Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Simpsons Beach Snapper, Whitianga


From Mt Maunganui we made haste to the Coromandel via Waihi Beach and stopping for lunch at the often overlooked beach settlement of Whiritoa.

Whiritoa was once the poor cousin of Whangamata & Pauanui which are further up the peninsula and the more sort after holiday destinations. I think it still slips under the radar now as many outsiders seek coastal holiday homes in the Coromandel. It's a charming little settlement with a beautiful white sand beach and a well developed waterfront reserve (you do have to be careful swimming here though, especially outside the summer season when there are no surf lifesavers on duty).

We parked beside the reserve and had lunch sitting in the warm sunshine at one of the picnic tables while watching a White-faced Heron/Matuku Moana gingerly walking through the spongy Pohuehue (Wire Vine) snatching up grasshoppers and lizards.

It was then on to our next destination which is just north of Whitianga and where this will be the view out our back window for the next couple of weeks.  

Simpson's Beach Camp (or Wharekaho Beach if you're not a local or a regular) is a wide strip of beachfront land in the front paddock of the Simpson family's 1000 acre farm. It's the perfect spot to launch small boats, kayak the calm waters, fish, swim, walk along the beach or just relax in the sun. 

Friends Noeline & Jim in their 5th-wheeler left Simpson's a few days after our arrival.
They'd been there for a few weeks, so it was lovely to be able to catch up with them before they left. 
The farm has been in the Simpson family since 1927 and they have allowed many generations of campers to stay in this little piece of paradise ($10 per night per van, dogs allowed, on a lead). They have also donated thousands of dollars to charities from the camp fees. 

Simpsons Beach is tucked into the bottom corner of Mercury Bay, alongside Buffalo Beach and about 6kms from Whitianga township. We’re in familiar territory now having spent many hours cruising Mercury Bay and berthed at the Whitianga Marina when we weren’t visiting the Mercury Islands. 

Whitianga also holds many fond memories for David. Back in the '70s his parents lived at Harbour Lights which is just down the road. David’s sister & husband owned the local Four Square store & he spent many weekends & holidays driving to & from Auckland to visit them, and to fish and dive in the area with friends.

Sunset over Simpson's Farm
And six years ago, when we first started this journey, one of the first shake-down trips was spent exploring the Peninsula for six weeks. We stayed at Simpson's Beach back then and knew the next time we visited we'd stay for longer, get the dinghy out and go fishing.

Watching the world go by
Unfortunately after the first couple of days of perfect weather, stormy weather arrived and a strong wind churned up the surf and made it just about impossible to launch the Takacat. 

We did manage to get the dinghy out beyond the surf one day but not before a few large waves had washed over the boat and soaked everything. David was not impressed, especially when he had a rough time trying to find a sheltered spot to fish that day. 

He put on his waders one day and tried a bit of surf casting while he waited for the weather to clear but no luck was had.

Other than a few semi-permanents at the far end of the camp and a few campers during the weekends, we were often the only ones in camp. We decided that because we'd already explored much of the Coromandel, this trip was going to be more of a slow moving journey, staying at 3-4 of our favourite places which happened to be perfect spots for fishing & relaxing. 

The weather and the sea eventually settled and David was able to head off around the point and out into Mercury Bay fishing for several days in a row.

Big bay, little boat
And finally, after a long and much anticipated wait, the hunter-gatherer returned with snapper for dinner.

It was a welcome change from the trout and salmon we've been having over the last few years, fishing on the lakes down South. But now I'm dreaming of blue cod!

Photo by David :) 
On one particularly calm day, David took this fair weather sailor for an explore along the rocks and out to a couple of the small islands in the bay. 

The  Fluttering Shearwaters (middle left) were very cheeky and not afraid to come in close
 trying to grab the bait and the catch!
Unfortunately, after catching a couple of very small snapper and nothing much else happening, I got a little green behind the gills bobbing about on the ever so small ocean swell and asked to be taken back in. But not before we did a circuit of the 'Little Hole in the Wall' which is near Mahungarape Island. The original, more well known (and bigger) 'Hole in the Wall' is further out in the bay, on the way to the Mercury Islands.

On one of our trips into town, I got David to drop me off at the wharf and while he went and did a few errands, I walked back home along Buffalo Beach enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. These photos are from my camera phone so excuse the quality.

While David was out fishing one day, I drove the 40kms around to Hahei, Cathedral Cove and Ferry Landing on the other side of the Mercury Bay. The sun was shining when I left but by the time I got there, a monochrome grey haze had taken over the sky. 

Tourists return from a kayak tour to Catherdral Cove and out over the marine reserve at Hahei
I was going to walk to Cathedral Cove but decided the shots wouldn't have been too great with the quickly darkening grey background so I decided to explore the area by vehicle instead. We'd walked to the Cove the last time we were in the Coromandel and that day also didn't produce too many great shots. It looks like I'll have to return another time. 

A cocky cock pheasant wandered past me while I was checking out the beach reserve at Hahei
One thing I did notice though, was the amount of tourist traffic visiting the Cove and this was in mid May when you'd expect it to be a little quieter. You definitely need to park in the visitor carpark at the entrance to Hahei village and catch the shuttle to the start of the Cove walkway, the top carpark was chocker both circuits I did. 

I also startled a kereru feasting on guavas in a small bush in the reserve.
There were even some enterprising locals selling parking sites on their front lawn for $10 a park. Some visitors, thinking they were saving money, were walking from the village carpark. It's a steep 2km walk to the start of the track and then another 5km return walk to the cove. As on our last visit some visitors were wearing the most inappropriate shoes and clothing for a walk; jandals (flip-flops), high heels, handbags and dresses!

They must have been on the Cove walk because they certainly weren't crowding Hahei Beach!
From Hahei I drove down to Ferry Landing to watch the passenger ferry to Whitianga come and go a few times. A five minute ferry ride saves a 40km and 45min drive into town.

Whitianga Wharf and waterfront from Ferry Landing.

I stopped on my way back from the Landing to take a photo of Flaxmill Bay, that's Shakespeare Cliff in the background. This is one of my favourite places in Mercury Bay, we used to anchor up here- often rafting up with friends- to relax, swim and enjoy the company of like minded people. 

A bit like motor-homing; you might not see each other for months on end but when you do, it's just like it was yesterday and you fall into the familiar banter and routine. What great memories, I felt a little sad pulling away, as it was such a fun time in our lives.

Two Kotare/Sacred Kingfishers watched me while I reminisced
I took a drive along Cooks Beach, checking out the freedom camping area right at the end of the beach in the reserve beside the Purangi Estuary (where I found the Rockwood caravan that had left Simpsons the morning before).

To read the finer details, click to enlarge.
In case you're wondering this is why Mercury Bay is called, well, Mercury Bay. A marker stone on Cooks Beach.

Of course a visit to this side of the bay wouldn't be complete without a stop at Hot Water Beach. But if you're anything like me and a dedicated people watcher you'd want to enjoy a separate blog post with plenty of photos! Well, you're in luck, coming up next....

And here's one final photo from Whitianga Wharf which will make you smile- Only in New Zealand! 


  1. Great blog! Loving your photos as well. I'm fortunate enough to call Coromandel home these days, after moving from Auckland 2 years ago.

    1. BTW, came across your blog from an NZMCA post on Facebook :)

    2. Thanks for stopping by Tom, your comments are much appreciated and I'm glad you enjoying the blog and photos. You live in a great part of the country!


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