The first stop on the Kiwi Experience bus is Hot Water Beach. Something that I’ve noticed in both Australia and New Zealand, is that they’re not afraid to name things in a pretty straightforward fashion. Hence 90 Mile Beach, The Great Sandy Highway etc etc. No surprises here: Hot Water Beach is a beach with hot water. Located along Mercury Bay, on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, Hot Water Beach lies atop geothermal springs which filter up through the sand between tides. The temperature of the water can reach around 65 degrees celsius. In the hours surrounding low tide, hundreds attack the beach with miniature buckets and spades, clamouring to dig a hot pool in which to plonk themselves. DIY hot tubs with free exfoliating sand.
A little further round the peninsula is Cathedral Cove, one of the most photographed spots in New Zealand. Some of you might recognise the iconic cave and beach as the tunnel where the children re-enter Narnia in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
GoPro strapped to my chest, I set out on a Cathedral Cove Kayak Tour from Hahei beach to get some footage of my own.
Having kayaked a lot in the Isles of Scilly in my youth, I am very much at home in the water with a double ended paddle. The guides here were hugely helpful with all levels of experience, perhaps even a little too helpful at times – at one point, we looked back towards the group to see the guide towing two kayaks full of pathetic paddlers, who were 100% capable of trying. If it’s really not your thing, the cove is also accessible on foot, by boat or with a snorkel and is home to dolphins, seals and a whole host of other plant and animals. The levels of marine life have increased dramatically since Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) was declared a marine reserve in 1992. Equally impressive was the fact that our guides whipped a cafetiere and a milk frother out of the dry bag and made fresh coffees for all on the beach. A perfect day out on the water, for us at least.