Whitianga and beaches (Coromandels, New Zealand)

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Whitianga is a seaside town tucked into a deep bay protected by small rocky islands. It’s the perfect place to wander along the waterfront enjoying the serenity. It’s only about 21’C but feels almost summery as we explore the beach.
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A little over an hour later we drive south to check out the strip of beaches from Ferry Landing to Hot Water Beach. It will take the whole afternoon because the scenery is so captivating.  And not just the beaches themselves, the farmland is a green as anywhere we’ve been.
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Flaxmill Bay is our first stop.
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We drive to the top of Shakespeare Cliff from which the views are second to none. A tour boat races by. Even from here we can hear the squeals of joy from the passengers as it does donuts acrossnthe water.
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We stop for lunch at a pretty riverside park at Cooks Beach. The township is so named because Captain James Cook took his readings of Mercury here to determine the location of New Zealand relative to the rest of the world, as it was known in the 1770s. He also had the Endeavour cleaned by beaching it here. There’s not much to buy for lunch so we eat crackers and dip from the local dairy (convenience store). But it sure is pretty.
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Hahei Beach is by far the most popular with surfers and swimmers. It is less protected today than others so has a better swell. Rocky islands and outcrops still dot the entrance to this wide bay but not as much as at the other beaches. The famous Cathedral Cave is nearby but the walking path is closed due to storm damage. The only way to see the cave right now is by boat or kayak so we’ll come back another time.
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Finally we get to Hot Water Beach. The tide wasn’t correct for us to dig a hot water spa in the sand but the beach and drive were pretty.

We enjoy another dinner at the Whitianga Hotel and chat with a local couple who share our table. A trip to the movies follows and we enjoy the British flick Their Finest . It’s a brilliant little film that keeps us entertained.

Tauranga to Whitianga (Coromandels, New Zealand)

Sunrise out the window is amazing. It’s perfectly coloured and reflects off the ocean. I stay in bed longer than usual just to watch this marvelous sight. Not that we lie in terribly late. We are on time to join Rachel (our Couch Surfing host) for breakfast and some more conversation. In fact, by the time we hit the road it’s almost 11am and we have at least three hours to drive.

The drive up the State Highway 2 to Waihi is uneventful.  The scenery is as pretty as ever with green pastures and rolling hills lining the road. To our left is the mountain range that separates the coast from the Waikato basin where we began our journey ten days ago. It looks almost familiar with its steep sides and jagged ridgeline.
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We stop in Waihi to see the open cut gold mine. It’s ugly but worth a look. Unfortunately, we have an unpleasant incident with a museum. There is a small museum in town and another large one near the iSite. We chose the small museum and, after paying our $5 (each) entry fee are told it is being renovated and that many exhibits are missing. We should have asked for our money back at that point because only one exhibit is worthwhile  (a faux mining tunnel). We didn’t go to the big museum near the iSite because we didn’t see it until we were leaving town but it looked more modern from the outside.
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The mine itself is impressive. The north wall has collapsed under a land slip, which emphasised the scale of the project. I wouldn’t say it is picturesque because mining is part of the earth destroying greed that is causing so many of our social and environmental problems. But it’s impressive all the same.

The rest of our drive to Whitianga is stereotypically Kiwi. Winding roads take us past dairy cows and herds of sheep. Occasionally the sea comes into view with blue waters stretching to the Americas. Campervans crawl along slowly. We haven’t seen many to date but now are bombarded with this quintessential style of tourism. We had even considered camper vanning here ourselves until we did the maths and worked out that a car was more economical for us. I also get the impression that freedom camping isn’t as easy here as it once was. It’s just a shame we didn’t manage to get a photo of the many times we saw winding roads, campervans and dairy cows all in the one place. It would have been good to look back on.

We check into our BnB at Whitianga. Our host has everything down to a fine art and we are warmly welcomed. We are both fatigued so relax a while in our room watching Netflix and snoozing a little. It’s dusk by the time we get up to look for some dinner. We meander on foot through town and along the dark waterfront. We’re spoiled for choice of places that smell amazing but settle for steak night at the Whitianga Pub. $18 gets is each a perfectly cooked steak with a real mushroom sauce (not jist gravy with mushrooms added but an actual sauce made with mushrooms as the key ingredient) and delicious mini roast potatoes. What a way to reenergize.