Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Zealand Artist's Tour: Coromandel, Spirits bay, Russell, Maunganui, Whakatane


Some places remind scenes of The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince CaspianThe Coromandel is a peninsula on the east coast of north island. It is about a two hours drive from Auckland and is a weekend retreat for a lot of Aucklanders. The Coromandel Peninsula is hilly and covered in bush along its centre. The coast line has numerous sandy beaches with bush running down to them.

There are numerous places that you can stay, one is Long Bay where there is a small caravan site just outside Coromandel itself. There is also a camp site just outside Thames which has lodges for those who are adverse to getting wet and cold.

To the far north there is Port Jackson. This is a picnic spot with some toilets but it is very basic but worth the trip if you have time. The bay is very scenic with a view of the Great Barrier island. The weather in the Coromandel Peninsula can be termed as wet , not as wet as Fiordland but be prepared. If you feel like some luxurious therapy whilst on the Coromandel Peninsula it is highly recommended that you visit Miranda Springs. Miranda Springs is a thermal swimming pool that is guaranteed to help take all of those aches and pains away. As well as the swimming pool there are thermal baths that are hot which will leave you feeling revived and refreshed ready for your next leg of your journey.

Spirits bay

Spirits bay is at the far north of New Zealand. It is almost the farthest point to the north. The farthest point being further along the coast which is Maori land and is sacred. Spirits Bay is so named because Maori legend say's that the Spirits travel the length of New Zealand and then leave this point for the after life.

Spirits bay can be accessed from the junction at Waitiki landing on the road towards Cape Rienga . The road leads off to the right and winds for upto some 12 kilometres until you descend into the bay. From Spirits Bay you can see Cape Reinga, so named after one of those that sailed with Van Deimen .

At Cape Reinga you can see the pacific Ocean and the Tasman sea merging as the tides role into the shore . The waves run diagonally across each other as they merge .The bay itself is a camp site and the summer break see's a throng of campers at the site . I the winter the site is desolate and is a lonely place for any campers . In winter the weather is warm , even when it is raining as the winds blow form the north from the tropic of Capricorn and the equator. If you intend staying at Spirits bay take sufficient supplies as there are no means to buy any .


You could be mistaken in believing that Russell has always been peaceful and tranquil. Russell was at one time the capital of New Zealand but with trouble erupting periodically in Northland after repeated attacks from the Maori's the capital was moved to Auckland. As well as trouble from the Maori's Russell also had the unenviable title as the cesspit of the Pacific. It was a haven for criminals escaping justice as well as a whaling station.

Even though Russell is more peaceful now there is one time of the year that Russell becomes a haven for what appears to be absolute bedlum. At Christmas it seems that half of Auckland descends on Russell and the large camp site is absolutely packed with those taking their Christmas break .

For the rest of the year Russell is relatively quiet . Russell town itself has a number of shops , an art gallery - "Peter Arnolds gallery " which begs to be visited where you can pick up a quality print of one of Peter Arnold's fine drawing's either in monochrome or hand tinted. There is the museum, a store ,a crazy golf course , a pub "The Duke of Marlborough" which should not be missed either for it's fine food or night life and the cafe on the sea front which is ideal from watching the sun set.

There are some historical buildings such as the Church and the old custom house. From Russell as well as Paihia you can get the boat that will take you out on the Cream trip , the trip around the Bay of Islands which visits the different islands and bays and then out to the Hole in the Rock. For those who are more adventurous you can swim with he Dolphins out in the Bay.

If you need to visit the other areas in the bay of Islands you can get a ferry to Piahia where you can do some shopping, eat out ,visit Waitangi or hire a boat to take you out to catch a Marlin. At Christmas there is the tall boat race around the Bay of Islands where the boats sail out from Russell. This is best seen from flag staff hill where you can walk up above Russell for a commanding view of the whole Bay. This view should not be missed at sunset which is very spectacular.

After the summer the yachts that congregate in Russell and the Bay of Islands set off north to warmer climes. If you have any nautical training or experience you can pick up a lift to the Pacific island's and even Hawaii.


Mount Maunganui is on the east coast of North Island In the Bay of Plenty. It is highly regarded for its surf and long sandy beaches . There is a camp site right on the beach itself with full facilities. Also a caravan site close by and a hotel facing the beach

The coast line facing south is a long sweeping beach that stretches for some 20 kilometres . At the head of this beach is the Mount which is an old Pa that gives scenic views both during the day and at night from the top , there is a path leading to the top .

Maunganui itself is a small town with a good selection of shops and places to eat. You will not go hungry. If you wish to explore further afield travel in the area you can visit Tauranga where there is a wider selection of shops for you to explore and also further around the Bay of Plenty there is Whakatane.


Whakatane is a natural harbour that is on the Bay of Plenty at the other end of the long beach that stretches from Mount Maunganui . Whakatane is a small town that has a selection of shops , it is pleasant but there is little to do in the town itself . But having said that it is an ideal place to use as a base and drive out to some of the thermal areas such Tiki Teri and some of the lakes around that area such as Lake Okotaina. There is a good camp site that can be prone to flooding on a very wet day .

If you want to do any painting here there are some pleasant views of the harbour the local architecture and the coast line , other than that you would have trouble finding material.

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