Kick Back on the Kauri Coast of New Zealand
Kick Back on the Kauri Coast of New ZealandBy Linda Ballou NABBW’s Adventure Travel Expert
My heart pounded as loud as my mare’s hoof beats on the hard-packed sand as I paced myself to the gait of my leader and occasioned a glance over my shoulder at the sea. The immense surf, cresting in ten-foot faces rolling in fast, met the sand in a crashing fury. Under an intense blue sky the turquoise curls played a thunderous symphony. I’d discovered the Kauri Coast on the North Island of New Zealand.
On the less-visited beaches stretching from the Hibiscus Coast to Breams Head Scenic Preserve you will find big surf, sugar-white sand and big savings.
Exit the Twin Discovery Highway #1, about 50 minutes north of Auckland, and leave the busy world behind. Wind through bucolic wine country to the Goat Island Marine Reserve.
Stop there to snorkel or cruise in a glass bottom boat. Then, roll down Pakiri Road to a lush valley tailored in the patchwork quilt of farms and wildflowers meadows. Where the road meets the beach you will find Pakiri Stables, where prizewinning Arabians munch on knee high grass in the pastures and an outdoor café where riders gather for the next outing.
As my guide, a young woman from England, slowed to a trot, I splashed happily through the waves beside her. We left the shore and entered the dunes, where we met a world animated with the tall champagne plumes of the toe-toe (pampas grass).
Mounds of yellow flowers and sand hugging shrubs live happily here out of the bold wind off the ocean. Stable owner, Sharley Haddon, is married to a Maori chief, who is the guardian of this pristine stretch of sand that belongs to the native people. Sharley offers rides from one hour to coast-to-coast week long adventures.
Returning to the dirt road that brought me to this adrenaline-charged interlude, I continued up the coast to laid-back Mangawhai.
Sheltered coves here provide safe swimming for those outmatched by strong surf. Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway along a lonely bluff affords the more intrepid a chance to see migrating humpback whales and playful dolphin.
Summer homes and caravan parks line the shore, and there are many charming cafes and B&BS to choose from in this quiet beach town favored by locals.
On the horizon I could see Chicken and Hens, the Great and Little Barrier Islands and a host of other smaller islands that are part of a vast Marine Mammal Preserve.
Tiritiri Mitangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary in the Hauraki Gulf where many endangered and rare birds are easily seen. (More about that outing in a previous article For the Birds.)
I returned to the coast road, where good fortune brought me to the Stone House on the south side of Breams Bay. My self-contained cottage by the sea, shrouded in tumbling vines, provided a heavenly sense of peace and safety.
No worries about locked doors. Open windows let in the scent of flowers and the sound of the sea. My hosts saw to my every comfort, including meals. They allowed me to linger through the day so that I could enjoy a swim at Waipio Cove without the concern of carrying my worldly belongings with the pleasure of a hot shower at the end of my day. Free kayaks to paddle in the nearby estuary are a part of the deal.
From my patio at the Stone House, I could see the castle like peaks of Mt. Manaia towering over Breams Heads Scenic Preserve. These headlands, steeped in Maori legend, are laced with hiking trails to beaches that rival any found in Hawaii. I drove around the bay, through the bustling harbor town of Whangarie, and found a B&B in sleepy McCleod’s Bay near the trailheads.
A brisk climb through primordial, subtropical forest up the flank of Mt Manaia** brought me to a rock ledge jutting into endless blue overlooking the dazzling Hauraki Gulf. The jagged limestone peaks at my back are said to be the figures of Chief Mania, and his family, frozen by the Thunder God. His godly presence watches over all who enter his realm on the Kauri Coast.
**Learn more about the hike up the flank of Mt. Manaia in Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales. My travel essay collection won the 2012 International Book Awards.
Linda Ballou says her mission is to experience as many beautiful places on our planet as she can, before they are no more. “Travel tales relating my experiences while kayaking, horseback riding, sailing, birding and hiking about the globe have appeared in numerous national magazines. I had a great deal of fun collecting travel stories, and profiles of people I have met in “naturally high places” for my newest book, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales. For a complete bio as well as published on-line clips with photos go to my website www.LindaBallouAuthor.com. Your reward, aside from learning about me and my work, will be to discover the secret to youth! Follow my blog to keep up with my latest adventures.”