Ferry to Coromandel

Our apartment in Auckland was right on Princes Wharf. The waterfront view we had been hoping for was not forthcoming, but the apartment itself was pleasant and convenient to shops, restaurants, and, best of all, the ferry terminal.

The top row of pictures is the view of our dreams. The second row is the view we got.

When I was first planning our trip, I came upon a web page for 360 Discovery Cruises - a company that operates ferries to various locations in the Haruki Gulf. After a lot of thought, we decided to take the 2 hour sail to the Coromandel Penninsula.

As you can see, the day was very overcast when we began our journey, and the view was reminiscent of the view of Seattle from Puget Sound.

Our ferry made a quick stop at Waiheke Island - known for its wineries, galleries, and craft stores - and another quick stop at Rotoroa - an island which was once the site of an addiction treatment center operated by the Salvation Army. Several historic buildings and a museum remain, and the island is also a wildlife sanctuary.

Here are some pictures of the dock in Rotoroa with its hobbit-dwelling-like ferry building.

Passengers arriving at Coromandel are picked up by a van and transported to the town. The somewhat imaginative town website makes it sound like you could spend the day wandering about visiting shops and restaurants but, although the town has its charms, you would soon run out of things to do.

Fortunately, we had booked an additonal tour to Driving Creek Railway and Potteries so after a meal at the Coromandel Cafe which was somewhat reminescent of meals that Horn & Hardart's dished up in my youth, we boarded the van once again and headed for Driving Creek.

The railway was built by Barry Brickell over the course of 35 years. He originally came to the area as a teacher, but quit after only a few months to pursue his real passion - pottery.

He bought some land outside of town and established a pottery collective. He and his friends began building the railway in 1975 as a means to transport clay and pine wood fuel to the kilns. The tracks wind up a mountain through a forest of replanted kauri trees and transverse 2 spirals, 3 short tunnels, 5 reversing points, and several large viaducts. Numerous pieces of pottery sit among the trees.

All of the trains are built on-site, and pottery is fired in the kilns at the station.

This retaining wall makes use of empty wine bottles. As our engineer/guide explained, building a railway is thirsty work.

These pictures are taken from viewing platform at the top of the mountain which is called the Eyefull Tower. As you can see, the sky was finally starting to clear. We were told that on a very clear day you can see Auckland in the distance, but I am dubious.

We admired the view for about 15 minutes, and then began our descent through the trees.

The engineer said that this pottery lion is growing his own mane.

As we began walking down the dock to our return ferry, the man in front of me started pointing enthusiastically at the shallow water where a mantra ray and a large fish were swimming together.

After a beautiful ride across Haruki Gulf, we returned once again to cloudy Auckland.