27 June 2016

Exploits in the Coromandel - Sea Cave Adventures, getting into Hot Water and more

The Coromandel coastline is a never ending series of epic beaches and coves, some that can be found by driving right up in and parking the car, others a short walk and still others a looooong hike away and some even more remote and only accessible by boat.

On our trip to the Coromandel we'd decided we would take a boat trip from Whitianga out to explore more of the coastline, partly because we had little people and grandparents with us who might not want to walk for hours to hidden bays and coves and also because hey...boat rides are pretty fun right?!

Off on a grand sea adventure....before feeling sick anyway!

There are quite a few different companies that can take you out on a boat trip out to see the pristine coastline and we did some research before going to Whitianga but in the end we found the best way to try to decide which trip to go on was by checking out the reviews on Trip Advisor.

What we liked about the prospect of going on the trip with Sea Cave Adventures was the potential to get closer into the sea caves and have a more personal experience with our knowledgeable guide Les.

Luckily we had a few days to choose from as there were a couple of stormy days in the middle of our week's holiday. In the end we went for an 8am sailing on the last morning of our holiday and it was definitely the best decision as it was the most calm time of the day.

Even then we had two very green looking children who weren't used to the bobbing of the boat on the open water. Not helped by the fact they sat in the front of the boat where it was the worst. Seasickness aside we loved our trip which took us out of the Whitianga harbour past Flax Mill Bay around to Cathedral Cove, past Hot Water Beach and to the Orua Sea Cave - one of the largest sea caves in NZ.

Inside Orua sea cave

We'd actually visited Hot Water Beach the day before - it's one of those things you just HAVE to do when you're in the Coromandel and yet it was clear everyone else in the vicinity had the same idea too. With a 10am low tide we thought we'd just breeze over to the beach but when we got there, the beach was already pretty crowded with people who had arrived early to dig their spots and find the hot water. The hot water tends to run in veins down to the beach and there were points that were too hot to even stand on - once we finally found ourselves a good hole the boys and I enjoyed people watching. It was HILARIOUS seeing the reactions of everyone in bare feet when they hit the hot spots - you've never seen them move so fast to get off them - the funny thing was you didn't know if the next step you took would be scalding hot or cool either so it was a bit of a lottery and quite fun to watch.

Later we drove to Flaxmill Bay and had lunch at a quirky cafe called Eggsentric (and it was) near the ferry landing - we let the boys and grandparents head back over on the quick 15 minute trip while Mark and I drove the cars back around the long way (45 minutes) to meet them.

But I digress - back to the boat trip. The most amazing marine life we saw were the snapper just off Cathedral Cove whose colours shimmered all manner of turquoise in the morning light. I'm not sure I realised how beautiful snapper were - to be honest I'm just used to seeing them on my plate!

On the way back we stopped on the edge of the marine reserve and went for a swim in crystal clear water only a tiny bit deeper than us. It was a little bracing getting in that early in the morning but once you were in it was so delightful. And it made a good distraction for everyone feeling a bit green about the gills!

Zipping back across the harbour at speed in wet togs and towel was NOT so delightful - brrrr....... luckily we were able to get home relatively quickly afterwards to have warm showers and to put on some dry clothes. Once everyone was feeling less queasy and cold we all had time to reflect on what had been a truly special outing on the sea.

Look who got to drive the boat!

The property we stayed at in Whitianga was also an amazing find - a brand new dreamy designer home on the outskirts of town with fields right over the fence - yet it was a 2 minute drive to the beach and 5 minutes to town - and only $160 a night for all 6 of us. If we ever head back to Whitianga we'd stay there again in a heartbeat!

Reluctantly the next we had to pack up and head back to reality - but not before a little stop in at the Colenso Cafe for coffee - we'd stopped on our way to Whitianga in the pouring rain but it was a darn side nicer stopping in on a gloriously fine morning so we could sit outside amongst all the glorious citrus trees and reflect on a super special family time in a part of the country we'd all fallen head over heels in love with!

I'll leave with a little clip of our body boarders enjoying the magic that was Matarangi - oh to be there again in the warmth now!

10 June 2016

A relaxing dip with SandDollar Swim at the Polynesian Spa

We recently spent a family weekend in Rotorua - the adventure capital of the north. Having now had the opportunity to explore the area in more detail we reckon it's as epic as Queenstown is - just without all the snow capped mountains around.

