Wednesday 20 June 2018

Three Hidden Gems- Coromandel


While David went fishing I went exploring, this time picking a perfect blue sky day which is still not the best for photography but one heck of a lot better than the mono tone of grey I had the other day.

I travelled north of Simpsons Beach over the winding and hilly road through the Coromandel Forest Park towards Kuaotunu turning right into the little village just before the highway takes a sharp left and runs along the coast towards Matarangi and on over the range to Coromandel Town on the west side of the peninsula. 

We've explored the Kuaotunu Peninsula on our last visit to the Coromandel but there's nothing like revisiting one of your favourite areas again and especially when it's such a lovely day. 

Once through the village it's onto the notoriously steep, narrow and gravel Black Jack Road which climbs steadily up and over a headland. I stopped at the top to take a photo looking back towards Kuaotunu Beach, Rings Beach and the far one, Matarangi. Hidden behind the tree is Whangapoua and way out of frame the world famous New Chums Beach (all links are of my blogs from previous visits).

Just a little further on and the road drops down to the first of my hidden gems; Otama Beach. I stop again to take a quick photo, there's no traffic on the road so I'm able to pull up when I see a gap between the trees. 

This may be of interest to some; see the square dark colour building towards the bottom left? (click the photo to enlarge). It was the 2003 Home of the Year & 2005 Home of the Decade. It appears often on TV and in magazines to do with architecture, home & garden or holidays, click the link to see more. I'm sure that green shed above it must house a spa pool! Actually I doubt it as the bach has a bath on wheels which can be wheeled out onto the deck.

Otama Beach is stunningly beautiful and totally deserted except for one lonely swimmer.

I zoom in along the beach towards the small holiday settlement at the far end of the beach and spot the swimmer's partner sitting in the dunes. The glare off the white quartz sand is intense, sunglasses are definitely needed today.

I carry on to the settlement at the end of the beach where there's a large grass reserve overlooking the beach and the Otama River outlet. There are a number of large gnarly pohutukawas hanging off the small cliffs above the beach... 

...and stairway access down to the beach.

At the bottom of the stairs a swing hangs forlornly off  a large pohutukawa branch and in the loose sand, hundreds of footprints belie the fact that the beach is once again, deserted.

Then it's back in the ute and up and over the next headland, stopping again at the top to take in the views. This one is looking out towards the Mercury Islands.

And then it's down the otherside to gem #2 (and IMO the jewel in the crown of nearly all the Coromadel Peninsula beaches)...

This is beautiful Opito Bay...

...with it's dazzling white sand and crystal clear waters. And just like Otama, the sand squeaks under foot too- overseas, white quartz beaches are often called 'singing beaches' because of this sound.

At the far end of Opito Bay there's a walk out along the headland to the Opito Point Pa site, and like most headland pa sites it has 360 degree views and is surrounded by steep cliffs which would have thwarted approaching attackers.

The front lawn is a public reserve, but how's the position of this holiday home. You can see a corner of it in the photo above. I have my lunch at the picnic table enjoying the warm sun and the sound of silence.

Opito Bay has gone a lot more upmarket since our early days of visiting it by boat and anchoring in the bay. Many of the traditional baches have been replaced with flash new holiday homes and instead the old trusty (& often rusty) tractor parked in drive, Sealegs on Stabicraft boats are now the norm. 

This guy trundled along the road behind me, then across the reserve, down the access track, across the beach and into the water. Then with hardly a hint of hesitation, he started the outboard, raised the legs and was off. I can see why Sealegs are so popular; it was so much quicker than hauling the boat down there on a trailer, launching it, having someone hold the boat and park the tractor, etc.

This is one of my old photos, taken from our launch in January 2007- those are tractors and trailers lined up along the beach waiting for their boats to return from a day's fishing. Opito Bay provides the shortest and most direct route to the Mercury Islands so it is popular place in the height of summer.

It was time for me to head to the next hidden gem which is indeed quite well hidden, and not so well known.

Matapaua Bay is a tiny little bay with just a handful of houses, tucked into the south side of the Kuaotunu Peninsula and fronting the north side of Mercury Bay (does that make sense?- check the map below for more detail). The road over to the bay is very narrow, steep and winding and not recommended for anything larger than a regular vehicle.  

It's late afternoon by now and the sun is quickly disappearing off the beach. It takes me all of  5 minutes to walk from one end of the bay to the other and I'm sure I'm the only one to have set foot on the beach in days.

From Matapaua Bay I zoom in on The Twins/Motumanga, two small island rocks in Mercury Bay that are popular for fishing and diving around.

I spot some movement at the far end of the beach and watch as a pair of endangered New Zealand Dotterel/Tuturiwhatu hurry along the tide line in my direction. I sit down in the sand and wait for them to pass. 

They scurry along for a few metres then stop and probe the seaweed, them move again, stop, probe, look, probe, then it's off again, their tiny little legs moving in a blur as they change course quickly when a sand hopper bounces out from underneath them. For a change they weren't too worried about me sitting quietly in the sand and I was able to get some great shots of them as they moved up the beach and then back past me again. This is their territory and they must spend all day sweeping back and forward along the beach. 

It was time for me to head home after a very successful and enjoyable day exploring, and not for the first time, I think how lucky I am to be able to experience these magic days.


  1. Thanks for posting. It doesn't matter how often see photos of the Coromandel it's always amazing. We are so lucky in NZ to be able to see and enjoy all this. Joan

    1. Hi Joan and thanks very much for your comment and I'm glad you have enjoyed the Coromandel posts, we sure do live in a beautiful country.


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