At the recommendation of a Kiwi back in New York, she demanded we check out the Coromandel Peninsula, specifically Hot Water Beach.
After researching that area, we added it to the list of places. This was quite a drive from Bay of Islands taking us 5 and half hours. Not to fear, we loaded up on podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience, Serial Season 2 and Serial Season 1 Updates.
Not to be a broken record but the scenic drives are breathtaking which makes long car rides a breeze. The winding mountain roads to the Coromandel are lush with beautiful trees and the Mercury Bay waters play peak a boo with you.
We checked in at a backer packers hotel called On the Beach Backpackers in Whitianga ( pronounced Fitianga) For us, this was a town to get a quick night’s sleep in between Bay of Islands and exploring Hot Water Beach. We arrived around 6:30 pm and had plans to leave at 10 am. The town has a beach stretching along its entirety, that was a stones throw away from our efficiency apartment. Other than that, it’s pretty sleepy.
The next morning we got in a workout on the beach before heading to Cathedral Cove anticipating a lazy beach day ahead of us. Lazy Beach day turned into a race against time due to a lack of advance planning.
There is a shuttle from that parking lot but we didn’t realize it at the time and thought we were close based on our google maps. We set out on foot towards the beach and after 20 minutes, we found ourselves at a gorgeous beach but that was not what we came for. We kept walking to find the trail to Cathedral Cove. When we finally did, it said it was a 1 hour and 10 minute hike. Insert defeat here.
The tricky decision for us is that we needed to be at Hot Water Beach at a specific time (explanation later) so we were afraid we would be cutting it close by adding an unplanned 2 hour hike. In true Nate fashion, he checked his tattoo on his finger which says Yes and we went for it.
In bathing suits and flip flops, we charged this hike as if it were an American Ninja Warrior course, deliberately and quickly. The sweat was worth it because that final step onto the hot sand through the canopy of jungle trees gifted us with a massive cove that splits a spectacular crescent beach. Within 60 seconds we ran into the clear waters, high fiving each other on our conquered victory! A must do in New Zealand!!
We unfortunately only had about 30 mins to spend on this beach because we needed to hike back to make it to Hot Water Beach on time. Our best case scenario was to hike to the mid point, and catch the shuttle bus or hitch hike. Thumbs out it was.
We effortlessly had an Australian couple give us a lift. We were so grateful because we were back on track for our jam packed day. They kindly dropped us at our car and we high fived again for another victory!
The main purpose for our trip to the Coromandel was to experience Hot Water Beach. This is a 5-10 minute drive from Cathedral Cove. Hot Water Beach is famous for its hot springs that reside underneath because during the two hours before and after low tide, tourists and locals can dig their own hot tub.
It is unreal and people flock to it. The water is dangerously hot in some areas so you have to be extremely careful where you walk, we burnt our feet. You learn swiftly where to dig and where not to.
The scene for those two hours is a family of strangers all capitalizing on the same flow of hot water and helping each other out. We first dug near the water but after the tide eroded our dig twice, we moved further in. We finally found an area that was a luke warm dig spot near a hot spot that seeped in. Our adjacent neighbors were in colder spots but created a river of steaming hot water that would empty into their pool and if it was too hot, they would build a temporary dam. Hot Water Beach Engineering 101.
It was such a fun experience and totally worth during. Don’t give up until you find the right place to dig, it probably took us a solid 30 minutes of trying different areas before we finally had a shallow pool to call ours. Before too long, the tide poetically rises and begins to wash away everyone’s hard work and the beach returns flat and ready for new visitors at the next low tide.
A big shout out to the lunch place we ate at prior to hot tubbing it. A restaurant called Hotties which is in prime location and would survive on foot traffic alone, however, the food is excellent! The best meal we have had in New Zealand. Don’t miss a chance to have a meal there before or after you dig. We “hired our spades” there as well. This means, we rented our shovels from them, which is $5 NZD.
All and all, this day was the highlight of our trip so far! High Five!!