Coromandel Peninsula

What a beautiful place!!!

Although not far in miles, the roads to get her are hilly and wiggly (great for passengers who get car sick!). But it is worth it.

So we based ourselves in Whitianga for a few days, which is a great mix. It is big enough to have shops, cafes and restaurants, places to mend your car, and an excellent local butcher, whilst still having a beautiful unruined beach and a gorgeous beachside path, and of course a fantastic park!

Whitianga beach

If this was the only beach you saw you would still be happy as there is a lovely view as you swim around in the sea, the beach is golden and the waters clear and blue. Based here are banana boat rides and jet ski hire (not that we tried either).

Whitianga ferry

For $7 return per adult you can take this two minute ferry drive across to another bay. However it is only a passenger ferry.

The upside is that it saves a lot of driving. The downside is you either need bikes or be prepared to use your feet on the other side. The upside to that is that there are some beaches within a few minutes walk (but we went to one slightly further away).

Keep an eye in the water – we spotted a massive stingray just as we got off the ferry.

Lonely Bay

We were time limited due to our car breaking down in the morning, and getting back for Granny’s birthday meal in the evening, so I thought the 33minute walk stayed on the board to Lonely Bay would be perfect.

However I made the wrong presumption. I presumed that it would mean by footpath, not by walking along the road. So we turned right out of the ferry landing and walked through the forest.

Although poorly signed, steep (especially when carrying a small Bean) and mildly tricky underfoot, it was a beautiful natural forest walk and gave you a real sense of what the forests are like in this area. The lookout point from the top of this path was a great place to look back and see Whitianga from above.

Walking along the road for a bit, past another beach we then followed the path sign for Lonely Bay (turns out not the quickest route again!!). Up and up and up, hard work in the blistering heat. And you find yourself at the lookout. Although not where we wanted to be, it was a superb view of the beach – a long way down!

So turning down the track we finally found Lonely Bay. More isolated than most meant less people than most. Was a gorgeous beach, with the top part made up of broken shells, which turns into golden sands…. and after all that walking, refreshing blue waters!

Downhill all the way back. Past the sweetest library I’ve ever seen.

At a fast past going the shortest route we managed to get back to the ferry in the specified 33 minutes!

Cathedral Cove

A truly beautiful place but also very busy.

You cannot drive to this beach. Even if you get the park and ride bus it is still an unexpectedly long walk to get to the beach. Given the walk, it is surprisingly crowded there. It’s again quite a hilly walk and we would advise footwear better than flip flops!

If you want it quieter then I would also suggest v early in the morning, rather than the busy mid-afternoon that we managed.

Otama Beach

This was recommended to us as a residents favourite beach, on a slightly different side on the peninsula. About 25 minutes from Whangarei, there is a steep road that is part gravel road to get there.

It was very beautiful, white sands and more beautiful blue water.

Just after we got out a fisherman came over and told us that while we were swimming a 3m Bronzewhaler shark had been circling. Googling this shark later we were glad to read that ‘ it doesn’t often attack humans’. We did then delight in watching it safely from the shore.

Hot Water Beach

This is an absolute must! And you need to go two hours either side of low tide.

Never have we been anywhere like it or experienced the madness you observe when you arrive on the beach.

Our accommodation had a spade to borrow, but otherwise you can hire them at the beach. And you need a spade to dig your hole!

So we searched as the hot water spots are bizarrely localised, but we did find one – and then we dug!

Then eventually it was time to enjoy our own personalised hot pool!

Note (with small children) – after a while the water does get seriously warm…

Everyone was enjoying their own tiny piece of the beach over this tiny portion of a big beach

Eventually after a swim to cool down we headed towards home, but not before dipping in an exceptionally warm river to clean the sand off.

Granny’s birthday

It was Granny’s birthday whilst we were in the Coromandel Peninsula

We were blessed with such amazing weather that we BBQ-ed for breakfast!

Later in the day was cake time

And then we lit it again after dinner. Never have I seen birthday candles burn so low!

Evie’s first steps

What an amazing place for a very special moment – at 9 months and 6 days old, Evie took her first steps late as night and followed it with a massively excited slam and clapping (another brand new skill to go with the steps). I have never seen her so excited.

Sad to leave the coromandel, I could spend much longer here. But time to move on to another beautiful spot.

Rotorua

Another day stop off between Taupo and the Coromandel Peninsula, we visited TePuia to see the bubbling mud pools, geysers, vents and boiling pool.

