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The "Romance with the Road" in the Coromandel.....

It’s a stunning summer’s day. Way too hot to be out exploring on foot, and yet the last thing you want to be doing is hiding away inside in the shade. The odds are packed in favour of a nice cool spot with a gentle breeze. Listening to some good ole’ fashioned summer music would be a bonus, especially if you can power out those lyrics in style without anyone complaining. You guessed it folks - it’s time for the “Summer Roadie Season” to kick off for 2022.

I am going to share with you one of my personal favourite road trips. The infamous Coromandel. It’s one of the spots in New Zealand that’s perfect to visit any time of the year. With picturesque beaches and quirky shops & attractions there is ample opportunity to ensure that every trip is different.

The Coromandel has always been one of my favourite places for a Roadie. It’s ideal for a weekend, or longer if you have time available. When we recently set off, we had “no specific plans”. We found ourselves in Thames (The Gateway to the Coromandel), and it seemed like a perfect place to stop and stretch our legs. Upon spotting the monument on the hill, we had our destination in sight. After parking the car, ensuring we had completed our “slip slop and slap” ritual, we set off to explore. The first rookie error was leaving the jandals on, the second was forgetting the water bottle. The third was not noticing that there was a road up there as whilst it was an enjoyable walk, it’s not the only way to get up there.

Driving up the coast from Thames is a world class, scenic drive - especially if the tide is in. There are plenty of bays to stop and explore. If you are heading up this coast, I thoroughly recommend you keep your camera close by as there are ample spots to take a postcard perfect photo, or a social media worthy selfie with the magical scenery behind you. On our roadie we went up this coast as far as Coromandel Town. It’s a great place to stop, refuel yourself, and make decisions on which road to take from here. Do you keep going up (sway to the left or sway to the right?). Do you head back down the other side with options including Matarangi Beach, Whitianga, Tairua and Pauanui? Or do you go back, and short cut through the middle? On our roadie we refuelled at the Admiral’s Arms Hotel and then opted to keep going up, swaying to the left. We kept going up past Fantail Bay, past Port Jackson, past Cape Colville and finally found ourselves at the end of the line – Fletcher Bay.

Fletcher Bay is home to a beautiful beachfront campsite that is managed by DOC. It’s perfect for enjoying water sports, and other outdoor activities like tramping and mountain biking. If you do want to stay here, advance bookings are required all year round. Make sure you do your homework in advance, and pack for the conditions. All the sites here are non-powered, and there are no rubbish or recycling facilities for compost or food waste. We always travel with our portable power-bank which is compact and lightweight. It’s perfect if staying in a remote location like this. They are worth their weight in gold as they charge all portable devices that have a USB or DC connection. They are also handy if someone accidentally flattens the car battery by leaving a light on overnight. Fortunately, it’s never happened to us (yet) – I’ve seen it happen to a lot of others.

If travelling up to Fletcher’s Bay isn’t something that floats your boat, another fun memorable adventure is the “309 Road”. It has been referred to as the Best Summer Secret Roadie. It’s a 22 km road between Coromandel Town and Whitianga. If you haven’t grabbed a bite to eat yet, the Coromandel Mussel Kitchen is ready and waiting for you at the start of this adventure. After that, it’s time to buckle in tight and hit the road. The first attraction is one that’s hard to miss. I’m not aware of any other places where you find so many pigs casually roaming about. They are all pets of local residence, Stu who is often unofficially referred to as “The Pig Man”. Sometimes you see him hanging about, and it’s not uncommon to see cars parked on the side of the road taking a snapshot. Not far up the road you will find another quirky attraction - The Waterworks. Here you will find over 70 attractions of the weird and wonderful variety, all with the theme of water behind them. It’s a great day out for the entire family. Feel free to take your fur-baby with you as dogs are welcome onsite.

After that, enjoy the native forest, the tight bends and should you feel up to it stop and enjoy a quick dip in the swimming hole at Waiau Falls. The 309 is one of the roads used for the New Zealand Rally, so take your time when driving through as some people do like to test their skills while driving it.

Many people ask why it’s called “The 309”. Some say it’s because when it was constructed it used to take 309 minutes to get across it (this was back in horse and cart days). Others say it is because it has 309 bends. If you get around to counting them (remembering it’s on 22 km), please do share the result.

There are plenty of other places to explore on the Coromandel, so if you are there for more than just a day, there are some great places to stay. My personal recommendations are Crow’s Nest in Whitianga. It’s directly across from the beach and ideal for families or couples. In Pauanui you can’t go wrong with either Pauanui Pines, or Grand Mercure Puka Park. However, the options are endless and there is the perfect solution to meet every budget and requirement.

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