Since we have a baby on the way (we’re 23 weeks along at this point), we decided to to visit a couple places in New Zealand we’ve never been before. We decided to nickname this trip our ‘BABY’moon- potentially our last trip as a couple before the wee bub arrives.
First on our list to visit was Coromandel. It is a large peninsula on the North Island, and it is full of stunning, remote beaches. Since our last couple trips were fast-paced and we were constantly ‘on-the-go’, we intentionally planned a trip on which we could simply RELAX!
We had four full days at the beach, surrounded by a day of travel on each end. We stayed in the town of Whitianga and used it as a base to reach other beaches and nearby destinations.
From the lookout down onto New Chums Beach
Our first full beach day brought us to New Chums beach, ranked as one of the world’s top 20 remote beaches. In order to reach the beach, you must walk 20-30 minutes over a semi-rocky trail and cross ankle deep water. It is only accessible during the two hours before and after low tide. The walk was very pleasant (we were at the beach after all!), and the beach was gorgeous.
We climbed up a small “path” to reach the top of a lookout point that had amazing views of the area. Morgan handled the climb like a champ, and Nugget certainly appreciated the views.
Testing the water and relaxing at New Chums Beach
We spent the morning on the beach and briefly braved the water. Although gorgeous, the water was only 62 degrees (16.2 in Centigrade), which is pretty cold by our standards after growing up on the beaches of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. We then left the New Chums, wanting to beat the rising tide back to our car.
We spent the afternoon at Otama Beach, which was even less crowded than New Chums. Less than 10 people were on this beach and we enjoyed an afternoon in the shade, hiding under Pohutukawa trees (aka New Zealand’s Christmas trees). We also saw a 7 foot bronze whaler shark swim right along the shoreline, which made us thankful for the cold temperatures that kept us out of the water.
Enjoying the waves and views from Otama Beach
The following day included the two most famous beaches in the Coromandel area. First up was Hot Water Beach. If you’ve ever been to the beach, you know that it doesn’t take much digging to reach water under the sand. Because there are geothermal springs under Hot Water Beach, digging here might lead you to some very hot water (up to 140 degrees F!). Once you mix this with the cold sea water, you create your own personal hot tub.
This was the most crowded beach we encountered on our beach trip. People squeezed together amidst the small geothermal portion of the beach, armed with shovels to build walls against the incoming tide. While Evan spent most of his time digging and maintaining a wall, Morgan and Nugget enjoyed sitting with their legs in the warm water. This was best form of teamwork, if you ask me.
Digging our hole to find geothermal water at Hot Water Beach
After high tide crashed into our hot pool and drove us away from Hot Water Beach, we made our way over to Cathedral Cove. At Cathedral Cove, a large tunnel links two small remote beaches, and again, it can only be reached by a 40 minute walk (or a boat taxi for cash). This beach has become much more popular since its debut in the movie Prince Caspian. You can watch the scene from the movie below:
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We spent a while relaxing in Cathedral Cove, but on our way back to the car, we stopped at Gemstone Bay. Up until now, we had carried our snorkeling equipment all over the place, but the cold water kept us from using it. No longer would New Zealand’s cold water deter us! Gemstone Bay was a pretty unique place to go snorkeling, and felt like we were swimming over a large golden forest.
The view from our walk down to Cathedral Cove, looking out over the Marine Reserve (above left)
Where we set up camp at Cathedral Cove (above right)
Inside Cathedral Cove
Snorkeling at Gemstone Bay (above left)
Walking through dense bush on the way to/from Cathedral Cove (above right)
We lasted about 15 minutes snorkeling at Gemstone Bay before we decided we had braved cold water for long enough. Even Morgan and Nugget’s combined heat didn’t make it too long.
On our third beach day we drove down to Whangamata with plans to kayak out to Donut Island. Unfortunately, due to wind, the kayak rental company would not let people take boats onto the water. So instead, we walked along an underwater sandbar to Hauturu Island and explored the views from atop the highest point of the Island.
Views of Whangamata from Hauturu Island
Crossing the sandbar to Hauturu Island, with Donut Island in the distance
After a picnic lunch that afforded our last lovely views of Whangamata Beach, we made for Onemana beach. Once again, we found a stunning beach, deserted from any other people. We posted up, took naps, read some books, and relaxed for the afternoon before returning to Whitianga.
View of Whangamata Beach from our picnic spot (above left)
Enjoying solitude at Onemana Beach (above right)
Our fourth day brought rain. We managed to go swimming in the hotel pool and compete in a game of mini-golf before the rain started to pour, but by lunch time we were back inside our hotel, listening to the rain on the roof. However, after three glorious days at various beaches, we were content to rent a couple movies and enjoy a restful afternoon.
We really loved our time in Coromandel and were sad to leave, but we had a flight to catch on Christmas Eve so that we could be back in Christchurch for Christmas day. We still think it is weird to have Christmas in the summer, but you’ll never hear us complain about warm weather!