From Auckland we went to the Coromandel Peninsula for two nights before heading to Rotorua. Had we not made this detour, we may have considered going further south than Rotorua, but this had been a recommendation from two people; one of our NZ colleagues, Lara, and Sian my Welsh friend in Suzhou – who so far had come good on all recommendations (Mitre Peak Cruises and the Jet speed boat, and previously Cape Tribulation in Australia). We had high hopes.
“Wh” in Maori is pronounced “F”. Whitianga is on the coast. The road from Auckland started off straight, but once onto the peninsula, the road became increasingly windy, lots of hairpin bends through the forest as we climbed up and then descended towards the coast. Eventually we heard from the back of the car “I feel car sick”. Thankfully she wasn’t, but as this was the “main road” we knew we would have the same issue two days later! Our YHA was on the road adjacent to the beach, by the time we had done our food shopping it was dusk, but the walk along the beach blew the cobwebs away. We had been “upgraded” to a self contained two bedroom apartment on arrival. It was simple, with no oven and two electric induction hobs, but we survived! The heating had been turned on prior to arrival and it was a change for Eleanor to have her own room.
Why Whitianga? It is close to Cathedral Cove and to Hot Water Beach. The one day we had allocated to do this, was a beautiful UK summer’s day. The temperature was “beach weather” – just right. We were able to park at the designated parking for Cathedral Cove- it is only accessible by boat, kayak or on foot. I had looked at doing it by boat, but walking is free (but not whinge free). If we weren’t able to park at the closest car park we would have had to walk up from the village which while a 5 minute drive would have been an even longer walk – get there early to nab the closer parking. We took our picnic and 40 or so minutes later (probably longer as I took photos and held everyone up) we were on the beach. We all paddled and had an enjoyable morning/afternoon. Cathedral Cove was used in the Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian – a film we have all yet to see. It was quite quiet despite the fact that it was in the middle of the NZ school holidays, but it was on a week day. With sand between our toes, we left to go and dig a hole.
Hot Water Beach, 12 kilometres south east of Whitianga, a must see at low tide. For a refundable deposit of NZ$20 per spade we hired out 3 spades from the YHA. Low tide was about 5pm, we could start digging about 3pm. We arrived, and parked (again parking spaces at a premium) and went onto the beach. I was told that there was only one area where you dig, anywhere else outside of that area and you will just get sand and cold water.
I didn’t know what to expect, but armed with swimming costumes and towels and our spades we set off to find that digging had already commenced. We found a spot (after 3 attempts) and staked our claim by making our own sand wall around our very own hot tub. An underground river of hot water flows from the interior of the earth to surface in the Pacific Ocean at Hot Water Beach, by digging you will get own steamy spa. The water is boiling in some parts, and even when you have dug a seemingly “just right temperature spa”, it can get hotter. However, bathing in sandy pools means that sand gets EVERYWHERE, in all crevices, we rinsed out the swimming costumes as best we could, but there was still a lot of sand. After Eleanor and I bathed in the rivers at War-O-Tapu, my bikini was thrown in the bin.
Digging at Hot Water Beach was the most surreal experience of the holiday.