It was a big weekend. We were celebrating Aaron’s birthday! So we packed up the car and headed a few hours southeast of Auckland to one of New Zealand’s favorite summertime destinations … the Coromandel Peninsula. This bit of land juts into the South Pacific Ocean and is known for giant green-lipped mussels, beautiful white beaches, lush forests and dramatic vistas. Check, check, check and check.
We got sidetracked by multiple scenic overlooks and a microbrewery on our way to the Wairua Lodge, which we’d booked for a few days of birthday R & R. Nestled on the edge of the sprawling Coromandel Forest Park, the Lodge was most definitely remote and peaceful (read: no internet, phone or TV … gulp).
Crossing the raging (not-so-raging) river to get to the Wairua Lodge. There is no other way in! Good thing it didn’t rain while we were there, since the river rises in a hurry, and we didn’t get the snorkel option for the Legend.
So the owner of the lodge told us about the trails snaking through the property and about the swimming hole that we just had to check out. It was a hot day, and taking a little swim in the refreshingly chilly river sounded mighty good. Plus there was a rope swing! The water temperature didn’t meet Aaron’s 80-degree minimum, but I was totally in … I even did my best Tarzan impression.
The next day, we drove into the town of Whitianga where we caught a tiny passenger ferry across Mercury Bay. We did a little hiking, relaxed on a white sand beach and decided the Coromandel was a pretty sweet spot to celebrate a birthday.
We celebrated Aaron’s birthday with a yummy dinner back at the Hot Water Brewing Co. He was bold enough to try one of my humongous, plump green-lipped mussels, although he about barfed. The sliders, chips, beer and birthday dessert went down a little easier, however.
We headed home the next day by way of the scenic 309 Road (so named because back when it was a horse-and-carriage route, it took 3 hours 9 minutes to get from one end to the other). Not a lot has changed since those days – the 21km-long road is still dirt! Along the way, we stopped to hike to a stand of 600-year-old kauri trees. While these trees are just 600 years old, the oldest tree in New Zealand is a big daddy named Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest) who is thought to be more than 2,000 years old. Wow.
I think the birthday boy would agree that it was a great summertime road trip. In fact, being born in January, this is the first time he’s had a “summer” birthday! To top it off, I even baked a yellow cake with chocolate frosting when we got home – no birthday of Aaron’s is complete without that. Yay for birthdays! Yay for summer!