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  • Writer's pictureClaire

05/04/24 Hot Water Beach to Whangerei

Up and at 'em this morning, sort of! That is definitely a slight exaggeration, but I was up and today that’s a win! We decided to do the beach, and then start on with the next leg of the road trip.  I decided not to take a shovel, my reasoning being, other people would have already dug holes and once they were empty I would avail myself of them. Which, I think was using my noodle, why dig when someone else, besides Si could do the graft for me? 

Parking up at a pay and display council car park we decided we’d risk not getting a ticket on this occasion, mainly because we weren’t going to be stopping long and, more importantly, no cash! Fingers crossed we don’t get a ticket!   There is a pathway to the beach, at night it’s lit up with glow worms, all twinkly and shiny, obviously they don’t glow in the day, so we’d missed out on them due to the general feeling of poop displayed by myself last night. The beach already had around 15 people digging frantically, which I did find mildly amusing. Our ever so helpful site receptionist had told us that we needed to be right opposite a prominent rock in the ocean to be in the best spot for hot water. Several of the diggers obviously hadn’t had that useful little titbit, and were happily digging their way toward the UK… in the wrong place. Did I  tell them? Nah… 

There were already a few abandoned pools but they weren’t in the right place, nevertheless I did dip my toe in to check it wasn’t hot. It wasn’t. A little further along, and in the right place was a young couple who were staying on our site. Well, they were digging like their lives depended on it, and were most excited when they found the hot water beneath the sand. The steam was rising up out of their little pool, and as it wasn’t that cold, I took that to mean that the water was likely rather warm.  

They had to wait for a wave to wash in and over their pool to cool it down to a bearable temperature before they were able to get in.  After all that digging, they didn’t sit in it for very long at all, I was discreetly (yes I can do discreet!) watching them whilst taking photos of the beach and the massive rock formations looming above me. When they got out and walked off, I pounced like a lion on its prey. I was in that beautifully dug  pool faster than the speed of light. I should point out at this juncture that I was merely “paddling” in the pool. It was pleasant enough, and a very strange sensation of the hot water coming up from beneath my feet. Having been wiped out by the very therapeutic and definitely healing thermal pools yesterday and the day before, I really didn’t want to be in that position again today, so a paddle sufficed. Si didn’t even want to paddle and once I’d dipped my toes I was happy. It doesn’t take much to make my day.  Once we’d got back to the car, we realised we were still within the checkout period so took the opportunity to make the most of the outdoor showers at the site to rinse the sand off our tootsies. Master stroke, and it stopped a lot of mess in Ismene. 

That little job completed, we set about our day's journey, our plan of attack was to go to Coromandel Town and then down the West coast of the Peninsula before making our way to Whangerei. However, our plans changed, we decided to take the 309 route from Whitianga, a steep narrow winding 22 kilometres of unsealed (translate that as rough as a badger's butt)  single track  with exceedingly narrow and rickety bridges through the Coromandel forest. My delight at discovering this hideous piece of road knew no bounds. Not only was it all of the above, there were large sections of the road edges that were crumbling and slipping away. The joys. Si was in his element, me, not so much! The 309 isn’t what I would describe as populated, so I began to wonder if the road collapsed would we ever be found again! However I was slightly reassured when several cement mixers passed us coming from the opposite way. Sort of. After I’d finished braking heavily, and frequently. And squeaking that we were going to be squished by aforementioned cement mixers. The road aside,  the scenery was just perfect, a bubbling river escorted us most of the way through, sometimes slightly further away due to the gorges it was snaking its way through. But there nevertheless. It’s a subtropical rainforest, and is very much an unspoiled landscape which is always a pleasurable experience.  There were lots of places to stop off to take photos, and we stopped twice for road works. The road had collapsed and they were in the process of repairing it…. Do you see my problem with this road? As soon as I thought we’d be coming to an end, we’d take another hairpin bend and something equally as hideous as what we’d been traversing appeared before us. 

