Today our plans were back on schedule. Eric and I left the big city of Tauranga and drove 90 miles to the famous Coromandel Penisular. The area id know for gorgeous beaches, sea life, sea stacks, rip tides and  the Pinnacles Mountains. Of course we drove through giant fields of sheep and cows on our jounrey there.

Our first stop was Hahei, a tiny beach town several miles of The Pacific Coast Highway. We were going to hike Cathedral Cove. Sign clearly mark the way to the parking area which only had several cars in it this early in the morning (8:45am). The sky was brilliant blue and the sun alright beat down powerful UV. We rubbed on sun lotion…. well Eric pretty much painted on a thick layer. The car park is on top of a hill affording wonderful view of the sea speckled with little islands and sea stacks. We followed the trail on the left leading to Gemstone beach, stingray bay and finally Cathedral Cove.The trail is well maintained and well signed to indicate the turn offs to different beaches. It does gain elevation but it is pretty much negligible to wilderness folks. It only took us about 25 minutes to arrive at the cove despite the signs’ claim of 45 minutes.

Cathedral Cove is so named because of the cathedral-like arch formation carved into the rock or so it is said. In reality a giant tunnel was erodes into a massive rock roll protruding into the ocean. Not many folks were at the beach and we had the tunnel to ourselves. We walked though… at low tides we would have been able to cross over onto the next beach, but pounding surd blocked the exit on the other side of the tunnel. There are a fair amount of signs warning that rockfall in common in the tunnel.

The waves were not as large as the previous day, but the ocean still beckoned. We leaped into the waters playing in the surf. There are large rocks and sea stacks on this small beach and we stayed a safe distance away. As we swam more folks began to arrive… and they kept coming until the tunnel was filled with tourists and the beach covered in beach towels. Come early!Eric and I decided to go back into the tunnel and swim across to the other beach. This had to be carefully timed to avoid the waves bashing you into the rock wall. We made it safely along with some other folks spilling into the neighboring beach. After swimming back and watching folks in a gorgeous setting with their eyes locked to their smartphones, Eric and I decided to check out the other beaches.

Stingray Bay, to my knowledge, has no string rays. There was no one at this small, bouldery beach. Eric and swam here for some time as well. Signs indicated rock fall dangers decorated this beach as well. Gemstone Beach is a snorkeling beach, protected from the wind and has hardly any waves. We did not swim here, but did read the signs about the snorkel trail wishing we had the right gear.The parking lot was overflowing with illegally parked cars when we returned. COME EARLY!

Eric really wanted to go to Hot Water Beach. There is a hot rock beneath the sand which heats the water above it to high tempurtures. At low tides folks gather here with shovels and dig little hot tubes in the saturated sand near the surf. Somehow I had a feeling that this famous beach would be a tourist trap. I was right.

The parking lot wasn’t full, but it was 2 hours before low tide. Signs pointed to Hot Water Beach two blocks away. The area was commercialized with cafes and shops that rented shovels. Warning signs indicated that rip tides were dangerous on this beach and lifeguards that didn’t look at day older than 13 wandered the sand. To access the hot area we crossed a freshwater drainage with fast flowing water in the sand and headed left to a rocky bluff. About a hundred people had already amassed in the area with shovels digging away. There were all condensed in a single area. It reminded me a the NYC subway. Eric and I dug with our hands on the outskirts. The water table was low near the surf… but all the water that gathered in our holes was pretty cold… and the waves here are known to by high so every few minutes a large swell would wash over the entire area sending folks scrambling to repair their pools. Eric and I gave up and took a walk to neighboring Surf Beach. When we returned it was low tide and the crowd had tripled in size. We noticed that some pool near the edge of the crowd were steaming. We dug near there. The water that gathered in our holes was so hot it burned out feet. Satisfied that we’d experienced the hot water at Hot Water Beach we headed out…. the more entertaining part of my visit there was when I watched a guy carry his girlfriend across the drainage on our way to the car because she was still scared to cross 6 inches of flowing water.

Eric and I drove to of final hostel: YHA Whitianga (pronounced “Fit-e-ang-a”). Washington state has some weird native names, but Mauri pronunciation is even weirder. The beachy blue hostel is right across the road from buffalo beach and features free kayak and boogy board rentals. The private rooms are not stand alone, but in a suite style set up. Two private rooms were off of a fulling appointed living room and kitchen (TV, couches, microwave, dishes… everything). Our suitemates were two surfers from Auckland… we stayed up late chatting with them about our respective countries with non-stop laughter. For the guys there was also non-stop beer (then whiskey).




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