Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Coromandel Town

Located 2 hours drive or scenic ferry ride from Auckland city, Coromandel is a quaint town known for its laid back, free-spirited lifestyle. 

While Laura caught the 360 Discovery ferry from Auckland, I hired a Rav 4 4x4 from Sunkist Car Rentals in Thames and drove up the spectacular Thames Coast.
Framed by Pohutukawa trees the Thames Coast highway is a scenic drive that is best driven in the afternoon when you can witness the majestic sunsets.

Once in Coromandel Town there is plenty to do whether it be riding on the innovative trains at Driving Creek Railway...
Experiencing the kiwi ingenuity at the Water Works... OR

Fishing amongst the mussel farms with Mussel Barge Snapper Safaris.

If you're looking for somewhere to stay, Coromandel Town has a wide range of good quality accommodation including:

Anchor Lodge
  - Spa apartments and spa suites; for a luxury stay with stunning views. 
  - Motel units; full kitchen facilities, tastefully decorated and opening onto        balconies. 
  - Hostel accommodation; clean, comfortable with a social atmosphere. 
Coromandel Motel’s, Holiday Park and Backpackers 
  - Ideal family accommodation
Jacaranda Lodge
  - Bed and breakfast style accommodation

Proudly sponsored by Sunkist Rental Cars

Sunkist Backpacker's Car Rentals

Here are four great reasons to consider 4WD rentals in Thames for your next holiday to the Coromandel:
  1.  For those who are on a budget this is a cheap option to get off the beaten track and explore the Coromandel from only $35 per day.
  2. Intercity Coaches provide direct transport to the Sunkist Backpackers in Thames from the main centers in the North Island. Fares are around $25 per person.
  3. Once you get to Thames, you can go where buses can’t take you and explore places like Fletcher Bay, Waikawau Bay and New Chums Beach – Sunkist Rentals are one of the few companies that allows you to venture off sealed roads!
  4. There’s loads of space to take ya mates or if you’re like me, to fit your extra luggage!

New Chums Beach

About 20 minutes from Coromandel town, New Chums beach is one of the last remaining untouched and unspoiled areas of the New Zealand coastline.

Voted one of the top 10 beaches in the world by The Observer in 2006 and more recently 60th of the 101 Must Do’s for Kiwis - New Chums Beach remains a hidden gem!

This was my first visit to New Chums and it really was a true discovery of my own private paradise - I was blown away!

The best time to walk there is at low tide, as you have to wade through the estuary at the northern end of Whangapoa beach.  Otherwise you will be walking in waist deep water, and like us, may have to take your pants off so they don’t get wet! (ask one of the local i-sites when low tide is)

We carried on in our undies, following the shoreline for roughly 15 minutes. Don’t make our mistake by thinking you’ve missed the track and start walking back – it is quite visible from the rocks so keep walking till you see it.

We finally found the narrow track that crosses the low point in the headland saddle and eventually opens up to a spectacular beach with golden sand and turquoise water. AND it was all ours! Not one other person on the beach...

Now I understand why it was voted one of the top 10 beaches in the world!

Proudly sponsored by Sunkist Rental Cars


This secret little spot is one of New Zealand’s most stunning beaches, yet it’s really only famous for one thing: The Kuaotunu Killer.

After our walk to New Chums beach we decided it was ice cream time and stopped off at the Kuaotunu General Store to experience the legend of the Kuaotunu Killer – 5 massive scoops of ice cream for $5. 

The owner of the Kuaotunu Store said she has seen grown men attempt and fail to get through the Killer… we didn’t stand a chance! We opted for the $2 ice cream instead, which is still 2 massive scoops of your choice!

If you think you’ve got what it takes to take on the Kuaotunu Killer, Kuaotunu is definitely worth a stop – and you can burn it off by taking a walk along the beach.

We also stopped in for a coffee at Kuaotunu Bay Lodge. Lorraine and Bill are such lovely hosts and their accommodation offers stunning views over Kuaotunu beach!

Proudly sponsored by Sunkist Rental Cars

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Whitianga Day 1

After our ice cream stop we carried on to Whitianga expecting to go kayaking, snorkeling and on the glass bottom boat… but Mother Nature had different plans for us.

Home to the World’s Best Scallop Festival, Whitianga is about a 3 hours drive from Auckland and Hamilton.
At least on the first day we arrived we had nice weather and were able to have a play at Combat Zone and High Zone.

While Laura experienced the adventure ropes course at High Zone, I enjoyed a bit of target shooting, archery, soccer golf and a ride on the Argo at Combat Zone.
If you’re not familiar with what an Argo is, well you’re missing out! The beast is an 8x8 amphibius vehicle that can basically go anywhere. It’s a 15-minute ride through native bush and shallow rivers and from the top of the farm you are faced with breathtaking views of Mercury Bay and the Centre Island.
However Argo rides is just part of the experience, Combat Zone offers a range of family fun including paintball battles. Soccer golf and laser tag are family favourites!

