Friday 23rd February
We travelled to Adelaide airport early in the day and spent the time before the flight working on the Internet courtesy of the airport’s free hotspot.
We arrived in Auckland at around 6.00 p.m. and caught the free shuttle to Oakwood Manor Motel where we enjoyed a very good fish salad supper that was included in our Wotif accommodation deal.
Saturday 24th February
As we were not able to pick up our new hire car until 2.00 p.m., we spent a leisurely time at the airport doing further research on the internet and having lunch. We then set up for Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula taking the motorway south in fairly heavy traffic.
Thames is a relatively small service town, rather than a tourist destination but it provided a satisfactory chalet, one of six run by a resident owner.
Sunday 25th February
Acting on the suggestions of Karyn, our host, we travelled to the western coast of the Coromandel. This involved a little over an hour’s journey over rugged and high volcanic hills which gave spectacular scenery and ultimately views of the coast. We followed the coastal road to a small settlement, Cook’s Bay, that appeared to offer very little. However, from near there we were able to take a couple of minutes’ ferry ride to Whitianga. This was clearly more geared to tourists and as well as a number of shops had several restaurants, one of which provided us with quite a satisfactory but slightly expensive lunch.
After taking the ferry back again, we sat on a beach near Cathedral Cove and Adrian went for a swim. We then walked the coastal path to Cathedral Cove itself – a walk of some 45 minutes each way over undulating wooded cliffs in the quite intense heat.
Cathedral Cove has (probably) limestone cliffs which have been undercut by the waves and in one place a large archway cave through to the adjoining cove. Off shore are several islands and the whole scene is very striking. Indeed, we later found out that it had been closed for a day recently for filming.
We concluded our day’s adventures by a visit to Hot Water Beach. Geothermal activity heats up water below a small section of the beach which is exposed two hours either side of low tide. We had no difficulty locating the area as there was quite a crowd of people with spades digging in the sand and then sitting in pools of water that in some cases were too hot for comfort. Some steam was drifting off the site.
We then repeated the long winding journey back across the central spine of the Coromandel, returning to our chalet at about 8.30 p.m. having had a varied and enjoyable day.
Monday 26th February
After a slow start from Thames due to more internet use plus a second hand bookshop, we drove for about an hour and a half northwards along a road that for most of the journey hugged the shoreline and was bounded by steep hills. After about two thirds of the journey, the road swung inland over the beautiful folds of the volcanic hills and gave us some wonderful views of the coastline with its bays and islands.
Coromandel town was our destination. Whilst, like Thames having some history in gold mining – and buildings dating from the 19th century, it now bases its prosperity on tourism. It is still relatively small however. We were a bit concerned about difficulty in getting accommodation as the Thames Tourist Agency had recommended that we arrange things by 2.00 p.m. as afterwards it could be difficult.
In the evening we went for a walk up a nearby hill and into the town, returning along the coastal road – thus completing a complete loop.
Tuesday 27th February
We left the Coromandel Peninsula via the long winding coastal road and Thames and headed back to Auckland. From there we took the west coast route of Northland, the area (including the Bay of Islands) which lies to the north of Auckland. The journey proved long and we were more than ready to stop by the time we reached Dargarville.
We had stopped briefly at a museum at Matakohe but did not stay there other than for light refreshments.
The scenery was quite different from the Coromandel but again largely rolling hills with the road twisting a lot more than we had been used to in Australia.
Dargarville Tourist Information Office fixed us up with self-contained accommodation at Baylys Beach – 13 km away. This was a small settlement in a rounded valley leading down to the sea. Although there were probably only 50 or so properties, we could not find “The Lookout” where we were to stay and asked the “Funky Fish Restaurant” if they could help us. We ate there that night and it was a good meal despite the isolated location and the rather hippy-type appearance of the place.
The sea was rough and generally the place had little to commend itself to us.
Wednesday 28th February
We continued north on what is called the Kauri Coast. Very sparsely populated, this area has some cattle farming on cleared land but otherwise is largely forested. Jill had the worst of the driving with at least 25 km of very narrow winding road through the forest on what resembled (apart from surface) a forest track. A Visitors’ Centre gave us a little information including the fact that the forest had about 240 species of vegetation and that the Kauri tree was noted for having straight branchless trunks of perhaps 100 feet which made it an excellent timber.
We continued on to Kaikohe which was just a service town without anything resembling a decent restaurant. It had a very high Maori population.
Within an hour we arrived at Paihia on the shores of the Bay of Islands. This is a very beautiful location, framed by wooded hills. We secured a motel which Jill was particularly anxious to visit in order to use up the time available for wireless access on a card purchased in Australia.
The day being hot, we decided to go to the beach and prepared ourselves with suntan cream. Unfortunately, within five minutes of arriving at the beach, the sky became very overcast and it was soon raining.
We had a good meal in the evening at La Scala Restaurant and then spent some time on the internet booking up hotels in Tahiti and Los Angeles.
Thursday 1st March
We headed south down the main road through Whangarei and then to the west coast and the small town of Helensville. Once again, Jill had the most exciting driving with some very high level and twisty hill top roads.
Helensville had nothing special and was certainly not highly tourist orientated. The Tourist Information Office showed us details of a little cabin at a hill top farm where in the evening we took a walk over part of the farmer’s 1000 acres and enjoyed distant views in all directions.
In the afternoon, we spent an hour at Shelly Beach relaxing in the sun.
Friday 2nd March
We travelled to the airport where we spent further time on the computer pending the flight to Rarotonga.