We planned one week on the North Island of New Zealand. We wanted to show the kids some of the places we visited on our honeymoon and then see something new. Looking around on the internet, Scott found a very interesting beach called Hot Beach (more on that later) but it looked intriguing enough to plan a few days around it since there were plenty of other attractions in the area. We decided to stay in Whitianga, the main settlement of Mercury Bay, on the Coromandel Peninsula and centrally located to beaches and hikes.
Our first stop was the Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve which included Cathedral Cove and Stingray Bay, fun areas to swim and snorkel and according to Google, a very popular tourist destination to the tune of 160,000 people every year. There are much better pictures online of Cathedral Cove than I took, but I did learn some fan facts. Macklemore shot part of his music video “Can’t Hold Us” there and it was used as a filming location for “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
It was a perfect day for the thirty minute hike to Cathedral Cove along a well traveled path.
The views were stunning and I was surprised to learn that the forest was part of a war memorial. I had no idea that New Zealand had any part in World War I.
When the United Kingdom declared war on Germany at the start of World War I, New Zealand followed without hesitation. The population of new Zealand was just over one million at the time and over 100,000 troops and nurses went to serve overseas between 1914 and 1918. On April 25, 1915, thousands of troops from the allied forces stormed the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsula in what is now Turkey to attack the Ottoman Empire. They fought for eight months and the campaign ended with over 130,000 deaths and no significant mark on the war. However, for New Zealand, along with Australia and Turkey, the Gallipoli campaign is often claimed to have played an important part in creating a sense of national identity.
Cathedral Cove was beautiful and busy in spite of the thirty minute hike. We did see a water taxi delivering people on one side of the beach so there are options if you don’t want to hike. All three of the kids had fun jumping off of this rock while I read on the beach.
The water is colder than it looks. This fun jumping platform is located on one side of the beach.
There are two sides to the beach connected, as long as the tide is out, by this giant tunnel.
We hiked from Cathedral Cove to Stingray Bay. Stingray Bay is a good snorkeling spot known for its…Stingrays! They saw quite a few stingrays and other fish and we had this beach mostly to ourselves.
I have been so impressed with all of the hiking trails in New Zealand and I especially like the thirty minute treks that are rewarded with a gorgeous beach and I’m not even a beach person, but I can appreciate a beautiful view and this day proved to have many.
Next stop was Hot Beach and the impetus for our visit to Coromandel Peninsula. During low tide, there is a section of beach exposed where you can dig your own hot tub. Very hot water and I mean so hot it burns your feet, seeps up through the sand and creates a fun, relaxing and therapeutic way to end a day of hiking, swimming and snorkeling.
I’m not sure who had the most fun digging and reinforcing the walls of our hot tub.
We enjoyed the warm water until the tide came back in and washed everyone’s hard work away to be rebuilt the next day. We got lucky, but if you go, check the tides because that is key and a spade, sold at most of the local general stores, helps too if you want to dig your own hot tub.
Our final adventure in the area was suggested to us by the very nice lad in the snorkel gear shop. New Chums Beach is all kinds of famous. It’s on many “Top Remote Beach” lists but we had never heard of it. Of course “best remote beaches” is not something I search for usually, but I can now understand its allure.
It’s another hike to the beach but this time the beach has no option for water taxi service. This is just at the trail head so you can imagine forty more minutes down the trail.
We hiked along the beach for a while.
There were some rocks to navigate and then a short walk through the forest.
The beach was deserted when we arrived.
Grant was the first in the water and soon joined by Scott and Ashley. They body surfed for a long time. I am not a fan of watching my kids bob about in the ocean on our local beach, and so an unfamiliar beach had me power walking down the sand to explore on my own.
There were some colorful rocks.
The kids made it out of the water, happy and tired.
And Grant even took a picture of us.
We hiked back to the car. Grant liked these puddles on the beach because he could look like he was walking on water.
Ashley just likes beginning near the water.
We returned to our apartment each night in time for Scott to prepare dinner and enjoy watching the jumping fish in the marina that entertained us in the evenings. The Coromandel Peninsula and Whitianga turned out to be a great find. The area had so much to offer and we didn’t even scratch the surface, something that we seem to find over and over again.
This picture reminds me that I want to start a list of all of the unexpected things that are a result of this year, like Ashley’s picky eating habit has been broken and now she eats salad and all kinds of things without a peep. The salad coup goes completely to Scott, but I think the rest of it may have a lot to do with Spain and the adventure eating that happened there. Pigs’ ears anyone? The worst food though that we have attempted to eat so far on our journey happened in this apartment when Scott attempted to make chili dogs. They were truly horrible and now he threatens to make them whenever anyone balks at healthy eating. He said it was all part of his plan.