Google maps said the trip should have taken about 4.5 hours to get to Hahei, but due to the torrential downpour and stops we made exploring random roadside attractions, it felt more like I spent a whole day driving. My friend Jemma did well to stay awake considering she drove from Fielding the night before - she climbed on the top bunk bed just before 2am. I made sure my usual 5am alarm on my phone, not that I needed it these days.
It’s taken me over 25 years living in New Zealand to finally make it to the Coromandel Peninsula, well properly anyway. I did make it to Thames on my way back from Auckland last year, but I just turned around and drove home.
Jemma and I had planned this trip a month before, mainly because she lives out of town and had to make sure she got the time off. Even though I consider her a close friend, I was a bit apprehensive because I’m so accustomed to lone travel that sometimes I take that flexibility for granted. Luckily we’re both pretty easy going and understood each other’s need for space and companionship, it’s just nice to share memories with someone now and then.
Our plans to get a photo at the famous giant L&P bottle in Paeroa were thwarted by the weather - we were driving straight into a weather bomb after all. It just had to be this weekend of all weekends. We hoped that it meant sunnier skies when we reached Hahei. Sort of. The road via Thames were a mix of hazy gray skies and downpours that remind me of a tropical monsoon.
As we drove past a double-blind corner, I saw Kauri trees in the corner of my eye. We pulled over and crossing this road reminded me of that rabbit computer game in the 90s. Up a small bush walk were twin Kauri trees, branches twisting as they saluted the bleak skies. There was stream that flowed downhill towards the road, and with the rain, I was surprised it wasn’t overflowing.
We reached Hahei early afternoon and made our way to Cathedral Cove, we figured that even if we got wet, hot showers awaited us at the motel. Sure enough our old friend the rain kept us company, sometimes stalking, often teasing. At the end of the walk our jackets were soaked through that we probably could have ended the drought in a small nation.
Driving to the Coromandel is the longest road trip I’ve been on - by 8.30pm I started to slur my words and I knew sleep would take over soon after. Maybe we would have felt differently if the weather was different, but the cold cloaked us in a sleeping pill and we were too tired to fight it.
Sunrise in Hahei
Jemma was awake before 5am so we decided to watch the sunrise at the beach. Being awake so early did have it’s downfalls - we had to wait a couple of hours before the local cafes opened for breakfast, and we were starving. The skies showed no signs of the rain from the day before and even the cold chill couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm. We drove to Cook’s Beach in search of coffee, instead Jemma found a playground. We felt like most of the peninsula was still asleep and we should have been as well. It felt like a waste of a day to stay in bed, and we did our best to make the most of the energy gifted to us from a good night’s rest.
The Hahei Cafe was busy when we walked in - we eyed up the outdoor space which had plenty of large tables which were mostly empty. The sun on our backs was typical of the early Spring weather, and we were joined for brunch with some local birdlife eager to feast on pancakes and bacon.
Hot Water Beach
I had every intention of digging my own hot pool at Hot Water Beach - but that morning I woke up sniffly, probably from our soaking at Cathedral Cove the day before. As we drove into the paid parking lot, I wondered how the locals cope in the summer months - I would probably just rent out my house and come back when the madness was over.
We had to cross a cold stream to get to Hot Water Beach. The survivalist in me observed each eager tourist as they navigated the deceptive dips and slippery rocks on the streambed. Being taller was definitely an advantage (unfortunately I was not), but Jemma and I both still managed to cross without falling over.
The crowded sand pools were nothing compared to the summer months - the scene reminded me of cooking too many hot dogs in a small pot. We dipped our toes in one of the empty pools and felt the warm water cloak our toes instantly. It wasn’t as warm as I thought it would be, although in the cold winter air it must feel like a cardigan. Then a rogue wave caught us all by surprise, more so Jemma who now looked like she wet herself.
We drove home via Whangamata, another first for me. It felt like the drive home was faster, certainly the break in the weather helped. Somewhere on the outskirts of Whangamata is an old gold mine, but unfortunately the forest access road was closed due to tree felling. We stopped in Waihi for coffee and to stretch our legs before the last leg towards home.
Jemma stayed for a cuppa and a cupcake, she still have a 4.5 hour drive home.
I’m glad I resisted to do this road trip alone - I learned a lot about her that weekend, and I hope the feeling was mutual. Even in the silences it didn’t feel awkward that we had to fill it with small talk - that’s a good place in your friendship when you’re not afraid of the silence. It hasn’t been easy to open up that side of me, but at least I’m trying.
My friend Jemma is also a great blogger - check her out at