|Whangamata beach with clouds threatening.|
With this in mind we headed north along the eastern side of Coromandel Peninsula, we turned of SH2 at Waihi and continued on SH25 along the coast taking in the magnificent coastal views.
|Main road through Whangamata|
|The warf at Whangamata looking up the harbour.|
At Whangamata drove down to the warf and and checked out the beach at the river mouth before retreating to a coffee shop in the main street when the rain started to drizzle. Whangamata is also known for the Beach Hop a Rock and Roll and car festival held in March. We had noticed on our previous travels to Katikati a number of classic cars which we believe may have attended this weekend.
|Hot Water Beach, couldn't believe the number of people gathered around the area where the hot water bubbles up at low tide.|
|Many bring small shovels to assist digging to make your own hot water pool at low tide is the best time. Near the centre of the group it's nearly boiling hot, too hot to stand in that area.|
|I joined the multitude and found my own hotwater pool.|
We continued on north passing through Tairua a pretty coastal town before turning of SH25 towards Hahei and Hot Water Beach. It was difficult to find a carpark so knew it was going to be busy on the beach. It certainly was with tour buses bringing tours to this popular destination. From here we went to Hahei and was hoping to walk along the beach around to Cathederal Cove. The carpark was also full and the attendant informed us that the access from the beach was closed due to damage from recent storms.
|Hahei Beach looking towards Cathedral Cove|
We drove back to SH25 and onto Whitanga which is on the northern side of Whitanga Harbour to Cooks Beach and Hahei. At Whitanga we stopped for lunch and watched the ferry taking passengers from Whitanga to Cooks Beach, only a 5 min trip across the narrow section of the harbour entrance.
|Lunch at The Harbour House Cafe|
|Looking souh across the harbour to Cooks Beach and the cliffs near Cathedral Cove|
After lunch continued our drive further north through Kuaotunu then turning east along the bay. After stopping to overlook the bay we travelled over a small range turning into Matarangi a small holiday town on the coast facing north. This was a nice holiday town with a large number of very nice baches (holiday homes) and a nice looking golf course. Unfortunately there wasn't many or any options other than the golf club for accommodation and dinning and at over $200 a night was a tad above our budget!. As the rain started to fall we had a drive around the streets and checked out the beach, quickly, then decided to continue o Coromandel for the night another 20km. This offered more accomodation and dining options.
The drive over the range would have been spectacular but as we got higher the rain became heavier and visability was limited. At the top of the range you could hardly see the sign to the lookout so the view was non existent - it was just a matter of proceeding with caution over the range to Coromandel. Decided to stay at the Harbour View Motel for the night, not that the view of the harbour was an attraction in the rain which continued.
|The Coromandel Hotel or known as the Top Pub. Wine and pub meal great finish to the day.|
|The morning view from the Harbour View motel in the morning, much better than yesterday when we arrived.|
In the morning we woke to some sunshine and relatively clear skys, so considered going back to the lookout before we were to continue on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula where the road is narrow between the sea and cliffs along the Firth of Thames to Thames.
The decision was made for us! When checking out I spoke to the motel manager who informed me that the (SH25) road was closed between Coromandel and Thames due to storm damage (slips across the road). This was also confirmed by an electronic road sign just out of town, so back up the hill we went.
|At the Whangara Road lookout, looking east the way we came and the way we were returning!|
|The clouds had cleared enough "just" to look back towards Coromandel and McGregor Bay (only 3 second window before the showers!).|
As we headed down the western side could take in the view of the coast from the opposite direction and was able to make a couple of stops on the way to appreciate the view. The days weather had a mixture of sunshine, threatening clouds and some light rain. Unfortunately this didn't offer many great photo opportunities. We stopped again at Whitanga for coffee, overlooking the harbour .
At Tairua we decided to take the option of SH25a and go over the Coromandel Range to Thames and have a look at the road we had expected to travel down. The drive over the range was good, different type of scenery again as we drove between the range at times rather than having the sea on one side.
We drove to Tararu just north of Thames to where the road closed sign was which gave us a bit of an idea of what the road would have been like - quite narrow and winding inbetween the sea & high mountain range. Headed back to Thames for lunch and some shopping. The road from Thames to Paeroa we hadn't been on before, and again was different scenery. This is lush dairy farm country and we had come away from the step mountain range to an undulating valley.
From Paeroa headed back to Tauranga through Karaganhake Gorge seeing a few road workers clearing the road from slips which had occured a few days earlier.
The countryside and beaches are just spectacular and although we did not have warm sunny weather on this road trip we thoroughly enjoyed our drive.