an abalone, but with a different texture and taste.
It was getting late and the weather was turning on us, and the drive was taking longer than we scheduled for, so we cut across inland until we finally arrived at our destination Hahei.
Hahei is a scenic beach area in a good position with a few different accommodation options. The two main attractions we wanted to visit were both close by, and we were able to get a well fitted out holiday cabin with a beach view for a reasonable price, around $140 nzd per night. We stayed at Catherdral Cove Lodge and were very comfortable.
Hahei beach, pictured above, is a good example of a Coromandel Coast beach. There are some interesting activities in the nearby area, including kayaking and jet boat riding. Fishing is also excellent.
Hot Water Beach
A unique attraction in the area is Hot Water beach, a short drive south from Hahei. Before going there you need to know when low tide is and you need to get your hands on a shovel or two. The head office at our accommodation supplied us with both, renting us a shovel for a gold coin donation to a local charity.
There is a large pool of hot volcanic water under the sand at Hot Water Beach. At low tide this water seeps up through the sand, in some cases bubbling. It can be quite hot in places, so care needs to be taken to avoid potential scalding.
The general idea, as per image above, is to dig your own hole and wait for it to fill with very hot water, some of which will cool, thus creating your own personal hot spring water pool. In reality its tricky for a first timer to find some real estate and get the balance right, as you need the right depth of water to get a bearable temperature.
An easy solution is to wait for an existing tenant to leave their pool and jump in. We did just this, and spent a relaxing half hour in a free outdoor spa before the tide came in and ruined our recreation. The spring water is around 50-60 degrees Celsius and the ocean water around 8 degrees, so the first big wave to breach your walls can be a shock.
Cathedral Cove Waterfall
We spent an interesting morning at Hot Water Beach, followed by a drive up to Cooks Beach to find some hamburgers and chips. But by far the highlight of the weekend was an afternoon visit to Cathedral Cove.
You need to walk to Cathedral Cove, it’s a kilometer or so from the closest car park, but some of the track is a little steep, especially the staircase down to the beach so you should allow an forty five minutes each way. It’s a nice walk though; the local coastal area is very scenic with glistening deep blue water and many offshore islands.
Cathedral Cove itself is nothing short of spectacular. It is often used as a back drop in tourist advertising and has appeared as a location in many movies, including the Narnia series.
At one end there is a culturally significant waterfall, that often displays a rainbow through its cascading waters when the sun is in the right place, at the other end is the iconic rock archway.
The naturally carved archway is deep and leads to another beach, accessible only at low tide. At high tide when I visited, the waves were breaking onto the sand at the end of the passageway.
I arrived late in the afternoon and started taking pictures. The lower the sun got, the better the pictures came out, so I stayed past sunset and made my way back in the dark. Luckily I had a headlamp to help guide me and there are no deadly animals roaming around the New Zealand bush.
The Archway at Sunset
Cathedral Cove Timelapse
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