There's so much to see and do here that it's definitely hard to only spend the weekend here. I took advantage of the great weather to get out for sunrise and sunset every day but wow it was cold. Each morning the temperatures were hovering around zero and it was either frosty, foggy or both.

After one particularly epic morning out snapping shots I came home frozen to the bone but knew I had a relaxing and warming session at the Polynesian Spa to warm up with the family.

Earlier in the week, we'd received a new pair of swim shorts for the boys from Sanddollar Swim and they were eager to get them on and get going in the pool - no matter that it was only about 5 degrees outside, the 3 family pools were heated to 33, 37 and 40 degrees so there was no risk of getting chilled. I'm sure you can guess which pool I spent the most time in!

The boys on the other hand spent most of their time in and out of the cooler pool just because it had a mini slide...boys will be boys!

What I love about putting my boys in Sanddollar swimwear is that every item in their range has sun protection to UPF50 which complies with our stringent NZ and Australian standards - not that we needed it in mid winter in a thermal pool but we definitely will appreciate it when our harsh NZ summers roll around.

I also liked that the shorts have a liner inside - I can't tell you how many board and swim shorts are out there that just don't come with them? I've found out that hard way the importance of a good lined pair of swim shorts -  my older boy has a tendency to get chafe from running around on the beach all day in wet swim shorts and a liner definitely prevents this from happening.

As cool as the boys shorts look and the rest of the boys Sanddollar Swim range online, for a little moment I half wished I had girls in the house too because their girls range of swimsuits are so fashionable - and for that matter I found myself wishing they came in adult sizes too.

I was in no hurry to get out of this rather relaxing and warm sojourn and I think the boys would happily have stayed all day but we were turning wrinklier than prunes and other adventures were calling us as they do!

01 June 2016

Cruising the Coromandel {309 road and Driving Creek Railway}

After three lovely days in Waihi, it was reluctantly time to head north to Whitianga for the next part of our Coromandel adventure.

There's two routes to travel between Whitianga and Coromandel township and they are both scenic. But the inland 309 road probably takes the cake in terms of scenery. You have to be prepared to go pretty slowly as a good section of the road is gravel.

But that only adds to the appeal - the slower you go the more you take in along the way.

Like stopping to take in the Waiau Kauri Grove - these monstrous trees tower several heads above the rest of the forest canopy - they are so impressive.

You can get a small idea of their size by seeing how small the boys looked by comparison. We all tried to join hands to see if we could get right round it but even all four of us couldn't quite do it!

And how about this double trunk kauri? Weird and wonderful all at the same time.

From the kauri grove we headed further down to Waiau Falls - it's a lovely wee specimen that drops into a nice pool - it was hard to get a good shot at this time of day but 

Just a few minutes further along the road is this lovely run-down house where Stu's pigs roam free on both sides of the road - so cute seeing all the little piggies running happily alongside the car.

After a spot of lunch in Coromandel township, we headed up into the hills for a ride on the famous Driving Creek Railway 

The narrow gauge railway was a labour of love built by Barry Brickell over a 20 year period, initially to help carry his pottery clay down from the hills but eventually turning it into a very famous tourist destination for the Coromandel.

It's unique as a railway, especially as the hour return journey winds so steeply uphill with lots of reversing points to allow the trains to make their way all the way to the Eye-full Tower for the stunning view over the whole Firth of Thames.

What a sight! After winding our way high into the hills - we were rewarded with views as far as the eye could see into the Firth of Thames towards the Hauraki Gulf.

Sadly, Barry Brickell died only a few weeks before we visited the railway and it was so wonderful to hear how the team from the railway had carried him for one final journey on the train all the way to the top to the Eyefull Tower and then halfway back down where his last place of rest can be seen marked with a simple cross to mark the spot. It was quite emotional knowing he would be there forever watching over those who enjoy his life's greatest achievement.

From the railway we ventured further up the western side of the Coromandel peninsula ducking into a few sheltered bays before heading back over the hills towards the east.

We decided to stop in at Matarangi on the way back - little did we know that this amazing spot was to become our firm favourite location of the whole trip - so much so that we booked another trip back here again over Anzac weekend!!!

With a beautiful long north facing beach (there aren't that many in NZ) that was pretty much deserted for every one of the four days we visited, and with the most perfect rolling breakers that made body boarding a dream Matarangi stole our hearts from the minute we arrived - so much so that we visited here every day for the next four days we had left - despite it being a half hour drive from Whitianga!


Related Posts with Thumbnails