The Holiday park was very nice and convenient. Because it was off-season there were only a few other travelers besides us. The lady at the reception offered a spade, but we already had one in the car just for this, so we didn't need to rent it out. She also explained that if we want to be successful at digging a hot pool at the beach we should go there at least 2 hours before the low tide. In this case, low tide was supposed to happen at 8:30 am next morning, so we knew that we will have to be early birds.
The name of Hot Water Beach comes from underground hot springs which filter up through the sand between the high and low water tidal reaches. The beach is a popular destination so it is very rare that you can enjoy it in a small company of people or alone. Basically, you have to dig into the sand allowing hot water to escape to the surface forming a hot water pool. The water, with a temperature as hot as 64 °C, filters up from two underground fissures located close to each other. You have to be really careful to test the water with your feet before starting digging a bigger pool, and wisely have to find the best spot where water isn't too hot or too cold. We woke up at 6 am, packed our towels and walked to the beach. It was very dark and quite cold (remember it is winter). We had to cross a small Taiwawe stream which was crazy cold. We noticed that sand at the beach was steaming so we dug some test holes to see where is the best water temperature. Some of the spots felt very very hot. It was so nice to get a feeling back into our frozen feet. After at least 30 minutes of digging (that's a hard task because the sand keeps coming back). we finally made a very shallow pool, but big enough for me to sit in it. I kept my hat on because when the sun started to rise it get incredibly cold. Aldis decided to skip the bathing and just soaked the feet.
It was a magical moment to sit in a salt water geothermal pool, so early and watch the sunrise in a middle of winter.
The best part about that - we were completely alone. Only after an hour, four other people showed up. And when we were ready to leave 15 more arrived (as I said it is pretty crowded most of the time, especially in a warmer weather). As we walked through the stream on our way back my feet felt totally numb. It was so cold I didn't felt anything up to my knees. Even my arms started to feel stiff and cold. We rushed back to the Holiday Park, so I could take a warm shower to get those feelings back in my extremities. Although the freezing part wasn't pleasant at all, I am happy that I did it. It was an amazing experience.
The day was just started and the next stop for us was Cathedral Cove. It is a short hike with stunning views of the Coromandel coast. It takes you to the dramatic cliffs and iconic rock archway of Cathedral Cove. The hike was very nice and picturesque. The track is well formed and not very difficult.
After that we took an extra walk towards the lookout to see the amazing coastline from a different angle. This track wasn't well formed, it was more like a bushwalk but the views from the lookout were worth every extra minute we walked.
After that, we checked out Cooks Beach and Shakespeare cliff. Cooks Beach is a beautiful crescent-shaped white sandy beach. The long and lovely sandy beach which caught Captain Cook's eye today is a beach resort.
On the way to Shakespeare's Cliff there is a Lonely Bay (you can walk down from the Shakespeare Reserve) which is a highlight of the area. Shakespeare's Cliff, an interesting scenic reserve. A very short track leads to a vantage point with stunning views of Mercury Bay. The track up is very steep with stairs, but you can also drive all the way up with a car.
We took a last look at Whitianga from other side of the bay and with that our Coromandel Peninsula trip was complete. There was long way ahead of us to reach Auckland in that evening.
And so we started to drive...