12 min read

postcards from the coromandel peninsula

postcards from the coromandel peninsula

day one // auckland to waiomu

we pack in the thick warm soup of the morning, both of us covered in a sticky sheen of sweat within minutes. cold showers and we’re cool for a few minutes before commenting again how much like singapore this humidity feels.

on the ferry there’s almost no difference between precipitation and cloud. the hazy outlines of the hauraki gulf islands sliding in and out of view as we glide between water and liquid air.

our journeying needs more time now we’re travelling in an electric car.

we stop, multiple times to replenish the battery, noting down battery usage, charging times, kilometres travelled. each stop, a slower kind of movement through time than we’ve been used to. i pull out my book and read while we wait. a distraction from the heat. we wind the windows down to let in as much of the breeze as we can. but its all hot air, inside and out.

our room for the night is a little studio unit by the sea. the light on the horizon across the firth of thames, the green of watermelon skin one minute and thin silvery lines the next. i watch it vibrating on the water, glistening on the foamy waves. the wind pushes hot and thick through one side of the room and out the other. not cool enough to do anything but slice softly through the stillness that was there when we arrived.

the local cafe closes too early for us to visit. so we order fish & chips from boomerang takeaways back one bay at te puru. the fish tastes fresh & delicious. the wedges perfectly crisp. a generous serving of both that we can’t finish.

we sit outside, watching the shifting colours in the darkening canvas of the sky. feeling the hot air on our sticky skin. it’s 8:30 in the evening before the cicadas show signs of calling it a night and there’s a cooler breeze reshaping the air between us.

i have a cold shower before bed, lying on top of cotton sheets, willing the breeze to keep moving through our room as we sleep. the incoming tide rolling like thunderclaps onto the rocky shore outside. the humming of the fan inside. one single cricket. these last three things i hear before i sleep.


day two // waiomu to blue haven, waitete bay

the water in the bay has transformed into white-capped rolling waves as a cyclone arrived during the night. i watch the white plastic chairs gradually being pushed sideways across the deck outside our room with each new gust of wind. the cyclone strong enough to shake our cabin.

we pack the car and drive to a local cafe for breakfast, even though it’s walking distance. they have an ev plug for guests. so we charge (slowly) whilst we eat. there’s power cuts further up the peninsula and we don’t want to take any chances. the perils of taking an ev on a road trip in a semi-remote area with only a few places to recharge. only a small part of me is worried, but i now understand how range anxiety feels in my body.

we drive north through the cyclone, dodging fallen trees, slowing where the road is strewn with debris pushed up from the beach. the wind gusts whipping the waves into frothy white peaks along the coastline.

arriving at blue haven in the hills above waitete bay, we hastily unpack then drive over to colville to see what’s there. the colville store is a marvel – stocking everything from incense to gardening tools. the forager’s kitchen next door is also open so we head in there for lunch. once back at blue haven we plug the car in to charge, thankful that our accommodation has a caravan plug nearby that our hosts are happy for us to use. hunkering down with a g&t and some reading material, we watch the last of the cyclone blow over and the skies clear.


day three // a picnic at port jackson

with the car fully charged again overnight, we discuss how far we think we’ll be able to get up the north-western part of the peninsula before we need to turn around and head back. it’s mostly gravel road, so we have to travel slowly. this works to our advantage, asking less of the battery than travelling at any great speed.

our original plan for the first three nights was to camp at a small bay north of the cabin we’re staying in now. driving past the campground, we see just how exposed we would have been, both very glad we weren’t sleeping under canvas when the cyclone blew through.

we drive around the rocky coastline passing small bays where shags sit drying their wings in the sun. the road is narrow and every corner reveals another stunning view.

we arrive at port jackson, the second most northern point on this side of the peninsula. we agree this is far enough, the long sandy beach stretched out before us like a promise. the campground here is stunning and we vow to return some other time to pitch the tents and stay a while. we send photos to friends, hoping to pique their interest in coming here to camp with us too.

today, we are satiated by a walk the length of the beach before picnicking in the shade of a pohutukawa tree facing the ocean.


day four // waitete bay to port charles

unplugging the car after tidying up at blue haven, we head back to coromandel for supplies before heading north to port charles. there’s a couple of roads we can take to get there, both mostly gravel, one longer than the other. we opt for the longer route on the way there. the roads are quiet and we meet very little traffic. over the top of the tokatea hill we get a glimpse of the long golden sands of waikawau bay on the eastern side of the peninsula. we miss the turn off that takes us to the beach, so we double back, thirsty for a walk and a swim. other beach visitors are intrigued by the car, not many electric vehicles up this way i suppose.

we walk the length of the beach before diving into the clear blue water for a swim, then take a look at the campsite. this is another stunning location and we vow to return here too for some nights under canvas. we send more photos to our friends, trying to entice them to camp here with us too.

we finish our day by driving the last few kilometres to port charles. we’re only a few hours from home, but it really feels like we’ve moved into another time. home base is the ruru room for three nights. two little cabins perched on the side of a hill overlooking the tiny village of port charles. from the rocky bay below the cabin we have a clear view out towards great barrier island. this is the first time i’ve been this far up the coromandel peninsula. there’s so much goodness here.