Although the sights were impressive and the place itself was well laid out with good free tours on offer, we still left feeling it was a bit expensive for what we got.

However, as I said, it was impressive to see.

The mud pools that bubble

The Pohutu geyser was fun to watch, as first the implementer geyser went off and then the biggy, blasting water jets up to 30m high in the air.

Carrying on around seeing steaming vents all over the place

And then the boiling pot, which is still used for cooking in! Apparently a boiled egg takes 7 minutes.

There was also a traditional arts college on site where you could watch students learn ancient crafts.

They also displayed some of the bigger projects they had made at the college. an enormous traditional canoe, made from the single trunk of a 1000-2000 year old tree and a storage box on very decorative stilts.

Onwards from here we had planned a swim in Rotorua lake. However, when we got there no one else was in or on the water. Then upon googling it it said it would not be safe to swim in for another 20 years. When I dipped my hands in the water smelt of sulphur, and my hands tingled for a while after!! Still nice looking lake for the eye.

We instead had lunch in the Government Gardens. Don’t plan a trip to the museum anytime soon as it is shut due to risk of earthquake damage.

So instead after a picnic we took Evie to the park, where she played football with her Granda and had her first independent slide experience. Loved it giggling at the bottom

After a play time to get into the car and heading on to the Coromandel Peninsula.

Taupo

Driving past Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngaurahoe was a stunning entry to arriving in Taupo, and we hope to explore this a little more on our way back down the country in a few weeks.

We decided to have a couple of nights and a relaxed day in Taupo after a few long days of driving to get up to North Island. And what a good decision as is was a great place to chillax.

We did have time to enjoy the sunset

And it really was spectacular

Staying somewhere with stairs we are now needing to find ingenious ways of stopping Evie climb the stairs – her new favourite hobby!

The next day, after a trip to the doctors for me and my poorly ear, we headed to Taupo DeBretts Hot springs, as it said it had a good play area and it wasn’t very expensive.

Unfortunately Evie didn’t really appreciate the play area… too much splashing water for her!

But she did enjoy the coolest of the hot pools.

The rest of the pools were too hot – in truth as adults we couldn’t stay in long. More up our street were three fun fast water slides!

From the water park to the Huka Falls, a short drive away, this ferocious blue water is impressive – probably even more so from a jet boat.

Taupo is a beautiful lake to swim in as it is warm. We went in a few times, but without Evie, although we did think it may just have been warm enough.

Sadly it was then time to move on and leave Taupo. Maybe we will return.

A return to Taupo

We had wanted to go to climb Mt Taranaki, but reading about it we decided it would be too much to manage with Evie. So instead we headed back to Taupo on our way southwards, as we had liked it and fancied some lake to swim in, as opposed to sea, in the heatwave New Zealand is currently experiencing.

Waipahihi Botanical Reserve

Our accommodation was a bit out of town this time, but it was right next to the Waipahihi Botanical Reserve. This was a beautiful place to walk around and we made the most of it in the evenings. No formal gardens and few flowers, but lots of pretty walkways through a forest with some open spaces.

Craters of the moon

For $8 this was a nice area of thermal activity to walk around in about 1&1/2 hours. Steaming vents and bubbling mud pools, but no geysers here.

I love their warning sign – just incase you didn’t know

Biking the lakeside

Biking along the bike / walk track was much better than I anticipated. I didn’t realise how far it went around. And the lake just got more and more beautiful as you got towards Five Mike Bay.

It was so gorgeous that I text Tim to come and join us and we had a delightful swim in the same waters that seems so much bluer and clearer than they do on the shores of Taupo. Wished I had discovered these bays earlier!

Maori rock carvings

Nicely advertised, something you can only see by boat trip, these rock carvings were actually only carved 40 years ago. Despite them not being super old, they are still pretty cool and the boat trip was nice!

We did the shorter trip, which cost less. Probably I would rather have done the slightly longer trip which allowed you a swim, as well as a beer!!

Time to leave Taupo for the final time. Even after two visits there is still more you can do and see around here, definitely a place I’d recommend for a visit.

The Bluebridge ferry

A hot wait to board our ferry, we made sure we didn’t have to stand in line too long.

We chose the bluebridge ferry to get across the water from Picton to Wellington. Was a very comfortable ferry even without a cabin for a sleep.

