Saturday, 6 April 2013

Stony Bay & Finishing the Coastal Walk

We had one more bit of exploring before we leave the tip of the peninsula; Port Charles & Stony Bay. Both of these along with Sandy Bay are located on the eastern side of the tip and to get to them we crossed over the range just north of Colville and then turned left at the only intersection for miles, turning right would have taken us back past Waikawau Bay and on to Kennedy Bay which then loops back to Coromandel township. We were going to do this road if we had of stayed at Waikawau  before heading south but we’ve heard it’s very corrugated & extremely winding towards the end & as we're not stopping at Waikawau, it now makes sense to head back to Coromandel township the way we came up, on the western side. 

Part of a "Shoe Fence" at the beginning of the climb over to Port Charles
It was only about 14kms from the intersection to Stony Bay but it might as well have been 44kms, Port Jackson’s road had nothing on this one for winding. After 5 kms & 150 corners I lost count & at least every 3rd or 4th one of those was a sharp blind one. The road winds itself through beautiful native bush that covers most of this side of the peninsula. This is the Moehau Range, it forms the backbone of the upper Coromandel Peninsula but runs steeply down to the coastline on this side. Mt Moehau at 892metres, is the highest peak on the peninsula & is of special significance to Maori.

Port Charles is the first of only two settlement we come across, population 150,  it’s located on the edge of a large enclosed deep harbour & it would seem fishing is the main activity here. There is also a large mussel farm at the entrance.

The road, which is not council maintained- got narrower & no less winding from Port Charles. A along the way there were tantalising glimpses of the rugged coastline. Finally we dropped down into Stony Bay & the end of the road.

A gate opened into the DOC campground and the other end of the Coromandel Walkway which we had half completed the other day from the other end- (read about it here)

Stony Bay, as the name implies is a beach of pebbles & boulders, very beautiful & surrounded with magnificent pohutukawas festooned with huge astelia epiphytes.
We had brought our tramping gear but hadn’t quite decided whether we’d do the walk or not but once we got there and saw that the track disappeared up the side of the hill & into the bush, a totally different scene than the other end, we decided we’d do it now that we were here. We’d walk to the lookout which was one steep climb away from Poley Bay, where we’d ended up coming in from the other side. We could now say we had walked the 7km track apart from that small section. In fact we’ve walked nearly double the distance considering we had to retrace our steps twice.
One of the large pohutukawa that line Stony Bay
It was overcast & rather grey but there were signs that the sun was going to break through, either way; rain or hot,  it didn’t matter as we were under the bush canopy most of the way. It certainly was beautiful, the path was lined with brilliant green ferns, pongas, mamakus and dozens of nikau palm. Some areas were certainly very tropical looking especially when the track crossed one of the numerous waterfalls. The path ran around the steep slopes that fell from the range above down to the rocky coast below, it weaved in and out of the valleys between each vertical ridge and & each turn back out to the ridge edge there was a waterfall. Although with no significant rain for months the falls were more of a trickle. It would be very magical after heavy rain & a little more difficult to cross I would think.
For quite a distance the track also passed through a manuka (tea tree) forest which was the highlight for me. It’s the first time I’ve seen such tall manuka, it’s usually shorter scrub but these were very tall and under the canopy were masses of relatively straight narrow trunks & branches.  On the ground grew bright green ferns which contrasted against the brown of the trunks. Looking down the steep slopes at the mass of branches gave me a touch of vertigo. I did some of my camera tricks too J
Throughout the bush and in fact all along the roadside are bright marker pointers written in various codes. These mark areas where there are pest traps or bait stations set. As most of this area is conservation land & many kiwi reside & have been released here, DOC obviously have an intensive pest eradication programme running.
That's NZ Mistletoe on the trunk
Two hours, 4.8kms and many tantalising views of the coastline & secluded bays later we finally reached the fork that led to the look out.
Centre photo- Mt Moehau
After a steep scramble up a slippery clay track we were greeted with fabulous views up & down the coast and out to Great Barrier Island. And there not very far away were the Pinnacles which were the prominent point of interest when we came in from the other end.
Port Charles harbour entrance is back centre

The track winds it's way back & forward over these ridges. Stony Bay is around the last point over by the green patches
We ate our lunch perched precariously on the side of the cliff. David also rescued a small stick insect that was being harassed by a wasp and then we were off again back to Stony Bay.  

It was a quicker trip back, our legs were starting to tire & by the time we reached the ute we were totally exhausted, we’d done nearly 10kms & shaved an hour of the return leg. I know this because David has an app on his phone called “My Track”, which keeps all the data. I have a few photos of him standing on various tracks looking at his cellphone. I kept thinking what’s he doing checking his phone so often. I’m thinking he’s looking for that elusive cell phone reception but he’s not, he’s checking the data. That is so typically my husband, I said he was a train-spotter ;)

We stopped in Sandy Bay just before the hill over to Port Charles for a well deserved coffee before heading home back over that winding road again. And with that we have done the northern tip of the Coromandel. We’ve got quite attached to this area & will be sad to leave.
Sandy Bay Baches


  1. just bought 2nd hand Bridge camera(no photography experience as yet),came across your site, loved it and will follow your adventures as this would be my dream as well. The fact that I'm very ancient and can't drive perhaps could be the reason it won't come true!! But I can dream lol.

    1. You can live vicariously through our adventures, enjoy the new camera. Practice, practice, practice, that'll improve your photography skills no end.


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