I was reading in the holiday media recently that the Coromandel has come up trumps with Kiwis as the favourite holiday spot of the nation.
I’m hardly surprised, the Coromandel is my fave spot too – Hahei, Cathedral Cove, Whangapoua and New Chum beach have all been important places in my family’s storyline, so it might surprise you to hear that when it came time for the Englishman and I to grab a few nights away from the Big Smoke and enjoy a little Oh-la-la getaway I didn’t steer Cliff the car towards the Coro. Nope. I did not.
We went north.
About 2hrs north of Auckland via a very easy drive (now the Northern Tollway has been put in) is Magical Mangawhai Heads. I thought it was time for a change and the relatively cheaper accommodation prices (in comparison to the Coromandel which is sky high at this time of year when half of Auckland takes up residence over Summer) certainly swayed my decision.
I wanted to discover a new spot with my Englishman and give him a taste of the old Kiwi beach holiday, which is exactly what we found. Mangawhai boasts two superb swimming spots – the gentle and expansive estuary and harbour, and the awesome raw surf of the Heads.
The place is also a photographer’s dream – with the incredibly white mounds of sand dunes (a DOC sanctuary for endangered bird species) and the deep blue of the surf as is it drives in from the Pacific Ocean and pummels the sands.
Even the estuary has a restrained beauty that coils around the mangroves.
As well as surfing there’s ample fishing, SUP, kayaking, paragliding and walking on offer. We were delighted with the two good sized Kahawai the Englishman caught off the rocks. Baked with fresh lemons in their gullets they were delish!
If you are desperate to not stray too far from the cafe culture of the big city you’ll be spoilt for choice with a number of fab little cafes and bars offering fresh seafood and great coffee! Don’t go past the little coffee truck that sits at the top of the Heads just up from the Surf Club! He uses fresh local coffee and was an absolute coffee sob’s saviour. Ahem.
If your credit card is still talking to you after Christmas you could grab yourself a beautiful meal at Bennetts Chocolatiers on the French styled terrace amidst the lavender.
My credit card swears at me every time I take it out of my purse at the moment so I limited myself to taking home some beautifully made rocky road and peppermint squares.
We also grabbed a meal at The Smashed Pipi cafe and I was delighted with my mussel and seafood fritters. We were just surprised there weren’t more people around!
After dinner we took up prime position outside the Mangawhai Tavern, which just happened to be hosting the Clash of the Titans’ concert with The Feelers, Dragon and the Exponents. Good times.
I think we’ll be back before too long, after all where else can you get all this AND great chocolate.
Where: Mangawhai Village and Mangawhai Heads – about 2 hours’ drive north of Auckland on the east coast.
Why: Beautiful scenery, easy to get to, fantastic eateries and… not so many people! A taste of the old Kiwi summer holiday.
When: With so much to do and a slightly warmer climate than Auckland any time of year is good.
Do: Stop at the Puhoi Cheese Factory and the Puhoi Pub (if you have time) on the way up. Visit Bennetts for excellent artisanal chocolate, and grab some live music at the Mangawhai Tavern. Set up a fishing trip or learn how to surf. Lessons and trips daily during Summer. If golfing’s your thing you’ll be delighted with the excellent course at Mangawhai and positively salivating at the thought of the exclusive Te Arai course (coming soon!)
Don’t: Swim outside of the flags unless you are a very good swimmer! I’ve had lifesaving training and I limited myself to between the flags.
Stay: Try Jeanette at Mangawhai Lodge – she has a couple of B&B rooms and two self-contained apartments.