With the exception of the Coromandel Peninsula, we only saw a handful of other tourists along the Pacific Coast Highway. It was a great place to experience true Maori culture and was quite different from Rotorua where you can pay to go to Maori ‘shows’.
The road begins in Napier, a place that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 but as a result is now full of Art Deco buildings.
We followed the road through the famous wine region, Hawke’s Bay, and drove to Gisborne - the first city to see the sunrise each day (not that we saw it because it was cloudy!) The following morning we headed to Tolaga Bay, the site of New Zealand’s longest wharf. From there we did the Cooks Cove Walkway, named so because of James Cooks’ visit to the area in October 1769.
The following evening we stayed at Waihau Bay, a pretty place with lots of Maori culture - it was the first time we’ve seen a person with ta moko - the traditional Maori face tattoo. There were lots of pohutukawas (the red tree in the photo below), known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree.
The drive itself was varied and very beautiful, we even caught a glimpse of White Island - the site of New Zealand’s most active volcano.
We then headed to and climbed Mount Maunganui which had some fantastic views, before finding a nice spot to free camp outside of the town.
We finished our time on the Pacific Coast Highway on the Coromandel Peninsula. Visiting Hot Water Beach was quite an experience - you go at low tide, dig a hole in the sand and it fills with hot water (because of the thermal activity). It’s a bit hit and miss whether you get hot water, but some of the ‘pools’ were unbearable - the water can reach boiling temperature! It was a great experience, even though it was extremely busy.
Just down the road from Hot Water Beach is Hahei, we had a great time there scuba diving and walking to the beautiful Cathedral Cove.
Although it was a lot of driving, we loved the Pacific Coast Highway and are glad we managed to squeeze it in!