Coromandel Road Trip – Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, and Glamping!

So many places to see and so little time!  Jake, Alice (Jake’s sister), and Lisa picked us up and we headed out…. Trevor and I had really no idea where we all were headed but we didn’t really care!

Day 1: Whangamata –> Colenso Cafe –> Whenuakite, Coromandel forest lookout –> Hot water beach 

The Coromandel area is just south of Auckland and north of the Bay of Plenty. There are so many hikes, beaches, little islands to explore…. Alice and Jake planned the whole trip and we were just along for the ride and loved it!

Colenso Cafe – Alice knew of this amazing cafe which had a massive garden/orchard where we had a small bite to eat.  It was just off highway 25 with a tiny sign…if you blinked you would miss it!

I haven’t see an artichoke for I don’t know how long…let alone growing in a garden : )
This is a Loquat tree…I guess not in season right now but somehow this cafe still had fruit on it.
Jake picked one for us to taste…peeled off the thin layer of skin and just bite into it…it was WONDERFUL! A blend between an apricot and a cantaloupe
Chicken and leek pie with a plum sauce…and a glass of champagne. I asked the very nice lady at the counter for a “split” of champagne. She handed me a bottle of juice…. I guess “split” means “bottled juice” here in New Zealand…I She told me I should of asked for was a “tiny bubble” of champagne…fitting but who knew?!

Whenuakite Coromandel Forest lookout – Just a quick stop to stretch the legs and breathtaking views!

New Zealanders take their Kiwis very seriously….. we see signs about how to protect them lots of places.
Just a quick bush walk….
The lookout with the Alderman Islands in the background. We sailed around the ALderman Islands to get to Whangamata so it was cool to see them from this perspective…and during the day!

Hot water beach Holiday park – There are probably thousands of “holiday parks” across both North and South islands of New Zealand.  These holiday parks resemble a KOA camping ground in the US but MUCH nicer.  There are tent sites, standard cabins, deluxe cabins, RV hookups, and even little yurts with cots in them…all types of accommodations for every type of “camper”.  Some of these holiday parks even have a fully equipped communal kitchen, laundry facilities, and showers are FREE! We had grabbed dinner items at the store for a huge platter of cheese, meats, veggies, and dips…. our favorite!

A row of cabins at the holiday park we stayed at… I was so blown away how cute and well maintained they were. As you may expect…you need reservations for these, sometimes months in advance!
Lisa and Jake’s Deluxe cabin…it had a TV!
Trevor setting up our new tent right across the way from Lisa and Jake’s cabin.
Ta Da!!!! Unfortunately we had to move our humble abode as this site was taken…no biggie…we just pulled up the stakes and lifted the entire tarp up and walked to another site.
These were all the rage and all the COOL kids were on them…so Jake rented one for an hour ….. it was hilarious!
We all took turns cycling around the holiday park…Trevor here chasing birds
That smile warms my heart!
Hot water beach is known for the naturally heated mineral water from a below thermal river that runs to the Pacific ocean. At ow tide you can dig a hole in the sand and create your own “spa”. We brought our own shovel (to rent one was like $20/day) and ventured to the beach to check this unique experience….however…there were literally about a hundred people where you can dig and it was hard to get a spot….it was a MAD HOUSE! So we just took a dip in the ocean instead.

Day 2 – Hot Water beach –> Hahei Cathedral Cove–> Kuaotunu 

We left the Hot Water beach holiday park by 10am for a huge day of exploring!

Coroglen – Random stop for a dip in freshwater

We were just driving along and saw some people swimming in this water hole under a bridge….why not take a dip?
Jake and Alice both had never stopped here so it was cool to stop somewhere they had not been before. The water was fresh and looked like you could drift down it…. there was even a rope swing on the other side.
Drying off after a nice dip…our hair and skin felt as soft as butter when we got out…it must be magic water!

Hahei – Cathedral cove is on the list for most…. it’s in all the visitor guides so we expected it to be busy (literally bus loads of people got off at one time) but wanted to check it out anyways.  The hike was about 30-40 minutes one way and mostly “paved”.  After, we had lunch at the Hahei beach cafe.

Again…so many walks and hikes it’s amazing…. It’s almost overwhelming to choose which way to go (lol)
Trevor and Jake (behind Trevor) at the start of and top of the hike…the sun here is super intense due to the lack of Ozone layer so lots of sunscreen that contains lots of zinc!
On the hike, Jake showed me the “Silver Fern” plant, the iconic emblem of New Zealand… the Silver fern is the tree fern but when it’s young the underside of the fern is “silver”.
Trevor behind a tree living on a rock…
And we arrived!
Jake at the natural rock in Cathedral cove named Te Hoho Rock. This rock and cove was the place where parts of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis song “Can’t hold us” was filmed!
I had to watch the music video of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis “Can’t hold us” again…. here is a clip of the music video at Cathedral cove with Te Hoho rock in the background… the sense of Macklemore in the cave are pretty cool too!  I couldn’t help it…see music video below if it will post : )

Fanished….wonderful lunch in the town of Hahei
Lisa and Jake playing on the monkey bars…..Love these two!

