By Carl Muir
There’s something to be said for exploring your back yard before you explore the world.
Recently I spent four days exploring my back yard, the Coromandel Peninsula, with my partner Tia, in search of the perfect blend of nature, adventure, luxury natural accommodation, banging food, spas and treatments. It was early June, winter was well and truly setting in, but on the Coromandel in winter you can always find some golden spot to soothe the soul.
There is a peace and quiet to the area in winter that makes it the best time of the year for a road trip.
HAHEI - Meaning in Maori - the breath of Hei.
Hei was one of the great navigators who followed Kupe in the great migration to these shores. Our first adventure saw us following in his footsteps, as we kayaked to Cathedral Cove with our guide Hayden from Cathedral Cove Kayaks, one of the most chilled out yet knowledgeable guides I’ve experienced in NZ tourism.
We set off in double kayaks with eight others of various nationalities from Hahei beach, and entered the rocky protected shoreline of Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve. Kelp waved around in the waves, the water was crystal clear and Hayden pointed out all sorts of marine life, like the stingrays that make Stingray bay their home. Hayden sure knows his stuff about the pre-human history and geology of the region, and the volcanic origins of the coastline that the ocean has carved out over time.
Our destination was the majestic archway of Cathedral Cove, and we felt grateful to have ventured here this way, and the added bonus was the choice of mocca, cappuchino or latte, hand made by our guide on the beach!
With a good breeze starting to pipe in, all five kayaks were rafted up and a makeshift sail hoisted. Hayden spun more yarns about the intrepid Polynesian navigators who sailed their canoes to find these shores and make them home, then two cultures meeting when the Europeans followed several hundred years later! It was a pretty surreal experience with the wind pushed us along, we literally felt like we were one of the first to see these shores. Hayden’s knowledge, including the Maori names of every single island we passed was next level ! It was quite simply one of the best guided adventures Tia and I have been on in New Zealand.
We gave Hayden a big thank you, and went to get warm and cosy at Hahei Bed and Breakfast. Owners Phil and Sue are new to the game, and very warm natural hosts. After settling in to our very spacious and well appointed room, we joined Phil and Sue for a Pinot Noir which warmed the body up very nicely!
A WET AND WILD WINTERS DAY CORO STYLE
The second morning got off to a great start at Hahei Bed & Breakfast with an epic Acai Smoothie bowl - with berries, almond milk, acacia powder, yoghurt, topped with cacoa nibs, coconut and homemade muesli - and then a true blue Kiwi cooked breakfast, all prepared by Phil.
At times Phil and Sue have 8 guests from all around the globe at the breakfast table, but this morning, being winter, it was just us, and before you knew it we’d been talking for 2 hours! Time to hit the road!
With thunderstorms forecast we opted to take in the artistic wonders of Moko Artspace, catching up with Simon and Lily, and choosing a new pounamu (greenstone) to remember the trip with, and then it was off to The Lost Spring Thermal Pools & Day Spa. We sat in the hot mineral rich pools with steam meeting the rain drops, sipping a pina colada, swum in grottos under amethyst crystals, and to be honest there would not have been many better places in New Zealand on a day like this!
The Coromandel has so many beautiful souls working away making a living following their passion. We capped an amazing day sitting with owners of Blue Ginger Stuart and Rebecca while they rolled 300 dumplings with love for the next days service. We’d just had an epic graze of authentic Asian flavours in their restaurant, the highlight being the AYAM PELALAH , a balinese shredded chicken with red peppers, pickled cucumber and coconut turmeric rice.
The flavours at Blue Ginger are always banging, Stu and Becs have been in business for 10 years now, love food and have travelled extensively through Asia researching their flavours, and it shows on the plate! Truly an epic day!
In ❤️ with Coromandel Town.
One thing I love about the Coromandel, is that every village has a completely different vibe. They each feel truly Coromandel, and it is the collective vibe of each different village which makes the Coromandel such a truly special place. We ventured over the hill to Kuaotunu on the way to Coromandel town.
