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!

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