Cultural Experience | New Zealand

Experience the 100% Pure North Island’s Beaches

Part Two: Three days in New Zealand

Welcome to our 3 day tour of New Zealand’s North Island. Jump right in and enjoy the scenic East coast with us! To see where days 1 & 2 took us, click here.

Day 3 – The Coromandel Peninsula

Today is all about the beaches so be sure to have your swimmers on, a towel handy, sunscreen and sunglasses as well as some land & water compatible shoes.

Fair warning: no amount of pictures you take during your time in New Zealand will ever be enough to capture the true beauty you are about to witness with your own two eyes.

The Coromandel is the Eastern peninsula of the North Island. It is a full region filled with those dream destinations we all see in the travel commercials and beach fantasies. For this day, rise early and jot back down to the beach at the Mount for a speechless, beauty filled sunrise.

Now fuel up the car and hop on the Pacific Coast Highway for the sites you’ve always fantasized about. Set your next destination to an hours drive North at Waihi Beach.  As you approach, get ready for Shelly Bay to be glimmering in the morning sun around one of your many curves.

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Surprise just around the bend! Shelly Bay

Here the beach is calm and rolls on for 9 kilometres (5.6 miles). Take some time to walk and enjoy the peaceful waves, large gray sea gulls, and even search a bit for some sand dollars. Jump in the water, it’s one of New Zealand’s safest surf beaches! If the tides are high, there is also a lovely boardwalk along the beach that you can utilise to still enjoy Waihi Beach.

After about 45 minutes of cruising along the highway your GPS will bring you to Whangamata where, before you actually reach the town it will inform you to turn so to continue on the highway. At this point, take the town’s posted suggested detour sign and drive straight for another stop first. Take Port Road to the very end where it becomes Beach Road, park, and walk out to the wharf. To your left the river is the harbour with a host of boats anchored down. To your right, the view of spell binding comfort sand beaches with gleaming azure and jade waters stretching out past the perfectly plopped island mounds. This beach is a must walk as the fine sand cradles your foot flawlessly and soothes those troubles to a day gone past. A fun find are all the oyster shells speckling the sand, still intact.

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Striking Whangamata is worth the detour.

While Whangamata will beckon you to stay, and is justifiable of the merit it holds, treasure it in your photos, heart, and memory, for an hour away is mind blowing Hot Water Beach. This beach is a popular tourist site and in its defense, it does offer a rare and amazing trait. Underground thermal water bubbles up through the sand and presents a unique experience while standing or sitting in it coupled with the cold Pacific Ocean water sweeping in as well. Take a spade with you, or rent one to dig up your personal spa, but take caution, this thermal water is scalding hot in most places and there’s only a small section of the beach that this phenomenon can be experienced so while the beach is large, this one area is quite cluttered with people. Additionally, don’t miss out on the large volcanic rocks that litter the Southern part of the beach.

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Overlooking Hot Water Beach you can barely make out the crowds as those black clumps on the lower left beach.

Your final stop, though there are many others that can be added, is Cathedral Cove. Only a fifteen minute drive along the highway is iconic and secluded Cathedral Cove. The deceiving point here is that it is not as easily accessed. You can book a tour to arrive at it by small boat or kayak if it is high tides, as the cove will be filled with water, or you can take the 45 minute elevated walk along the New Zealand coast to it in low tides. No trip to the Coromandel would be complete without Cathedral Cove. All throughout this hike you’ll enjoy stunning beauty with the bounty of tree covered islands dotting the horizon.

First stop along the hike is fifteen minutes in from the car park, at Gemstone Bay. Be aware, it’s lovely, but you will come down the wooden stepped trail and then need to climb over some large rocks and boulders to reach the water where you can snorkel in the marine reserve. Second stop, another five minutes away, is Stingray Bay where part of the hike down also allows for a slight hike up to look out over the bay. Same as with Gemstone, there are large rocks that must be climbed over before reaching the sand here. Finally, the longest part of the walk, twenty-five more minutes along the flourishing limestone cliffs, and past some sheep grazing will be the downhill trek ending in Mares Leg Cove. Mares Leg is the easily accessible hike, and once on the beach you’ll see the magnificent eroded archway that leads into Cathedral Cove. Sit back and enjoy!

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View looking out from Cathedral Cove after passing under the archway from Mares Leg.

This cove was one of the sites used in the filming of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian movie and is frequently used as a romantic site for engagements. The water is rather cold, but swimming in the breaking waves is still pleasurable. When you hike back up to the car, there is also an optional detour through an emerald moss covered puriri grove which you can feel completely safe in with New Zealand’s lack of poisonous creatures lurking about.

Whew! What an adventure! Now time to plan the next, ay?

Christian Buck

Johnson & Wales University | 12 stories

Christian is a Sports, Entertainment, & Event Management alumna from Johnson & Wales University Charlotte campus. Texas born, Colorado raised, North Carolina educated, with an Australian study abroad. No regrets, just lessons learned. "Cause if you never leave home/never let go/you'll never make it to the great unknown/till you keep your eyes open" - NEEDTOBREATHE


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