The Lost Spring was next on our places to visit and for those who have never been here, imagine the most beautiful place you have ever been and this is better!
It’s a true day spa destination offering a unique twist with their thermal hot water pools. With its sculpted pools, soothing waterfalls, and smoking volcano, the Lost Spring offers more than simply a swim in hot water.
Sipping on our cocktails, we relaxed in the therapeutic mineral pools flowing with crystal clear water from a well 644 meters below the earth’s surface. The water is naturally good for you and leaves your skin feeling silky smooth!
After you soak your worries away, its definitely worthwhile indulging in one of the Lost Spring’s treatments. My recommendation is the Pure Decadence – 2.5 hours of solid pampering.

For dinner, we enjoyed fine dining at the Salt Restaurant and Bar. Situated right on the water of the Whitianga Marina, the views are sublime!

It was a bit chilly when we were there so we ate inside and enjoyed the home comforts of the open fire while being pampered by 1st class service.

I had the 90 day grain fed eye fillet with roasted shallots, hand cut chips and bĂ©arnaise sauce – it was to die for!

The name speaks for itself – absolute beachfront accommodation!

The immaculate units offer full kitchen facilities, SKY TV and best of all a private balcony with spectacular uninterrupted sea views of Mercury Bay.
Beachfront Resort is a private and peaceful haven only minutes away from the buzz of Whitianga’s shops and restaurants.
Watching the sunrise from your balcony is definitely a must if you can muster up the energy to get up at the crack of dawn!
Kate and her partner Paul own and operate the resort and provide a warm welcome.

Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach are just some of the nearby attractions.

Proudly sponsored by Sunkist Rental Cars

Whitianga Day 2

With no improvement in the weather, today was a bit of a lay day and revolved around food… in particular the Homegrown Food Trail.

After getting up early to watch the sunrise from my balcony, we had a fairly slow start to the morning before heading to Cathedral Cove Macadamias for a tour of their orchard.
It’s a long gravel driveway to the orchard, but once there, a warm welcome awaits you. You’ll be able to pick up a self-guided map from the orchard shop and set out on your own adventure around the orchard.
At the shop you can purchase an array of product including the award winning Macadamia Seafood Sprinkles and my personal favourite Dark Chocolate Coated Macadamias.

After our tour around the orchard, we enjoyed delicious wood fired pizzas for lunch. Sue and Brian Pilkington the owners of the orchard are members of the SLOW cooking society and value locally sourced, organic and wholesome ingredients when cooking.

We were able to help make the bases and add our own ingredients, which I must say just added to the experience of eating wood fired pizzas.

Monk Street Market

After lunch we visited the Coromandel’s secret little treasure chest of organic goodies, Monk Street Market.

Found in the main shopping streets of Whitianga, they stock a full range of everyday needs but are mostly known for their wide range of cheeses.
Dean welcomed us into his store and invited us to taste a selection of their cheeses (settled on Camembert and a New Zealand vintage Gouda).

While it wasn’t the best weather for an afternoon horse trek, it wasn’t raining so that was good enough for us!
Established in 1992 this family owned and operated business provides an easy grade horse trek through native bush and fresh water streams.

The top of the farm provides magnificent views of Mercury Bay, Matarangi, Whangapoua and Great Barrier Island.

If you’re like me and not overly confident on a horse, then this trip will suit you just fine! Our tour guides Andrea and Janice made me feel very comfortable and I really enjoyed the tour.

Tonight I stayed at Marina Park Apartments while Laura spent the night at Wairua Lodge.
Overlooking Whitianga Marina and with the town literally at their doorstep, the contemporary designed apartments are the ideal choice to base yourself in the Coromandel.
I stayed in a spacious one-bedroom apartment that was fully self contained with a washing machine and dryer – great for catching up on my washing :-) 

Proudly sponsored by Sunkist Rental Cars

Whitianga to Pauanui

After our horse trek we headed south to Pauanui and had an early dinner at a holiday rental in Lakes Resort with property manager Tina Carey from Bachcare and her husband Rocky.

Bachcare provide a service to visitors and tourists looking to experience a typical kiwi holiday and rent a bach in New Zealand. Their baches range from budget and basic to high-end luxury homes.

The Pauanui apartment where Tina hosted us for dinner is a golfers dream. Located in the midst of one of NZ’s premier golfing resorts, Lakes Resort, the apartment was very well appointed and great for a large group or family.

Tonight we stayed among the treetops in an exquisite private chalet at Grand Mercure Puka Park in Pauanui.
It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind. Unfortunately we were not able to use the tennis court as it was pouring with rain however we did make use of the heated swimming pool and spa, which is great asset on those colder days. 
In the morning we awoke to a brilliant day and had a grand breakfast in the award winning Miha restaurant before heading to Whangamata for our stand up paddleboard session.

Proudly sponsored by Sunkist Rental Cars