309 road

whitianga + the coromandel

After a wonderful weekend spent Wanderlust-ing in Taupo, we headed north for Whitianga and to explore the treasures of The Coromandel Peninsula. Here's what we managed to squeeze in during our short time there.

Whitianga is a beautiful, quiet (at least while we were there) little town on the eastern coast of the peninsula. It's very walk-able once you've gotten there. The wharf offers a peek at the ___ ocean and it's fun to fantasize about the beautiful, big yachts parked in the bay. There's a 2-screen cinema where you can catch a flick at night or a rainy day (we saw Spotlight, it was phenomenal) and there's a video store as well - yes, you heard me. No RedBox, sorry friends. There are tons of touristy-type activities to do in the area if that floats your boat, otherwise there are plenty of hot spots that you can drive to within 30 minutes to an hour, depending on what you're up for.

Good to know: Wi-Fi is hard to come by in town, especially for free. The local library is the place to be if you're looking to connect; you can sign in and sit inside for two hours or you can lay on the lawn and skim some there - they even suggested it!

Food recommendations:

Breakfast: Cafe Nina. A charming little spot that's easy to miss if you're not looking forward to it.

Lunch: Blue Ginger, a great little Thai fusion restaurant. BYOB if you so prefer, they're not licensed to sell.

Dinner: Salt. They've got a great selection of meats and fresh fish. Warning: the mussels are HUGE! Unlike anything I've ever seen, anyways. I'll be honest, they were so big I got freaked out and couldn't eat them.

cathedral cove

Albeit a bit of tourist trap (we did go on Waitangi day during the holiday weekend, silly us) the views of Cathedral Cove are truly breathtaking and not to be missed. If you can and if you have a car, avoid the park-and-ride and take BLANK to the car park at the end of the road. I'd also recommend wearing a pair of sneakers and bringing sandals along - there's about a 45 minute trek to get to the beach - not terribly hard, but you're sure to break a bit of a sweat. The walk is well worth it, as the beach offers stunning views of the ocean and the cove is quite a site to see, just exquisite.

the 309 road

The 309 is a "gravel road" (gravel in parenthesis because there are some parts gravel, some parts dirt, some parts paved) that connects Whitianga and the Coromandel town. It's about 22 kilometers, and there are tons of great spots to stop at along the way. It's a narrow, windy little devil of a road so hug those corners baby and hold on tight. We stopped at three of the destinations along the road, although there are a few more things to enjoy.

The Honey Shop

This adorable little stand is self serve - truly only in New Zealand. I'm not much of a honey guru, but I know I love me some Manuka honey. A great present to bring back home to loved ones - make sure to put it in your checked bag rather than your carry-on, or it will get confiscated. Unfortunately, my mom knows this first hand.

Kauri Grove

I've never seen the Redwood trees of California, but I would imagine their magnificence is matched by that of the New Zealand native Kauri trees. Take a walk through the shaded grove (it could take you anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple hours, depending on how long you'd like to linger) and bask in the beauty of the giant trees and all that grows around them.

Waiau Falls

Though she be little, she be mighty. The falls were a tad smaller (and by that I mean a lot) than expected, but still a sight to see. The water was much too cold for my liking, but there was one brave soul wading into the icy pool for a photo opp. Oh, the things we do for a good picture (myself included, but freezing cold water tends to be where I draw the line).

hot water beach

Grab some spades (or as Americans would say, shovel) and get ready to dig. About a 30-40 minute drive from Whitianga, the Hot Water Beach is a must - and that's coming from a girl who generally does anything to avoid beaches. It's quite fascinating to be able to feel the temperature of the sand and water beneath your feet as you make your way toward the hottest spot, where the water is scorching hot. Either dig your own hole to relax in, or enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor and commandeer an abandoned hole. I preferred the latter, but I felt I needed to break a little sweat to enjoy the full experience.

Good to know: check for low tide and plan your trip within a couple hours of that time.