Our first order of business today was a drive through the suburbs west of Auckland to see the black sand beaches of the west coast. We followed narrow and winding roads through small communities all the way to Karekare, a tiny coastal village perched on a steep hillside above the Tasman Sea. Many of the west coast beaches are black, volcanic sand, and Karekare might be the best, and most beautiful example of this type of beach. The clouds and rain of the last few days cleared out and we were treated to bluebird skies when we arrived at the beach parking lot. It took us about 15 minutes to walk through groves of red-blooming Pohutukawa trees (kind of like a mimosa tree) and tree ferns before arriving at the dunes and the beach. The beach is very flat, but we arrived close to low tide and were treated to big expanses of black sand and blue water. Apparently this is the beach where Jane Campion filmed some of The Piano, if you saw that movie. We poked around the beach and dunes before walking back to the parking lot to get some water and snacks for the hike to a water fall across the street. A short up and down hike took us to a beautiful water fall that we spotted from the beach. We relaxed for a little while by the pool and then hiked back to the car.
Photos from the Karekare Beach:
We retraced our route back up the steep and windy road (called Scenic Road, completely non-ironically). Since it seemed close, we decided to drive over to Piha beach as well. But after spotting it from high above, we thought better of it, and decided to make our way back towards Auckland and on to the Coromandel Peninsula, our destination for the next few days. We had lunch at an Indian takeway and picked up some food supplies at the Countdown supermarket.
Photos from the waterfall hike:
The drive to Coromandel was uneventful; there is good highway nearly all the way, since this is a popular escape for Aucklanders who feel the need to get away from their own awesome beaches. We are spending the next couple of days at the Hot Water Beach Top10 Holiday Park. We checked into our cabin and stashed our food in the fridge in the communal kitchen. Although there were only a handful of campers here when we checked in this afternoon, by the evening the campground was full up with camper vans and guests in all the cabins and dorms. We walked over to Hot Water Beach, where you can dig a hot pot for yourself on the beach at low tide, due to a hot spring seep right under the sand. But we’re expecting more bad weather, and the wind was blowing hard on the beach, whipping the surf up to a froth, even at low tide. A few brave souls were trying to dig hot pots unsuccessfully, so we headed back to camp for an ice cream and bed.