Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove

As we sat enjoying our morning coffee, Garth, our host at the bed and breakfast, laid out an ambitious route for us covering most of the Coromandel Penninsula. It even included an encounter with some free-range pigs who have come to expect that people stopping their cars to avoid hitting them will give them scraps. I knew it was impossible to see everything he suggested, but I nodded and smiled.

Walt drove the narrow, twisty roads like a champ, and we were soon at our first stop of the day - Hot Water Beach. For two hours on either side of low tide at one particular spot on the beach, water from underground hot springs percolates up to the surface. People congregate with spades and dig their own personal spas in the sand. Garth had provided us with spades and towels for this experience but said that we probably wouldn't need them because people who had already dug holes would invite us to join them.

When we stepped onto the beach, it was easy to see where all the action was.

We enjoyed watching the madness, but it was a cool spring day to us so we had no desire to participate. I did sample the water in an abandoned puddle, but it would be generous to say that the water temperature was lukewarm.

Our next destination was Cathedral Cove. We had seen some incredibly beautiful pictures of this spot during our research for the trip. The area can only be reached by boat or by way of a hiking track which begins at a small parking lot with a woefully inadequate number of parking stalls or, as Garth put it, "Go twice around the parking lot and when you don't find an empty spot, drive down to Hahei Beach and pick up the trail from there."

As Garth had predicted, we ended up parking at the beach. The signs at the parking lot say that the walk will take 1 hour and 10 minutes. Starting from the beach supposedly adds another 20 minutes to the hike, but the difference is a fairly steep uphill climb so for us it was more like an additional 30 minutes. Here are some pictures taken at our first rest stop above Hahei Beach.

We finally walked past the over-crowded parking lot, and the path started a slow descent. I believe this is called Gemstone Bay.

A pause for some picture-taking.

Eventually we came upon a comfy bench where I would have been happy to sit for the rest of the afternoon. Behind us, cattle, oblivious to the amazing view, grazed contentedly.

After an all too brief rest, I pulled myself together and we descended a steep set of something vaguely resembling stairs to the beach.

Without a doubt, Cathedral Cove is one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in my life. The water was crystal clear and the sand was dazzling white. I hated to leave, but it was time to struggle up the steep steps and begin the long hike back.

It was about 4 PM when we finally reached the car and since we had only completed about a third of Garth's recommended circuitous route, we decided to drive back to Thames the way we had come rather than continue. We thought we would enjoy a nice dinner in town before returning to our room, but the shops and restaurants that had been so busy on Friday afternoon were inexplicably closed on Saturday night, and we had to settle for a Subway sandwich. Accompanied by a couple of bottles of Monteith's New Zealand ale, it tasted way better than any Subway sandwich I've ever eaten.