Mt. Maunganui (or “the Mount”, as it’s known locally) is a very picturesque beach front destination, located on a peninsula to the north of the neighbouring city Tauranga. The Mount itself is an extinct volcano cone which rises above the town. We didn’t climb it, as its top was shrouded in cloud on the day we may have done it.
From the Mount we headed for Waihi Beach, which seems unsure of whether it is at the top of the Bay of Plenty, or the bottom of the Coromandel (guides show it as one or the other). Basically it’s both. We stayed for a few days in Bowentown, enjoying the beach.
Waihi Beach itself is 12km from Waihi, the site of a huge open-cast gold mine, after gold-bearing quartz was discovered in 1878. Waihi still produces more gold than anywhere else in New Zealand, but most of the workings are underground now. Nevertheless, the pit of the town’s Martha Mine itself is huge – when you stand as close as the safety fences allow you to get to the edge, you still cannot see the bottom.
From Waihi, we started to head up into the Coromandel – the peninsula just east of Auckland and a beautiful region of NZ. Our first destination was Hot Water Beach. Now the name doesn’t refer to the sea, which is cold (in fact welcomingly cold, at times), but the volcanic underground springs that run under the sand. We (along with about 60 others) dug holes in the sand which filled with hot water. Our first hole was too hot in fact, and after scalding our feet and cooling them off in the (welcoming!) sea, we dug another further along. Once dug, we had our own naturally heated hot tub!
After a couple of hours of burning our behinds, we headed for Cathedral Cove. It’s a 40 minute hike across cliff and bush paths to reach one of NZ’s most famous coves, used for the opening Narnia scenes in Narnia: Prince Caspian.
The walk was well worth it, as the cove is beautiful. It was well timed too, as our walk back saw the start of a severe three-day storm that was about to hit Auckland and the Coromandel.