The Chalet and Glamping –  Jake made the reservations and we thought we were camping somewhere…turns out we re GLAMPING!!!!

Alice the gate keeper…. to get into the property we needed to open and close the gate… she just happened to be sitting in the front seat : )
Gravel road,cross a few streams, and then we started to see little wooden signs for the Chalets
Getting closer…
The Office…..We all laughed out loud!!!!
The view from the office
Curious….Trevor and I thought we were going to be camping somewhere but had no idea where…we thought this was the place where Alice was staying
TO our surprise…..this is what we drove up to…. there was 3 camper vans and a common space for sitting. there was room for all of us!
Looking inside the common space where Alice, Trevor and I stayed
Alice stayed in the main camper van and it had an almost equipped kitchen but a refrigerator?!  Awesome!
Alice’s van came with a sofa and TV
Alice’s bedroom and sitting area
Looking towards the common space from inside Alice’s van
Trevor and I decided to stay in the little green van
One side had a sitting area
The other side had the bed…super simple and perfect for us!
There was a bathroom/shower “shed”…it came compete with shampoo, conditioner, and body wash…even towels and washcloths…5 STARS … seriously!
We did have neighbors…. we called this trio “the managers” (lol)
Lisa and Jake booked a chalet…this log building had all the amenities!  We hung out on the deck and played “Dictionary” (a game where everyone has to contribute a definition to a word while one of them is the true definition, we all had to vote on which one sounded the best) while drinking copious amounts of alcohol… and laughed our hearts out!
At night we took a walk to the glow worms…. they were on the side of rocks near a stream that ran nearby….spectacular!
Our host! He is from Germany and basically sold everything and moved to New Zealand where he now owns this property to make a living and loves to be by the ocean.

On the way to dinner at Luke’s Kitchen in the town of Kuaotunu just a few minutes drive from the Chalet, we decided to take a dip in the ocean

We would see lots of tractors with boat trailers on them…must be a thing here since there is so much farming…why not use a tractor rather than your car.
Drying off in the sun before dinner
Trevor and I have been looking for a car or camper or something to travel around the South Island of New Zealand next month so we would every now and then stop off the side of the road to look at a car that is for sale (there are lots of them). On the way to dinner we saw this one and had to take a photo: It was basically a trailer with chicken wire all around it!

Dinner at Luke’s cafe – Luke’s Kitchen is really the only restaurant in Kuaotunu and it was busy..but the food was good and the company even better!

Luke’s Restaurant – just an observation…. thus far, the places where we have eaten seem to have a different service style in each establishment…meaning that sometimes you order and pay your food at a counter then they give you a number and they deliver your food. Sometime they bring you menus and take your order at the table. Sometime you pay when you order at the counter or sometime after they deliver your food but still you pay at the counter. Sometimes you clear your own plates and sometime you don’t…. just an observation…..
Little Joke: Trevor has a pink knife he brought with him on the NYE boys fishing trip in Whangamata. as you can imagine, he got a little slack for that…so in true Trevor form, he said next time he would bring “white Merlot” instead of beer on the next fishing trip… We now call Rose wine “white Merlot”….
Love these green lipped mussels!
Full to the belly but wanting something sweet…there was a van selling food near the beach off of Luke’s restaurant…I don’t remember what the menu called this but it was not called “the frozen watermelon on a stick”…but that is what I got…it was sprinkled with fresh mint and pretty tasty!
He never grows up does he ; )

Day 3 – Kuaotunu –> Whangapoua –> Kuaotunu -Teri and Lee’s House

We all slept in after a full and fun day…. plus getting to bed really late didn’t help. Check out wasn’t until 11 so we all had a late start to the day…self induced mind you ; )

Whangapoua – Alice wanted to revisit a beach called New Chum beach in the town of Whangapoua.  She remembered it to be secluded and private, a perfect way to spend a “hung over” day in the sun.  When we arrived…there were 20-30 cars that stretched all down the side of the road to the beach…we bagged it.  We found a nice little spot in the larger bay where the locals were.

The local families boogie boarding
There were some tourists here…this cool hut was made by a local, clearly…but made for some shade. Opps….there goes the pink floating tube fly away.
nap time

Back to Kuaotunu to visit with old family friends of Jake and Alice: Teri and Lee’s house – The Pipe family has known Teri and Lee for many years: purchased property together, seen relationships grow and fall, so “popping by” New Zealand style, we did as Teri and Lee live in Kuaotunu.  They welcomed us graciously as invited us to stay the night with them.  We went to the store to pick up groceries for dinner for all 7 us and just hung out listening to stories about their travels, funny stories about Rob (Jake and Alice’s dad), and took in their beautiful property!

