New Zealand is a bigger country (geographically speaking) than you realize. After 90 Mile Beach, our next major destination was the Coromandel Peninsula to the southeast of Auckland. If we had driven straight from 90 Mile Beach, however, it would have taken nearly 7 hours to cover the 500+ kilometers. That may not sound like a lot, but on New Zealand’s narrow, winding, mountainous roads, it is.
We decided to proceed to the Coromandel at a more leisurely pace. We left Ahipara and made our way to Pataua, located 40 minutes outside of Whangarei, via the East coast. This route gave us an excuse to stop in the darling little town of Paihia for dinner.
Unfortunately, a particularly nasty curved road en route from Ahipara to Paihia ruined our desire to take photographs, so this is essentially the only decent one I have of Paihia. Admittedly, Paihia is extremely touristy — we saw more backpackers there in 2 hours than we’ve seen the rest of our time in New Zealand. The beautiful harbour dotted with islands, the abundance of restaurants and little shops all located within 5 minutes of each other, the sandy beach stretching the length of the town, and Northland’s characteristically warm and sunny weather all justify the tourists.
We had a delicious set of sandwiches at the Pier Lounge Bar & Cafe. Considering the sophisticated decor and the magnificent view of the harbour, the sandwiches weren’t too expensive! The only thing I would have changed about our time in Northland was the two-hour stint in Paihia — I wish we had stayed there for a few days and gotten to know the impossibly cute town!
The driving commenced. We arrived at our destination, an Airbnb place in Pataua 40 minutes outside of Whangarei, after the sun had already set. The next morning, we were greeted by a spectacular view of the sea from the front porch.
We had a very relaxing set of days in Pataua. Because it was relatively remote, and the only way to get to Whangarei was a 40-minute drive down a twisting road, we actually didn’t leave the property the entire time we were there. We spent our time doing short bush walks, drinking beer after sunset, and kayaking on the estuary (pictured below).
At one point, after wandering down the path behind the house for fifteen minutes or so, we sat on a hill to watch the sun set. Eventually we discovered that it was a prime echoing location, and we spent the next half hour experimenting to see which noises carried best across the rolling landscape.
After a few days spent “enjoying,” as our hosts were fond of saying, we crashed at a friend’s house overnight in Auckland before finally arriving in Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Though it was surreal, and odd, to rent a room in a hillside villa on a 150-acre piece of privately owned land, the sunsets were gorgeous.