The Coromandel Peninsula is about two hours from Auckland. Its shores are lined with beautiful beaches and the interior is filled with lush forest. We took the scenic route along the coast to get there and spent our first night camping near the water at the Firth of Thames.
Early the next morning, we headed to the Coromandel Forest to hike in the Kauaeranga Valley. That day, we hiked from the Kauaeranga Road End to the Pinnacles summit and back. An 8.5 mile journey that took us about 5 hours from start to finish.
Toward the beginning of the hike are a couple of fun swinging bridges over the larger stream crossings on the trail.
The bottom section of the hike traverses through a forest full of native trees. We’ve gotten to know these trees as our hikes have taken us through miles and miles of them.
The highlight of the hike was the scramble up rocks and ladders the last quarter mile leading up to the jagged summit of the Pinnacles.
From the summit we enjoyed panoramic views of the Coromandel region. Just wish it would have been a bit clearer that day so we could have seen even further into the horizon.
The Pinnacles trail follows the old packhorse track that took supplies up to the kauri loggers working and living in the hills. Around the turn of the century, Kauri logging was big business on the peninsula. Between 1871 and 1925 more than 100 dams were built across most streams in the area to get timber out of steeper country. Water stored behind them and released in a flood, driving logs downstream.
Sadly, by the 1930’s, nearly all the Kauri had been cut down. Today, beautiful Kauri are starting to tower over these forests again.
That night, we camped at one of the many government campsites in the forest, just steps from where we ended the hike. The following morning, we set off to do more hiking in the area. We thought we would do just a short hike to the Billy Goat Falls area.
After leaving the falls area, we decided to take a different route and that is when our short hike turned into a full blown tramp. In New Zealand, trails/tracks are classified as follows:
- Short Walk: Easy walking for up to an hour. Trail is well formed with an even surface. Streams and rivers are bridged. Suitable for people of most abilities and fitness levels.
- Walking Track: Gentle walking on mostly formed trail; some sections may be steep, rough, or muddy. Major stream and river crossings bridged. Suitable for people with moderate fitness and limited backcountry experience.
- Tramping Track: Challenging hiking on mostly unformed trail with steep, rough or muddy sections. Expect un-bridged stream and river crossings. Suitable for people with good fitness and moderate to high-level backcountry skills and experience, including navigation and survival skills.
- Route: Challenging overnight tramping. Trail unformed and natural, may be rough and very steep. Expect un-bridged stream and river crossings. Suitable for people with above average fitness and high-level backcountry skills and experience, including navigation and survival skills. Must be completely self-sufficient.
When we started the tramping track, it was fully marked as such and certainly met the description. What we ended up doing was my least favorite type of hiking – bush whacking through brush so tall and thick, I could only see a foot or two ahead of me. Had I known we would be doing this, I would have worn pants instead of shorts. All of the vegetation was seriously aggravating my skin.The worst was this prickly plant with needles that got stuck in your skin if you brushed by them. It really hurt pulling them out. Hiking through bush this thick is painfully slow. It took us 4.5 hours to cover just 6 miles (45 minute/mile pace). There was one section where we lost the trail. Unfortunately, we did not realize it until after we had hiked up a super steep section. On our way back down as we were clinging to trees to avoid tumbling down the mountainside, Jay ran into a bees best and got stung several times.
When we finally reached a clearing in the thick bush and could see our way back along the stream, I was beyond relieved.
After the hike, we left the forest and drove to the east coast of the peninsula to Hot Water Beach. Just below the beach surface lies hot geothermal mineral water. For two hours either side of low tide, you can dig your own hot tub in the beach. For a few bucks, we rented a spade and dug out our own little hot tub spa. Definitely a unique experience and a nice way to unwind after our two days of hiking in the Coromandel Forest.
The following morning, we headed to nearby Hahei Beach. From the northern end of the beach, we walked to Cathedral Cove which is accessible only by foot or by boat. The name comes from its cathedral-like arch through the limestone cliff. It’s one of the natural icons of New Zealand and is famous for the opening scene of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Our visit to Cathedral Cove wrapped up our time on the Coromandel Peninsula. Next up: Rotorua.
You are definitely hiking in New Zealand. Sorry about the bee stings. Loved that you were able to dig your own hot tub on the beach. Totally unique views depicted in your photos. Bushwacking looks like lots of work, of course, in Iowa I am getting a good workout with snow removal. Seems like we have to shovel snow, ice, etc every day. Hiking in New Zealand is not on my bucket list. Glad you and Jay are doing it while you are still physically able.
Enjoy your last days in New Zealand.
The hiking looked fun until the bushwhacking part…haha!! Very cool bridges! So glad things are going great for both of you!