Driving the Coromandel Peninsula


After advice from the wwoofing family in Rotorua I decided rather than drive south I would drive north and explore the Coromandel Peninsula. The Coromandel boasts pristine beaches, native forests and a laid back atmosphere, and with the sun beaming down seemed like a perfect idea to explore. I was heading towards a different wwoofing location, which was actually way up north the peninsula so it was going to be an interesting road trip and real test of my car’s strength and my driving skill. I love a good road trip, the freedom of exploration and usually driving a bunch of friends to a festival or a mini break-always remind me of good times. Rather than take the quicker, easier west road up towards Colville I went east to explore the many beaches it had to offer on this seemingly perfect beach day. I did a little research into the must see spots such as Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, also knowing I would find my own ideallic settings along the way, far away from everyone else. P1060159First stop was Whangamata beach, time for a bit of lunch and beach exploration. This beach was empty, I pulled up on an unassuming road, wandered a little looking for the beachfront and POW there it was! absolutely stunning, and NO ONE there. There are obvious tourist spots in New Zealand but also an incredible amount of finds that are real hidden gems. I know if this beach was in the UK it would be rammed day and night. After a short walk around, enjoying the solace I headed up to hot water beach. Now hot water beach is famous for the curious way you can dig yourself into the sand and bath in your very own hot water pool, a pretty cool and great way to spend a day. I didn’t do this however, as it was a flying visit but again just the odd surfer was on this tourist hub of a beach, needless to say so many of the beaches in New Zealand are great for surfing.  The road north takes you to a the famous Cathedral Cove, a picturesque site to see, but too busy for my liking! All roads were pretty decent so far, then I hit the 309. The 309 crosses 22km through the backbone of the peninsula, mostly unsealed, it showcases spectacular scenery as it winds through lush farmland, pine forests and extensive areas of beautiful native bush.

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Some say they named the 309 for the number of bends, while others say it’s the number of minutes the horse-drawn carriage used to take. It was my first proper New Zealand road driving experience, and not in a 4×4 truck, with a reasonably powerless automatic Mazda it was quite the drive. Loose gravel everywhere (loads of the roads are like this, thankfully  I don’t have a spotless car to destroy paintwork on) changing weather conditions, adding slippery and dusty additions to the drive, and of course hills, resulting in me talking to the car gently and willingly to get us through it. I finally reached Coromandel where after turning my silver car to a nice shade of brown I met with the lady I was to spend the next few days with on a solar community site, started in the late 70’s.  Now my blog’s are obviously personal and pretty detailed, but in respect of the next wwoofing site, it’s values and respecting privacy I want to give a glance at my experience rather than the intricate details. The road north of Coromandel took me through the last stop for…well… anything, at Colville. P1060205I continued the drive and around 20 minutes from here they were all quite tricky gravel roads to my Almond Hut cabin in the middle of nowhere. The cabin was handmade, basic, but full of character. Overlooking the river I went down for a wash and to cool off. It was a real thoughtful and inspiring place that just made one want to create. The community was born out of protest and rebellion in the late 70’s, searching for an alternative way of life -valuing nature, love, music and yes it was very hippy. In preparation for a big celebratory party the place seemed like it was preparing for Woodstock festival. Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young songs running through my head, it’s as though I’d been dropped into a groovey time warp. P1060169The lady looking after and directing my wwoofing jobs was very artistic and we had a connection in this and our love of music. She was very motherly and good fun to chat too, I made a frame for a sign as well as mailbox painting, generally tidying up the overall aesthetic. Everything was lovingly made and gathered, the houses all different but common in ethos. I was served healing manuka honey and Kawakawa tea to try and mend my recurring sore throat, which sadly cut my stay short as I needed antibiotics to clear it up. Highlights were definitely meeting my wwoof host, playing Bob Marley on the Marimbas with her in the bell tent, and sharing a lush stone baked pizza with a group of her friends, including 2 cool biker dudes with an interesting Australian/Dorset hybrid accent. P1060193 I feel there’s a good chance I’ll return here later in the year. I headed back down towards Waihi beach after taking a night to mend in Whitianga, and watched What We Do In The Shadows (bloody funny) and thankfully the drugs were kicking in. Waihi ‘Heart of Gold’ is notable for it’s thriving gold and silver mining. I took a walk around the ‘pit rim’ overlooking the incredible scale of the working gold mine. I’ve always been particularly interested in the process and history of gold mining, the incredible effort that is undertaken (especially back in the day) to extract the most precious of treasures. I can also blame Mario Kart, Zelda and Donkey Kong and various other computer games I grew up with for their fun mine cart inspired imagery! P1060234

My next family in Waihi were husband and wife living in a big house not far from Waihi beach. Christine, writer and EFT practitioner showed me her world of many toed cats (one of them gave birth as I was there!) DSC_0153a fun belly dancing class, and daily vinegar based liver cleansing drinks, and yes, that takes some time to get used to. Husband John liked to share his incredible experiences, many unfortunate accidents and knowledge of a wide range of areas. I also assisted in painting, gardening and advice for realistic model airplane painting for John.

Jack of all trades? Maybe not, but I’m certainly gaining tons of knowledge and experience…



Soundtrack: Joni Mitchell – Woodstock, Crosby Stills Nash & Young – Winchester Cathedral, Bob Marley – Stir It Up