So, I finally made it out of California! I was really sad to leave it behind, but there’s a whole world out there!
The Coromandel Peninsula
After a mammoth 13 hour flight from LA to Auckland, I (perhaps unwisely), decided to jump straight in a hire car and drive up to the Coromandel. I have visited NZ before, but had always wanted to visit this part of the country, and boy, was it worth waiting for.
I cannot overstate it enough how beautiful it is. I would have to say it is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited in the world. I drove up the west cost of the peninsula, from Thames to Coromandel town, then across to Whitianga where I spent two nights. The drive is spectacular, and I had the place virtually to myself. Parts of it looked like a set of ‘Lord of the Rings’, parts of it stunning vistas that would not look out of place in the Caribbean.
In Whitianga, I got the ferry across to a small place called Ferry Landing, and walked across to Mercury Bay, a place where Captain Cook anchored on 15 November 1769 and observed the transit of the planet Mercury, and subsequently named the bay Mercury Bay. The beach there is out of this world, and as I was there at 9.30am I had the place to myself, save for a few seabirds. Heaven. Another couple of beautiful beaches are Lonely Bay and Cooks Beach, see photo below. I also walked up to Shakespeare Scenic Reserve. Apparently this is where William Shakespeare used to vacation. True story.
The other cool thing I did whilst there was visited Hot Water Beach. Wondering what the people in the photo below are up to? They are digging into the sand to create their own mini hot tubs! This part of the beach has geothermically heated water bubbling up.
Whakatane and the Maori people
Whakatane (pronounced Phak-Are-Tar-Ney I am reliably informed) is a lovely little town on the east coast. It also has a big Maori population. I visited the ‘Mataatua Maori Marae Experience’ and learnt all about the house that came home. A marae is a meeting ground, and they build a carved house as a place for community celebrations, funerals etc.
In 1870 the house in Whakatane was taken away to Sydney as part of an exhibition, then travelled to Melbourne, London, Dunedin and finally back home over 100 years later after a lot of negotiating It is a beautiful building and was fascinating to hear about its story.
Gisborne, Captain Cook and the first light of the new day
So Gisborne was my next stop, and as it turns out, it is rather an important little place. It is the first place in the world to see the light of the new day. It was catapulted onto the map in 1999 when the hype around the new millennium reached fever pitch and thousands descended on the town to see the light of the first day of the millennium. Apparently Dame Kiri Te Kananwa performed and everything!
Gisborne is also the place where Captain Cook first landed in New Zealand.
I also visited a lovely little museum there too and saw some beautiful Lalique glass bowls and vases.
Napier and the beauty of art deco
The town of Napier in Hawkes Bay was virtually destroyed by fire and earthquake in 1931. This meant the town was then rebuilt in the height of the art deco period and the town has benefited from having some great examples of art deco architecture. Spent a lovely afternoon strolling around admiring the architecture, a few shots below.
I am not even halfway through my tour of the North Island yet (south island to come in December) but am loving my Kiwi adventure so far!