Off The Beaten Track in Aotearoa

Day five of the road trip – we’re on our own at Whanarua Bay

Ah, humans, announced a woman who was walking her dog, when our paths crossed at Whanarua Bay.

Perhaps her fox terrier required an explanation. Or perhaps she, herself, was shocked to see us. People are few and far between in this part of the country, especially during the late autumn and winter.

When we arrived the night before the key to our cottage was in the door.  And later, when the weather turned bitterly cold, a heater appeared on the porch. From where? We weren’t exactly sure.

My usual strategy of settling down with phone or laptop at a new destination and researching the “must-dos” didn’t work on this section of the road trip. There’s no cell-phone coverage. We hadn’t had any since we left Makorori for Tolaga Bay and we didn’t get it again until we got to Opotiki, two days later.

This scotched my plans to tweet our adventures but it didn’t matter. Without texts and emails and tweets and Facebook updates or Instagram alerts the world is a peaceful place.  Instead, we talked and dreamed, we read our books, we ate and walked and ate some more, and listened to the birdsong. Tuis sang all day and at night morepork cried in the dark.

For those who know John you’ll understand my confession: now that we were without access to Google Maps, I timed how long it took for him to remark about the need for maps, paper maps in particular.

And sure enough as soon as our bags were in from the car, the food transferred from the chilly bin to the fridge and we began to think about the next day he said, with as close to a self-satisfied smile as he ever gets: In New Zealand you still need a paper map.

It was thirty minutes since we’d pulled in to the driveway.

Ours for a couple of nights

Ours for a couple of nights and it’s official, I have cottage envy!

Whanarua Bay beach is a five minute walk along the road from the cottage. We had it to ourselves on both visits.

Mid morning at Whanarua Bay

Morning at Whanarua Bay

Sunset at Whanarua Bay

Sunset at Whanarua Bay

In the evening, on our way back to the cottage, we encountered the lonely dog walker again.

Have you been out walking all day? she asked.

Oh, yes! I claimed, but I didn’t manage a straight face.

You’re jesting, she said and I was. Between our early morning visit and watching the sunset we drove to Waihau Bay for lunch.

Waihou Bay Beach, looking towards Cape Runaway

Waihau Bay, looking towards Cape Runaway

The canoes, Te Arawa and Tainui, made landfall near here after the journey from Hawaiki, more than six hundred years ago.

The proprietor at the cafe happily made us fish and chips. We were her only customers. No one comes here at this time of the year, she said. It’s too cold. And she looked at us as if we were a sandwich short of a picnic, which we were, that was why we were ordering the fish and chips.

They were delicious. The sort of delicious you get when they’re laced with sea air, seasoned with a smattering of sand, and eaten straight from the paper while perched on a log.

But like all good kai (food), a cuppa enhances the experience. We took a vote. It was unanimous. We set off to the Waihau pub, only five minutes along the road.

Four dollars bought us a large pot of tea which we lingered over, enjoying the view and the singing from the happy staff. The only other patrons were a couple on a busman’s holiday.

Are you retired? they asked.

I was a bit bothered by this question. I know I’m getting old but I don’t look that old, I complained afterwards.

It’s a compliment, John said. We must seem very relaxed.

Perhaps he had a point. I have to say that if retirement means getting to spend a lot of time in places like this it would be all right. More than all right.

Waihau Bay Lodge (aka the pub)

Waihau Bay Lodge (aka the pub)

We were at the beach. The sun was shining. The water was calm. There was no wind. And it had warmed up a little. There was one other must do culinary event for the day  – an ice-cream in the cone. We ate them gazing at the view. The light was perfect. The blues of the sea and the sky vivid.

The wharf at Waihau Bay. Cape Runaway is in the far distance.

The wharf at Waihau Bay. Cape Runaway is in the far distance.

So, tell me, which do you prefer – the isolation of the beach in late autumn or the bustle and activity of summer?

29 replies »

  1. Wonderful photos, Jill. I like Autumn here – the water is still very warm for swimming but it’s a lot less crowded and there are places to park! Thanks for the virtual tour of this lovely place. 😊

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  2. Shoulder season all the way and especially if they come with skies that blue! We have had a few Ms WiFi issues on our holiday, but as you say it is a good excuse to chill out and read a few books; go for a brisk walk; visit a pub, church, gallery, bookshop 🙂 But I am also glad we have a map in the cottage!

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  3. Give me Brighton and Hove seafront in the Winter, any day Jill. The summer is far too busy and the queues for ice cream, sandwiches, teas, and the restaurants is sadly a joke. Thank goodness we only live a 20 minute walk from the seafront.

    Your photos are stunning. Such vivid colours and beautiful scenery. I wonder, did John get his way and get a paper map?

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    • Yes, John certainly did have a paper map, Hugh – he goes no where without one. Although, he does appreciate the convenience of Google Maps – when we have access to the web!

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  4. What a great way to spend a couple of days. The pictures are beautiful. I get ” a sandwich short of a picnic” and I like it a lot. But “Busman’s holiday?” I’m afraid I need some explanation (I know…google and all, but…) Thanks again for bringing us along on this trip.

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  5. Just perfection Jill. I lingered over that morning view of Whanarua Bay then soaked in the sunset. I’m definitely an Autumn person, but I’m thinking it will not get too crowded in that idyllic corner of NZ at any time of the year. An undiscovered gem.

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  6. Looks utterly idyllic! I’m definitely a beach-in-winter person. Even though I’m not hardy enough to swim then, I still prefer the quiet. I detest over-crowded beaches and the inevitable long walk from the car.

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  7. Oh this was a bliss filled post! Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. It is a joy! And that cottage is my dream home – simple and simply beautiful X out of season every time for me!

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    • Thank-you for following along on the road trip, heavenhappens. If only that cottage was a little less off the beaten track, although its isolation is part of the charm, of course. Most people seem to agree with you, out of season is best.

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  8. What a glorious place! And I must say, I do love beaches off-season.. I was amused by your being bothered by the ‘are you retired?’ question. Having had to retire way too early myself, and it took quite a while before I would actually verbalise it

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  9. Hey Jill… I think I prefer isolated times more than crowded, which at our closest beach is called “locals september” and it is the best time to walk the pier after the busy summer months and so nice.

    Sitting enjoying the 4$ cuppa was when I really felt the relaxing essence of this day on the trip. The heater appearing sounded cool (?) and is that a dish I see on that quaint cottage? Anyhow nice take on vivid- such a gorgeous place.

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    • Hello, Yvette. Yes that is a dish! The cottage had satellite TV but we didn’t know how to work it, doh! Wifi data was available to purchase at the cottage as well. But it seemed expensive so I opted to stay off grid and I have to say I enjoyed it, mostly. “Locals September – what a “cool” idea.

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