Friday, November 25, 2011

Coromandel Peninsula

I have been fortunate enough to see many beautiful things:  the Blue Ridge Mountains, the South of Spain, Mt. Rainer, the Badlands—but yesterday I saw perhaps the most spectacular natural area to date.  The South Island of New Zealand is much hyped, and I am eager to see it still, but I have a hard time believing I will see anything as stunning as the Coromandel Peninsula of the North Island.  It’s not a place that most guidebooks devote a lot of time on, and most the people I know who visited NZ never stopped there.  However, I’m nothing if not thorough, and I’ve read 4 books on NZ cover to cover.  While the Lonely Planet section on the Coromandel is brief, it did contain this line of description, “Gob-smacking beautiful.”  I decided that I had to see, even though it’s a bit remote and there’s not much else around there.  I even went so far as make reservations for multiple nights here, something that’s a bit of a luxury when you are trying to see a whole country in a month.  It did not disappoint.  My camera, however did.  I really like my Lumix, and I feel up until now it was pretty good at capturing exactly what I saw, but this time it just wasn’t quite able to show the vivid green of the mountains or the water that is both turquoise and perfectly clear at the same time.  Hopefully, though, the pictures will give you enough of any idea to persuade you to come and see it for yourself one day.

When you first arrive in the Southern part near Thames, the water is muddy and churning and while the forested mountains are pretty, especially now that they are covered in wildflowers, you don’t see what the fuss is about.  The rest of New Zealand has equally beautiful vistas like this:

However, as we rounded the bend of yet another twisty narrow mountain road, we started to see sights like this:

Until we arrived at this particular vista further north where the water had begun to take on that beautiful turquoise hue.  I thought, “What nice view for the cows!”

We finally arrived in Coromandel Town, an old gold mining village, that doesn’t offer much but a couple of places to stay and a few cafes, most of which were closed at dinner.  But it was Thanksgiving, gosh darn it, so we were going to eat something tasty and bad for us.  We finally settled on this:

Believe it or not, this was not the first time I’d had seafood for Thanksgiving dinner.  When I was in second grade, we went to see my Grandparents in Naples, Florida for Thanksgiving.  I remember it even though it was so long ago because I got to swim in the ocean, eat shrimp instead of turkey (still not my favorite), and watch Cinderella:  a banner day for a seven-year-old.

The second day we slept in a bit and called family to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, since it was still the holiday there.  Then we drove another twisty road to Hot Water Beach.   This beach isn’t famous for its swimming, in fact the rips are so strong you not supposed to swim at all.  You go to HWB to burn your bum.  There are thermal springs in a certain place on the beach.  At low tide, if you bring a spade, you can dig your own hot pool.  It’s sort of hit and miss though.  You have to dig in the right place or your pool will either be pretty chilly because it’s mostly the beach water, or you can actually scald yourself.  Most of the pools dug around that I stuck my toe in were pretty tepid, but there was one small one that no one was sitting in, and a girl thankfully warned me.  It was HOT!  The whole thing is quite the spectacle, as you can see here:

After HWB, we went just a few kilometers away to the Cathedral Cove trail.  It was a bit longer than I had anticipated, and very steep in spots, but well worth the trouble.  Here’s some of the scenery along the way:

We stopped briefly at Gemstone Bay, which had a marked snorkeling trail I’d have liked to try in the perfectly clear water, but didn’t have the gear, and the water was cold enough I wouldn’t have braved it without a wetsuit.

We also encountered at one point another of the giant fern forests, so I had Daniel stand in front of one for scale.  These aren’t palm trees; they’re ferns. 

Finally we made it to the cove.  It had a magnificent archway:

And another take your breath away beach:

The water looked so inviting I had to roll up my jeans and get into it a little bit.  This seemed to be a common problem.  Everyone looked at the color of the water, thought “tropical” and dove in only to shriek, shiver, and run back out.  At least I didn’t try it in a bikini, as most of the others were doing. 


  1. Wowwww, that really does look breathtaking. Amazing. I know what you mean about a camera just not able to capture the full beauty, but your pictures had my mouth hanging open nonetheless. Gorgeous. YOu guys are so fortunate to get to see all of this! (And the fish and chips looked yummy)