Teri and Lee’s house they have a short bridge to their house…note the sign…it states “5 knots in the harbour”….too cute!
This is looking left of the little bridge to their house….again… note their sense of humor…the crocodile with sunglasses and a flower behind its ‘ear”. It was tied to a sting on the bridge but when I first saw it I didn’t see the sting and though for a moment it was a real crocodile!
We saw this palm tree when we came down their driveway…I thought…these are our kind of people and I haven’t even met them yet!
Their HUGE garden! Lisa and Jake stayed in the little silver camper.
Lee showed me her Maori potatoes or as the Maori call them “Taewa” (or rīwai)…what is so special about these? They were cultivated by the Maori people before the settlers came and are hard to come by these days. I believe there is movement to bring these varieties of potatoes back but it has been a hard path to carve.
They had an orchard as well….. Pears, peaches, plums, lemons….
Their kitchen; the wood is Kauri wood, they had an old antique stove fully operational, lots of photos of family and friends…
Did I mention they had a dog?! Her name was nadi and yes…I got my puppy fix…oh yeah…we just pitched our 2nd new tent (We couldn’t sit up straight in the other one) in their backyard.
Full garage with tons of tools, fishing gear, and yes surf boards! Teri and Lee used to live in Oahu, Hawaii for 15 years so we had a nice chat reminiscing about the Hawaiian local ways since I lived there for a little less than a year. He told us that he never lost his New Zealand accent because all the local Hawaiian wanted to hear him talk in his New Zealand accent all the time! He even corrected me when I said I needed to get my “jandals” (New Zealand word for flip flops) …he said “you mean slippers” (sounds like “slippah” which is what Hawaiians call flip flops). It was great to remember those times for him and I.
Speaking of surfboards: Lee was a professional surfer…Teri told us when he watched her it was ‘like watching her dance on water”…. Additionally, both Teri and Rob knew Bob Davies…who if you are into surfing this name you know. Bob Davies actually lived in Whangamata and Rob (Jake and Alice’s dad) has a Bob Davies surfboard # 10 I think. Teri has one as well but I don’t remember the number off hand. Bob Davies died last year in Whangamata and my sister and Jake saw him on their last trip here to New Zealand the day before he died! He was a legend here in New Zealand and worldwide!
Teri and Lee harvested these Tuatua from the beach that day at low tide. Lee told us that you need to soak them and add a grain of sort about the time the tide would change that day so the Tuatua will spit the sand…just like clams we have in the pacific northwest.
Tuatua are very similar to the well known Pipi which we see signs n the beach for harvesting but you can tell a slight difference in the shell shape…. I can;t wait to get some for ourselves. I guess at low tide you feel with your toes for them and them “dog” them up…not with a shovel or tool…Trevor already asked…just with your hands as they are near the surface of the sand.
The appetizer – Tuatuas just steamed and lemon… it needed nothing else… Taste just like a clam!
Ahhh…dinner of beef, chicken, and shrimp skewers on the BBQ, garden fresh salad and garlic bread…and of course “white Merlot”. From left to right: Alice, Lisa, Jake, Trevor, Teri, and Lee. 

Day 4 – The car ride back to Whangamata 

The Kauri trees are heavily protected.  In 1952 the 9,105 hectare Waipoua Sanctuary was finally declared, with all remaining kauri forests in Crown lands coming under the protection of the Department of Conservation by 1987. Kauri trees on private land are now also largely protected.

Kauri forests once covered 1.2 million ha from the Far North of Northland to Te Kauri, near Kawhia and were common when the first people arrived around 1,000 years ago.

Maori used kauri timber for boat building, carving and building houses. The gum was used as a fire starter and for chewing (after it had been soaked in water and mixed with the milk of the puha plant). The arrival of European settlers in the 1700s to 1800s saw the decimation of these magnificent forests. Sailors quickly realised the trunks of young kauri were ideal for ships’ masts and spars, and the settlers who followed felled the mature trees to yielded huge quantities of sawn timber of unsurpassed quality for building. The gum too, became essential in the manufacture of varnishes and other resin-based products. The gum was obtained through digging, fossicking in treetops, or more drastically, by bleeding live trees. More forest was cleared as demand for farmland and timber increased in the early and mid 20th century.
Now kauri are facing a new threat. Kauri dieback is a fungus-type disease, which is having a devastating effect on New Zealand’s kauri forests in Northland, Great Barrier Island and, potentially, the Coromandel Peninsula. There is no known cure for kauri dieback, but we can help reduce its spread by cleaning boots and equipment and avoiding kauri tree roots. Any movement of soil around the roots of trees could spread the disease.

Thank you Alice, Jake, Lisa, Teri and Lee for such a wonderful trip… it’s been amazing learning about your lands and culture and sharing the Coromandel experience with us!

The gang ; )



  1. Awesome just awesome. What wonderful experiences .. love to y’all .. my cuz will show u lots of places too… she is a neat person Brian even Gilliam. Look her up on FB. She said y’all can call her anytime… please send all to ur dad for some reason he doesn’t get the emails. But I do. He wants his own but of course I share…

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