One of the most famous beaches in New Zealand (at least on the north island) is the hot water beach on the coromandel peninsula. This area is beautiful with lush green hills and lots of cow and sheep farms. It offers heaps of things to do, but without a car and limited time we were restricted. We took the bus to the small town of Whitianga on the eastern side. The campsite was great and dry and so we settled in nicely.
Zoë found a place to hire bikes and so we got to do a bit of excercise as well as get to the sights cheaply. Even at NZ$25 per bike, this was still half the cost of a shuttle bus; plus we got to see more along the way. Our campsite offered free spades (which saved us another $10) which was great; spades are a necessary accessory on the hot water beach.
After crossing the river on a small ferry we were soon cycling along the coast line and over rolling hills. We discovered a macadamia nut orchard and took a side road to visit it. Three kilometres further, 300m higher and much sweating later (it was a beautifully sunny day), the sign on the driveway greeted us with a big ‘Closed’ stuck over the top. All we could do was turn around and get annoyed, but at least the scenery was nice. Back at the road we noticed a yellow ‘Closed’ flag; no idea how we managed to miss that…
On the way we spotted some turkeys in a field. We stopped to enjoy the scenery and started to imitate their gobbledy noises. It was really funny as they replied everytime so Zoë claimed the title of chief turkey whisperer.
Our next stop was cathedral cove just outside Hahei. The road leading there was very steep again and put our very untrained cycling muscles to the test. After a quick lunch, we walked the remaining one and half kilometre down to the beach and the cove. We managed to arrive just before a Chinese family started getting into everyones photos. Cathedral cove is a big rock arch about 10m wide and roughly the same in height. Most of the time it is easy to walk through, but at high tide it does get flooded.
After stopping for a quick coffee on the way out, we whizzed over to hot water beach. Even though we arrived 2 hours before low tide the beach was already pretty busy and the two hot springs were easy to spot. Walking around the area we probed the sand with our feet to find a hot spot.
We were not the only diggers
We started digging our pool just below some other visitors, but the tide was still high enough to repeatedly wash over our efforts. That made the digging very frustrating. As the water receeded further we managed to secure our claim with a sand wall. It took us quite some time to dig and secure a pool deep and big enough to lie in, but we were very happy with the result. One side was much hotter than the other which resulted in a very cosy water temperature. The water from the springs can be up to 65 degreee Celsius which is too hot to lie in. Some of our neighbours had to keep getting cold water from the sea to be able to lie in their pool. All we had to do was not to burn our backs. We really enjoyed relaxing in the hot water while watching the waves breaking not far away.
Sadly the sun set behind the cliffs and once the shade had crept over the pools it started getting a little chilly. The tide also started to come back in. Since our bikes didn’t have any lights, it was high time to start our journey back. Our legs were a bit tired from this unusual excercise, but we made it back alright. By the time we arrived at the campsite it was dark. After quick showers we finished this awesome day with a treat: barbequed lamb steaks with jacket potatoes and local craft beer.
The next day started with thick and heavy clouds and strong winds. We could not believe how lucky we had been the previous day. In that weather swimming was out of the question and we opted to explore Whitianga. It is a nice place with lots of little shops. The atmosphere suffered a bit from the big roadworks on the main street. Our rain radar started twitching but a nice café came to the rescue. By the time our drinks arrived it started bucketing it down. The shower was only short and so we still got to do a very enjoyable walk along the beach.
With more rain and strong winds being expected for the night, the campsite staff took pity on us and offered us the tv lounge instead of the grassy patch. That was great as it kept our tent dry and saved us time in the morning before our early getaway.