Spending my first 6 months in New Zealand my local friends from university told me three places to visit, Milford Sound, The Coromandel, and Nelson. So during my winter break I decided to go and check-out the Coromandel, which looking back I probably should have went during the summer. However, going in winter the popular places were practically empty.
The most famous thing to see is the Microsoft screen saver of Cathedral Cove. My mum and I headed out from Auckland taking the Intercity Bus. The cost was NZD 5 one way. I booked mine two months in advance which is why it was so cheap. Pro tip with Intercity if you book far enough in advance you can get extremely cheap fares on any rides. Also, sign up for their reward program, it’s free and you get a credit that can be used towards future rides.
Day 1 – Thames 07.08.2019
We arrived in the evening from Auckland and apparently, I made an error when booking the hotel using hotels.com I booked a single twin bed. Thankful we were able to upgrade to a different room. The only thing to report here is where I stayed and that Thames is an absolute ghost town. Most places were shut down at 18:00 and the only place we saw that was open for dinner was Pizza Hut. I made a huge mistake staying in Thames, but I made the best of it. I stayed at the Imperial Hotel, the cost was NZD 65 per night.
Day 2 – Karangahake Gorge 07.09.2019
I wanted to go canyoning at Sleeping God Canyon but they didn’t have any openings so I went to i-Site Visitor Center to try and find something to do. For those of you that don’t know each city has an i-Site which has all the information, you need for stuff to do in the area and you can book directly through them.
They had suggested I take an Intercity bus to Paeroa and then hire a bike for the day, where I can bike to the Gorge and then bike to Waihi. From Waihi, I could take an intercity bus back, plus that city was a bit more lively so my mum would meet me there for dinner.
I hired a bike from Hauraki Bike Hire, a quick note before you show up to let them know that you’re biking one way because they didn’t know that and I got very lucky that the train station was open in Waihi because that is where you drop the bike off.
The bike ride to the gorge is scenic and takes about 30 minutes. Once you get to the gorge there is a trail to the crown mine which is awesome! You can go into the mines, which have no lights by the way so you need a torch or your phone, and then as you walk through them there are windows you can look out over the gorge.
Heading to Waihi I found a waterfall to stop at, if you’re in New Zealand during summer this would be a perfect stop as it has a swimming hole. This is Owharoa Falls. The bike ride gets a bit more challenging from Owharoa Falls to Waihi, with a lot of up and down hills and you’re in the middle of nowhere surrounded by farmland.
Arriving to meet my mum in Waihi the timing worked out perfect, I barely got to the train station in time to turn in the bike. The city of Waihi has a massive gold mine that you can walk to the top of and look out over. We had dinner at the Sterling Tavern and then headed back to Thames.
Day 3 – Whitianga 07.10.2019
We took the intercity bus to Whitianga. This is a very scenic route that goes up and around the Coromandel. Along the coastline and through the green rolling hills and takes a little over 2 hours. We arrived at our Airbnb, you can view it here. If you’re new to Airbnb be sure to use my $50 Off referral code.
I wanted to do a short hike, I found one on Trip Advisor called Shakespeare Cliff Lookout. To get there from Whitianga you have to take the ferry across which costs NZD 5 and takes less than 10 minutes.
Day 4 – Hot Water Beach & Cathedral Cove 07.11.2019
Now for the main event Cathedral Cove. I went to the I-site to book a tour for this. And everything was filled up, they made one last attempt by calling Explore Paradise and we were able to get a private tour. This was a bit spendy for a ride in a van to hot water beach and cathedral cove but we had no other options. For those wondering it still was worth it, but I would rather just hire a car myself next time.
Starting a hot water beach. This is a unique beach because twice a day during low tide for two hours each, you can dig a hole and create your spa pool. This happens because A volcanic eruption many million years ago has left a slab of hot stone deep underground, which heats the groundwater and sends it up to the surface as hot as 64 degrees Celsius (147 Fahrenheit).
To start we walked around the beach with Toni (our guide) who would dig to try and find a good spot to relax and enjoy the hot water. After about 20 minutes we found a decent spot. It was pretty difficult to make a deep thermal pool for ourselves and it seemed the best approach was to make a large circle that was maybe 30cm (1 foot) deep and then lay down in it. A quick note here since we went in winter and during a weekday we were able to find a spot, if you go on the weekend or during summer good luck sharing the beach with a hundred other people trying to find the same spot as you.
After I had enough digging and maybe 15 minutes of relaxing we changed and made our way to the cathedral cove. This is a 2.5km hike downhill and took me about 25 minutes. There is a gap that you can dart off about halfway down that gives you a very unique overlook. This trail is not paved.
Once you’re at the bottom you’re welcomed to the famous Windows screen saver view. An amazing beach to sit, relax and have lunch. During our time there a few boats would arrive but none of them came to shore. Starting out this trip I thought I would have preferred the boat ride but I think to enjoy Cathedral Cove it’s best to take the walking path.
Last stop was at The Lost Spring. Very nice geothermal pools, cost was NZD 45 for 1.5 hours. The place is huge and worth a stop if you’re in Whitianga.
Back to Christchurch to start my second semester. Thanks for reading and liking my post. Let me know about your experience at Cathedral Cove in the comments below.