days five & six // port charles

the cicadas my alarm clock, waking me in time to witness the morning spread herself in gold satin along the treeline across the bay. it’s too hot to sleep with the windows closed and we wake, after our first night, ski aflame with red welts and the itch that comes from mosquito bites. we hang a mosquito net from the ceiling the second & third nights, tucked up under the folds of it, windows open to let in the breeze, both of us get a better sleep.

the summer air is warm and thick and we find a slow rhythm moving between the deck outside and the room inside. the sea, glitters aquamarine in the bay below us like an invitation.

i’m surprised by the absence of birdsong here… one solitary grey warbler the only other sound. but there are other birds i notice as i sit on the little wooden deck overlooking the bay: a kereru flies over the bush behind us, a group of finches have a small manuka tree they stop at, chattering, before they move up or down through the bush, tui calls, the ruru (morepork) our cabin is named for, calling in the dusk.

we drive up to stony bay – the northernmost point we can get to by car. there’s a campground up at the bay, clearly a popular kayaking destination, the north end of the beach a colourful display of kayaks of all shapes & sizes.

we swim – at stony bay and sandy bay. the sea supports the weight of me, and i float, bobbing like a cork in the salty emerald green water.

day seven // port charles to hahei

cabin tidied and car packed, i take one last look at the view before we head back to coromandel to charge the car & pick up some more groceries on our way to hahei. we stop at the colville store on the way through where i buy postcards and stamps, then we grab a coffee and i scribble notes to friends and family.

after a stop in coromandel to recharge the car, we head to the mussel kitchen for lunch before taking the 309 road to the south-eastern side of coromandel. the final few days of our roadtrip we’ll be staying at a family bach in hahei. this location special to us as its where we got married 20 years ago.

(it’s at this point in our journey that nic shares his thoughts about ev travel, range anxiety & covers some of the places we stopped to charge up. you can check out what he’s written over on his website.)

days eight through eleven // hahei

we arrange ourselves in geometric shapes around the umbrella. shifting to stay in the shade. we’re surrounded by trees and the house feels private, even though we can hear our neighbours as clearly as we can hear our own thoughts. it’s an eight minute walk to the beach from here. ten minutes back. we thread ourselves between these two places, beach and bach.

i make turkey larb gai, wrapping it in crisp fresh lettuce cups, juice dripping down our fingers. we eat locally made gelato, pizza, chutneys and taste locally made beer, cider & fruit liqueurs.

i spend time drinking in the view from the balcony. from the sofa. from the wide mouth window of the kitchen. i notice the pastel colours of the evening, and the golden light of the morning sunrise eating away at the dark. i notice the sound of the coffee machine, wheezing in the kitchen, the quail families in the garden, the house creaking and stretching as it warms up in the sun and as it cools in the evenings, the crickets on the night shift, cicadas during the day.

the stillness of the heat makes it difficult to sleep and leaves us heavy-limbed and drowsy during the day. the cool water of the ocean our way of reawakening.

we take a drive to hot water beach and sit, watching shorebirds, and surfers on their boards waiting for a ride, the ocean waves too tumultuous for the way i like to swim.

we take a drive to whangapoua and walk to new chum beach. there’s a stop at whangamata to charge the battery before we head that far north. the walk to new chum is around the rocky shoreline of the coast, then up and over the hill at the end of the headland. the reward is a pristine, golden sand beach, all diamonds and sparkle. we scramble up to the top of the headland for a view overlooking both bays before clambering back down to the beach for a swim. we drop our gear in the shade of one of the magnificent pohutukawa trees, then dive into the rolling waves, the water so clear we can see the bottom. the sand on the beach scorches my bare feet like hot coals and warms me through my towel when i lie down after a swim.

we catch the ferry from ferry landing to whangamata. the day so hot i am nothing but particles of sweat and discomfort, unable to cool down. being “in town” feels weird after so many days away from any crowds. we have lunch in the shade, then catch the ferry back again. a swim at hahei the best antidote for the heat that’s making itself at home in my body.

day twelve // hahei and home

bach tidied we head down for one last swim, washing off the stickiness that comes with the heat. car packed, we leave a note in the visitor’s book and promise ourselves we’ll be back here again soon to dip our toes in the hahei water. this place leaves another memorable ripple in the surface of our lives. a piece of me left behind when we go.

stopping in thames we lunch at a melbourne-influenced local cafe, then head to charge the car again. we sit, windows down and fan on, using power even as we are replenishing it – the 30 degree air like a weighted blanket too heavy to lift.

we stop to charge, one more time, at the top of the bombay hill. sitting in the car, windows closed, again with the air conditioning on, we suck juicy sweet ice-blocks, attempting to stay cool.

we are on the last ferry of the day from the mainland. home before the last of the light leaves the day. it’s been fun having a slow(er)-style adventure. our little electric car taking us places that feel blessedly remote, but all still within the range our battery can handle.