We proceeded to the east coast of North Island where we beached hopped from well-known beaches to ones that are conveniently located along the way. South east of Auckland is the famous drive from Thames to Coromandel. It was said to be one of the most scenic routes in New Zealand. I took the opportunity to ask my travelmate to take over the driving as my limited driving abilities will prevent me from being able to enjoy the view as I navigate. The winding roads continued as we made our way to Coromandel.
We arrived at Coromandel just a bit before sundown so we made our way up the mountain to get a 360 degree view of the surrounding area and trekked back down to the beach for sunset. We tried chasing for the sunset in Coromandel, but had not luck since the clouds covered over the sun during the sunset. We did manage to enjoy fireworks at night in remembrance of Guy Fawkes (British holiday). We stayed at a family-run hostel tucked away in the town with many “wildlife”. By wildlife, I mean insects! It will take some time to get used to since insects were never something I am fond of. I was okay with it until the second night when I saw cockroaches in the kitchen. I knew that when I saw the cockroach spray in the freebie section of the kitchen it was already an obvious sign that there are lots of bugs there. That night, I freaked out as the hostel owner went into detail talking about their precautions for preventing bed bugs and other insects in New Zealand. There are no real poisonous animals in New Zealand so at least my life would not be at stake when I encounter any of these hideous creatures. I tried to hold my feeling of fear as I saw a little critter crawl around the hat that the hostel owner was wearing. He was so comfortable with insects, even occasionally eat them raw as a snack, I did not feel a need to point it out to him.
Many of the beaches we visited very similar of sand and water so they become a blue after a while. One of the first beaches that I remember going to is New Chums Beach. New Chums Beach is a new addition to the tourist guide books as it was a hidden gem that only locals know about until a couple years ago. To get to the beach, you have to walk through this body of water (which if you are lucky, only rises to your knees) and then trek through some rocks to access. With only maybe six or seven other people in sight, the beach was practically empty. The water is clear and the sand is soft. This is where I picked up the habit of taking macro shots of shells I find on the beach. This is my way of remembering something unique about each beach. Rarely do you find beaches that are very different than the other. Our next beach stop is to Cook’s beach. We did not spend much time there, but I just wanted to mention how clear the water was here. Their seashells were also very different from the ones at New Chums. The clearness in the water reminded me of Shells Beach in Western Australia.
Perhaps, the more famous beach and major tourist destination is Cathedral Cove. Within that area are several other bays and beaches. We went from Gemstone Bay to Stingray Bay to Cathedral Cove. Gemstone Bay, as you may have guessed, has a lot of colorful stones glistering wet in the water. By the time we finished with exploring Gemstone Bay, we ditched the walking trail to the other bay and maneuvered through the beach rocks to Stingray Bay. I was so surprised to find sea urchins nesting at Stingray Bay. And no, I did not see any stingrays. I was so tempted to harvest a sea urchin and feed myself some fresh uni. I have no idea how you can catch one since they are spiky and I was not sure if we were allowed to take anything from the waters there. It was a bit underwhelming by the time we reached Cathedral Cove since nothing in particular stood out at the beach. You see that spot where all the Cathedral Cove photos are taken with the giant limestone formations and that is about it. There were several tour buses making the stop here, but I personally would not recommend this spot if you have limited time in New Zealand.
Another beached that was advertised to us is Hot Water Beach. We were told that you can dig a hole in the beach and fill it up with ocean water that will create a natural spa pool like a hot tub to soak in. We picked up a British girl along the way who was working at a nearby farm. She told us that we have to visit during low tide and dig a hole around this specific spot to experience it. The water can reach beyond boiling point so people should not dig the hole too deep. Since we went during high tide, Hot Water Beach was just like any other beach to us. We did learn though from the British girl of how easy it is to hitch hike in New Zealand. I have only hitchhiked once in Australia and that took quite a bit to get to our destination. Maybe I will try again in New Zealand and hopefully have better luck!