Photo of Whangapoua Beach by Monique McKenzie
Over the course of the Christmas break, the Good & wider ICG Media teams scattered across the North (Te Ika-a-Māui) and South (Te Waipounamu) Islands to explore what Aotearoa New Zealand has to offer.
From Waitomo to Tāwharanui, each of us had a lot of fun and time for relaxation, indulging in delicious food, drinking wine, appreciating nature and soaking up the sunshine.
All locations are a gem of their own kind and we thought it would be rude not share our favourite summer hot spots with our readers:
Carolyn Enting (Editor) – Waikauwau
I returned to one of our favourite summer camping spots Waikauwau which is a 45-minute drive from Coromandel Town. We return here every two years for many reasons. This remote and beautiful DOC campground is located next to a beautiful beach with good wave action for boogie boarding. There is also an estuary that is great for kayaking or spotting eels.
At the estuary end of the beach the sea is calmer and this is a calmer spot for swimming with small children and building sandcastles, and at low tide there are rock pools to explore. The other end of the beach has beautiful sand dunes, home to the rare dotterel and you’ll also find oyster catchers here, as well as gannets which entertain with their extreme fishing technique of plunging into the ocean from a great height.
Possibly the best thing of all is that there is no phone or internet coverage at Waikauwau so it is a place where you can truly switch off.
I spent most of my time either reading and swimming – bliss.
My partner also brought a rather incredible addition to our camping kit this year – a retro 1968 Elvis-themed caravan – which we parked under a Pōhutukawa tree. We love that it is retro. That it is Elvis-themed is certainly a talking point and helped friends find us as it is a bit of a stand out. The caravan was a fantastic hub for food prep, dishes and games, because we still love sleeping in our big canvas tent.
Hemma Vara (Digital Editor) – Te Aroha Bay
I spent my summer at Te Aroha Bay, Arapoa Island. Located at the top of the South Island and bordered by Queen Charlotte Sound and the Tory Channel, Arapoa Island is a peaceful haven for those looking for a respite from mobile coverage & internet connectivity. There’s plenty to do – swimming, boating, walking & enjoying the sun’s rays on the bach deck.
During your stay, you may be fortunate to spy some local wildlife, including Arapoa’s infamous sheep and goats, two neighbouring horses, and multiple fevers of stingrays – although we didn’t get too close to the latter.
There are no nearby shops, but the Picton Fresh Choice will happily deliver your shopping to the local wharf before you embark on your chosen vessel – boat, water taxi, or the Queen Charlotte Sound Mail Boat.
Justine Jamieson (Commercial Manager) – Coromandel
I took myself away to the Dharma Gaia Retreat Centre, a mindfulness community in the Coromandel. It’s focused around the traditions of Buddhism. I enjoyed five days of sitting, walking, laying and working in meditation. Many moments of silence, including while eating and before bed. Every time the bell dinged and the clock tinged (every 15 min) we were reminded to put down what we were doing, close our eyes and come back home to ourself, even if in conversation mid-sentence.
The vegan food freshly grown with love in the gardens was out of this world amazing and although it was kind of cool sitting silent reading with strangers on the couch or being present wandering the beautiful flower gardens with the lush grass under my toes, it was the singing in community up at the hilltop temple which was a highlight. The acoustics made everyone sound harmonious and really took us into another place. The loving conversations with everyone and reflective moments after them made me feel blissed out the whole time. The perfect way to start a year – in peace.
Dharma Gaia runs many retreats and private stays, it’s extremely affordable and the teachers are paid by dharma (donations). Of course (like me) you don’t have to follow any specific belief to go to this centre, they welcome all.
Monique McKenzie (Editor at Stoppress) – Whangapoua
I was lucky enough to spend most of my summer holidays in Whangapoua in the Coromandel. Next to New Chums – named one of the world’s top 20 beaches by Britain’s The Observer and dubbed ‘a slice of Coromandel heaven’ – it’s a pretty hard spot to beat. This photo was taken at sunset on Christmas evening; the whole sky was lit up outrageously pink.
My partner and I spent our days walking to New Chums for ocean swims, paddle boarding, exploring nearby Crayfish Bay, long lunching with oysters from the Coromandel Oyster Company, playing Kubb on the beach, buying real fruit ice creams and regularly eating the Triple ‘P’ (prawns, pepperoni and pesto) pizza from Luke’s Kitchen. Situated in the laidback village of nearby Kūaotunu, it’s one of my absolute favourite restaurants in the Coromandel.
Alex Blackwood (Digital Editor at Dish) – Waitomo
I went and stayed with my brother who used to be a guide at Waitomo caves so he knows all the cool spots down there. As well as the local restaurant, (The Huhu), we checked out the vanishing waterfall, the natural bridge and swam in the creek at the Waitomo domain.
Of course, we hung out with the baby (half Kunekune) piggies that are currently running about my brother’s property and foraged for gooseberries, plums, blackberries and pikopiko. It’s such a lovely area of the country I found myself pulling over to take pictures around every bend in the road.
I’m going to go back soon and go through the glow worm caves – I’ve done it before but it’s so cool that I could do it a hundred times and not get bored of it!
Alisha Kumar (Designer) – Tāwharanui
I went glamping with a group of friends over New Years located in Tāwharanui Peninsula. Such an amazing and peaceful spot to bring in the New Year! We spent the days chilling at the amazing beaches nearby and hung out around the fire pit at night.