On the way we called in to introduce Tia to my good friend Felicity “Flea” Witters. Flea is one of the Coromandel’s most well known photographers, and has just launched her book “A Colourful Community” an awesome collection of photos showcasing what a vibrant and special bunch of people Coromandel-ians are! Flea lives in the back blocks, nestled in the bush, in true Coromandel style. She originally lived out of an old Kiwi Experience bus she once guided, that she bought and moved on to her fathers section, eventually building her own funky pad. Totally Coro!
We were destined for Hush Accommodation a sanctuary across the road from world famous Driving Creek Railway. Owners Steve and Marlyn are intrepid explorers, having worked on luxury yachts then circumnavigating the world on their own yacht. They now host guests from all around the world. Hush has several modern takes on miners cottages set in native bush. As we were showed to our cottage, Marilyn pointed out a huge rock in the garden “Guess what this is?” it turns out, it is a huge amethyst crystal, and the whole Hush grounds are built on a Ley Line of amethyst crystal. No wonder it felt so chilled out!
It was so nice to lie in a comfy bed and listen to the rain on the roof feeling a million miles away from the real world! So much for a day of adventuring, we literally bunkered down and totally chillaxed for the rest of the day, and had the best sleep EVER!
While we were in Coromandel Town we had two amazing meals at vegetarian cafe Wharf Road . It might just become a new regular! We met owners Ellie and Leigh, two friends who are passionate about delivering exceptionally tasty and healthy food.
Brekkie was organic brown rice with green herb pesto, house purple sauerkraut, crumbled feta, sautéed kale, sprouted grains & a free range poached egg. And dinner was the turmeric spiced daal and Aglio Olio spaghetti. Totally banging flavours and another highlight of the trip.
We road tripped seaside down the Thames Coast, Tia’s first time driving this stretch of road, and I reckon one of the best one hour drives in New Zealand! In Thames we checked out the new Re-Store, an awesome initiative where locals and visitors can bring in their own jars to stock up on bulk foods, cleaning products and snacks without one-use soft plastics. Owners Vita and Tash report huge interest in their first couple of months in business.
RELAXED, REBALANCED AND REJUVENATED AT EARTH ENERGIES
We’d had such a ball road tripping the Coromandel, but our last stop took the cake! We felt very fortunate to be invited as one of the first guests at the new Wellness retreat, Earth Energies NZ , run by Marie and Duncan.
Marie and Duncan have always had an interest in natural therapies, Marie has for many years made her own balms and essential oils, and helped heal many family and friends ailments in a natural way. Earth Energies is the realisation of a dream that combines the perfect combination of luxury, earthy accommodation with a range of therapies designed to totally rejuventate the mind, body and soul.
We stayed in a lush chalet, built by Duncan, with so many nice touches, and sweeping views over the Firth of Thames and Hauraki Plains. The chalet is so well appointed from the huge stone bath, to high end appliances, furniture and a very earthy feeling to the build, much of the materials sourced from local rock and timber. Being immersed in nature is a big part of wellbeing, and we certainly felt a million miles away from it all at Earth Energies.
Marie is a natural therapist and her studio is part of their stunning new architecturally built home which sits proudly on top of the ridge line above the chalet. Tia and I got to experience a range of Marie’s therapies including InfraRed sauna, an 80 min floatation tank - “it’s like zero gravity, floating amongst the stars” said Tia, hypnotherapy for mindfulness, and aroma touch therapy. All the oils and creams used are hand made by Marie, and she sent us on our way the next day with KawaKawa balms and essential oils for various ailments she intuitively picked up on.
Our chalet was left with so many nice touches, and an amazing food package of healthy food options, and we cooked ourselves a nice healthy breakfast this morning before leaving relaxed, rebalanced and rejuvenated.
We’re sure Earth Energies will be a big hit and booked out year round. It is so close to Auckland and Auckland Airport, and the perfect stop to reset en route to a relaxed Coromandel holiday or to cap off the perfect week away before heading back into the ‘real world’. You simply have to check this place out.
Like that, our road trip was over. It is a good thing the ‘real world’ we were heading back to, was Tairua on the Coromandel! Our home. Paradise.