We got food as soon as we got on the ferry which meant we had eaten by the time it set sail and could enjoy leaving the sound. The food was exceptional for ferry food.

Once we had enjoyed sailing through the sound we found a table, Evie made friends and we settled down.

For Evie it turned out to a very sociable experience with at least 3 other similar aged babies near us for her to play with. This meant she didn’t sleep and kept us busy for the full 4 hours!

If you get seasick then maybe consider taking something, or else have a sick bag handy as you leave the sound. It was calm in the sound and pretty rolling once we went out into the sea. It didn’t stop Evie wanting to crawl over the whole boat though and amuse people.

Late off the boat and we headed north to arrive late in to Paraparaumu for the night.

Picton

I didn’t feel qualified to say a lot about this town on our first visit as we were only there for about two hours. We then went back for two nights to prepare for walking the Queen Charlotte Track.

It has an unbelievably awesome playground- I wanted Evie to be bigger to be able to appreciate it! I wanted to play in it!

We visited the small whaling museum on the front, which although small and clearly run by local enthusiasts, it was jam packed with information on whaling and life in general since the Europeans settled in the area.

For a whole 20 cents you can ride the train, a service that has run since the 1970’s and which price has remained the same! This service happened to be run by our Air B&B hosts who volunteered there.

For another 20 cents you can hire and sail a yacht!

There is a designated swim area in the sea, but it wasn’t as nice as the beaches elsewhere.

And Picton is surrounded by a whole world of loveliness, with lush green forested hillsides, beautiful blue waters and bays with golden beaches, easily accessible by boat trips, kayak and a certain extent by car. You can see why it’s popular.

For us though, it was the place from which we went to catch the ferry to North Island first time around.

Blenheim

Our ferry got cancelled, so we ended up with a couple of nights in Blenheim. Although the town itself is nothing special, the surrounding area is FULL of vineyards. If you are into wine, I expect you could spend a lot of time wine tasting around this region.

Yealands Estate

We chose to go to the Yealands Estate vineyard, apparently the most coastal of vineyards and the first to try growing grapes on sloping ground around here. You can do a self drive tour around and meet the over friendly chickens and ducks as well as listen to the classical music played to the vines (they believe it helps them grow better!).

Of course tasting the wine….. and buying some to enjoy later!

Rarangi – Whites Bay and Monkey Bay

Turn off between Blenheim and Picton and you pass through Rarangi. Apart from a cherry orchard shop, there is no other shops or cafes so take a picnic with you.

You can drive to Whites Bay, or you can walk a one hour path from Rarangi over the top. Whites Bay is one of those beaches with such beautiful water, that you just want to run straight into the sea. Which we pretty much did. It also has a fab rock hole at the far end of the beach, a great addition to the beauty of the place.

Evie had her deepest paddle yet. She is not sure about waves but loved ‘walking ‘ around in the shallows, whilst we took it in turns for a swim. Another definite plus here wash a beach shower to have a rinse off once done with the sea.

The next day we returned to go to Monkey Bay. A much smaller beach and you have to walk up and down some steps to get to it (less than 10 mins).

Fun for the big kids, to the left of the beach you can walk up along the rocks and then jump in. This little beach had some good shade, if you do want time out of the sun.

Another joy of the two beaches above is we didn’t see or experience any sandflies….. a bonus in NZ!

Kaikōura – a flying visit

Meeting up with Evie’s cousins for the last time on this trip we had a couple of hours in Kaikōura, as they were coming down the coast to fly home and we are headed northbound to Blenheim.

Kaikōura town itself very touristy based on whale, seal and dolphin watching, sits on a beautiful peninsula in a stunning location.

Grabbing a late picnic lunch we headed away from the town to Point Kean Viewpoint, with plenty of space for the boys to run around. With high tide we were unable to walk out to the point to see the Fur Seals, but it did means that there were great safe areas of the sea to jump into that felt like an enclosed pool even though it wasn’t. Refreshing on a hot day.

With the day coming to a close, we headed back to Kaikōura and had an amazingly fresh fish and chips together, would recommend the Blue Cod. It was then time to continue on our separate journeys and back in the car up to Blenheim, stopping briefly at the seal colony on route.

Whale watching

Another passing through, this time to enable me to go whale watching. Not something you are allowed to take babies on so it was just me.

One Sperm Whale

Pods of dusky dolphins

And a colony of fur seals later

I considered it a successful trip.

Then time to move on back to Christchurch.