Where We Be
Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
We had five days to enjoy this lovely little peninsula,
so close to Auckland but so far away in terms of its
slow pace, winding roads, and ultra-green hillsides.

This is a must-do! After picking up complementary
shovels from our backpackers hostel, we headed to
Hot Water Beach near the town of Hahei. This beach is
famous and deservedly so—hot water percolates up
through the sand so you can dig your own hot tub!

There were already lots of people there when we
arrived just after low tide. (You have to arrive two
hours either side of low tide to dig your hole or else
the surf will wash it away.) Many had already dug large
sand pits that had filled up with hot water. We started
digging our own hole, then, when the neighboring
people left, we commandeered their much bigger and
nicer hole. It was already filled with hot water. We dug
it deeper and enjoyed the next hour-and-a-half
soaking in the hot tub while looking out at the surf
some twenty feet away. What a unique experience.

Some of the pools near ours were so hot that no one
could sit in them. Whenever our pool started to get
cool, we were able to divert some of this extremely
hot water into ours and get it hot right quick. The thing
that amazed me most was that, just within our own
pool, I could put my left hand into the sand and feel
cold water percolating up and put my right hand into
the sand just a foot or two away and find it painfully
hot. If you happened to dig into a spot where really hot
water was welling up (as high as 65˚ C or 150˚ F!), you
had to be careful not to scald yourself. Several
people, as they were digging, stood on sand that was
steaming hot and leapt off with a cry and a rueful
laugh. My own elbows were red by the end of the day
from leaning back in sometimes too-hot water.

As the afternoon progressed, the surf got closer and
closer. Eventually the sea reached our “mansion” and
broke down the walls and cold water came rushing in.
It’s interesting to think that each high tide wipes the
slate clean—all the walls are leveled, the holes filled,
and the sand laid flat for the next day’s hot tubbers.

Undoubtedly the most eccentric attraction on the
peninsula is the Waiau Waterworks. This sculpture
garden is filled with water-powered kinetic sculptures
like mechanical clocks driven by water and bicycles
that squirt water from the handlebars when you
peddle. I got doused but good on a "flying fox" (aerial
zipline) when, at the far end, I rammed into a bunch of
car tires filled with water from two continuous days of
rain. We both cracked up laughing.

Near Hahei Beach you come to a huge natural archway
carved out of the rocks by the ocean. Walking through
this dramatic archway, you arrive at the pristine beach
of Cathedral Cove. The most remarkable thing about
this beach is the enormous limestone outcropping
that towers straight up out of the surf.
Not exactly a private hot tub experience, but so much fun!
Dig-it-yourself hot tub at Hot Water Beach
Hot water percolates up through the sand as you dig down
Unlike any other hot tub you'll ever soak in!
These "terraces" are actually paths made by grazing sheep
Dramatic archway leading to Cathedral Cove
Towering stone outcropping at Cathedral Cove
Pretty Hahei Beach on the hike to Cathedral Cove
Brilliantly green hills roll down to the water's edge
Jeans shorts are too loose after so much hiking!
Robin pays respects to an enormous kauri tree
Dizzying spinny ride at Waiau Waterworks
Lovely sculpture of women meditating in a prayer circle
Waiau Waterworks -- an eccentric piece of New Zealand
Bob gets doused but good on a flying fox (see writeup above)