After LOTS of driving (which I didn’t mind… the countryside is absolutely breathtaking), we ended up in The Coromandel.
Hot Water Beach
SJ went diving with a company in Waitunga and Victoria and I headed to Hot Water Beach. As its name suggests, there is a hot water source underground that feeds into the ocean. If you dig above this spring, you can tap into the hot water and essentially make your own hot tub in the sand.
Victoria and I rented a shovel to dig our own thermal pool. By the time we made it down to the beach, though, there were so many people who had already taken up the prime real estate. We chose to start digging a little off to the side but, as we assumed, we were too far over to tap into the hot water. The tide was also starting to come in, so we decided to drop the shovel and just enjoy the beach.
I walked through the hot springs area just to get a feel for it and part of the sand was so hot from the water that it almost burned. People were enjoying their self-made pools and sat relaxing in the steamy water.
While everyone else was enjoying their steam bath, we decided to just plunge into the cold ocean. Once we got over the initial shock, it wasn’t so bad, and the wind was just right for body-surfing the waves into shore. Any numbness wore off after a nap in the sun!
OK, so I have a confession to make. The guy at the scuba shop told us that Cathedral Cove is where Prince Caspian (the Narnia movie) was filmed and for some unknown reason, I SWORE he said The Wizard of Oz. He told us all about it and the whole time I was picturing the yellow brick road, knowing that wasn’t even possible because it was filmed in the US back before time began. I’m glad I kept my mouth shut, because when I mentioned it to Victoria and SJ later they thought I was crazy.
The landscape here was as beautiful as it looks on the screen. We parked in a lot at the very top of a hill and hiked all the way down to the cove. It is paved almost the whole way, but definitely steep in some places. We got to snap lots of pics and sit and enjoy the scenery.
One of my favorite parts of the beach was the family of 4 we sat near. The mom was sitting on a towel holding a baby and a DSLR. The dad was standing on the edge of the water with a little girl who was squealing with excitement in anticipation of the cold waves crashing on her feet. You could tell this was her first encounter with the ocean and she would let go of her dad’s hand only long enough to dip her toes in the foam and then run back to grab his leg – screaming and giggling the whole time. Her dad stood there enjoying his daughter’s discoveries and would back up every so often to let her be more and more independent in her exploration of the world in front of her. It made me wonder if this is how God interacts with us.
NOTE: everything in New Zealand closes around 7-8PM. And the daytime hours are usually up to the owner’s discretion. Most places have signs posted with the days that their open, leaving off the hours entirely.
It was after dark when we arrived and we finally headed out for food around 9PM, knowing our chances were thin. A kebab restaurant did the trick, though, and we ordered “takeaway” chicken and curry from a man who would balk and flap his arms every time he said “chicken”. He was the store owner and quite a character… I asked him how long he lived in NZ and if he liked it. He told me 20 years and then put his hand on my arm, told me he had 3 wives here and, so, of course loved it. With that, he walked away with a wink and a grin.
We ate back at the hostel and got to talk to some of the other travelers. Many people travel through both islands, working at different restaurants or hostels for a month or two at a time before moving on to the next area. It’s a great way to explore while making money and with the amount of people I met doing this, I’m assuming many businesses in New Zealand are set up to support short-term workers. Something to look into if you’re interested!
- Anchor Lodge Backpacker’s Hostel: the sign says Anchor Lodge Motel, so we were a little confused at first. But it’s a great set up with separate “cabins” that have shared rooms, bathrooms and living spaces. It also has a kitchen with a fridge and ovens, etc. to cook meals. A nice patio with picnic tables makes it a great spot to hang out outside if wanted.
- The lodge is down the street from a grocery store which is convenient, but note that it closes at 20:00.
- There are also plenty of restaurants and pubs along the street for anyone looking for dining in or “takeaway” as it is called here.
- The only downside to this location is that it is still a little over an hour from some of the top attractions such as Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. We would’ve booked something closer to these sites if we had realized that sooner.
- Success Café: this place was a.m.a.z.i.n.g. The food was superb. SJ ordered the gluten-free burger and fries and she said it was the best she’d ever eaten. Victoria and I got the dinner special: lamb shank with veggies and mashed potatoes. So delicious.
- The Kebab Place: definitely worth the entertaining experience… oh, and the food was good too!