After one particularly sharp bend, we noticed a sign for The Waterworks. It turned out to be the most extraordinary eco-amusement park, and we decided it was time for a brew. Instantly I loved it!  It is a place where nature and innovation combine to create wonder, laughter and learning for people of all ages and has more than 70 interactive water-powered inventions and attractions, and its quirky.  The park’s many inventions are made using recyclable materials and upcycled equipment, and this aspect  adds to the home-made charm of the park. Almost nothing is off-limits, everything is fun, informative, and thought provoking . There are mobility scooters provided for guest with mobility problems making it truly accessible to all.

Winding paths lead from one watery attraction to the next, before opening out on a vast grassy picnic area and a substantial playground featuring equipment designed to be enjoyed by all ages. The playground is, I would say, one of the biggest highlights, as this is not your typical ‘swing and slide’ affair. Oh no, a flying fox and zipline send you at speed through the bush. You can get nowhere fast on a giant hamster wheel, and its tyre swings reminded me of the swings dad made me as a kid. The Waiau Stream borders the park, with several different paths taking you to a nearby waterhole for cooling off...if you’re not already saturated from playing with all the watery attractions, because believe me we got wet!  I imagine in the height of summer it’s very popular because the water was clear as day, and the stream was shaded by  towering native trees. In the on-site cafe there is a  tasty  lunch menu, coffee and icecream, to choose from. There are also free barbecues that are dotted around the park for organised persons who desire to make their own food.  

Obviously we went into the Cafe, and I had one of the best  cheese and pineapple toasties EVER! Triple decker no less and full of cheese and pineapple. All that was needed to make it utter perfection was some banana and sweetcorn...  We got talking to the guy who built and runs it. It’s been his and his wife’s hard and very imaginative work for over 18 years, and he was saying they get over 25000 visitors a year. He, justifiably, was very proud of it, and we could tell it was very much a labour of love, and, we thoroughly enjoyed the time there. I found the barrel soldier “weeing” into a bathtub at the entrance highly amusing, along with what must have been over 100 toilet pans that were planted with flowers.  We managed to get lost in the maze, but only because we didn’t realise you have to go out the same way you go in, the exit was closed so we guess he forgot to open it up! 

Bob came along too and ended up in a crocodile's mouth, and  he also managed to hide himself amongst some giant teddies. 

After a good deal of time passed we decided that we were going to be changing our plans today, instead of going right to Coromandel town we opted to turn left at the junction instead of right. As we did so we came across a load of old broken down caravans, cars and run down sheds, it was a place called Stu’s pigs. An attraction I found via the Roadie App thanks to Liv.  I say attraction, it’s just pigs roaming freely on the road and in the un-gated fields. Either way, once again we were amused! Stu is something of a pig rescuer and has just about every breed and size that you could imagine, there is also a pig crossing sign that looks more like a sheep. It did its job and slowed us down, even if it wasn’t for sheep.  

Passing Stu’s pigs we came back onto the coastal road, and along the side of us were some beautiful beaches, very attractive coastline and pretty Bays in abundance. It was also a little more inhabited than what we’d previously driven today.  We had thought to stop in Thames but in the end drove through it as it didn’t really have much of interest for us, and besides The Waterworks would take some beating. Instead we carried on until we got to the 1 highway at Pokeno, and followed it to Whangerei, just north of Auckland avoiding the tolls. As we were driving through Orewa we were spotted by Morg. Obviously we didn’t see him as we wouldn’t have had the first idea he was working that way, but he spied us in Ismene. Eyes like a poop house rat that boy.  

Arriving at our final destination, much later than anticipated we were given a spot closest to the showers etc. whilst this was ideal, it was also right next to the camp kitchen, and we’d be having a fair bit of foot traffic until people went to bed. That aside the place was great, clean warm and a big kitchen to use. As it was late and heavy rain closed in as darkness fell, we elected to set up the bed and call it a day.  Job done. 

Much love

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