Nine cars left Auckland for Tutukaka at various times during the day and evening arriving
at the Tutukaka Holiday Park between 2pm and just after 9pm. Five very clean and comfortable cabins
accommodated 15 people between them, while eight people shared a Backpackers Dormitory. While they had
to supply their own linen these eight appreciated the curtain partitioning between the four sets of bunks,
providing more privacy. It was a very mild, sunny evening to wander through Tutukaka, checking out the
marina, specialty shops and eating places. Most of us ate at the Deep Sea Anglers Club at outside tables
overlooking the marina. Back at the Holiday Park, once all had arrived, we met up just outside the kitchen
block at wooden tables on the grass. This is where we had our breakfasts and dinners. Christine outlined
the programme for the following day, we sang Happy Birthday to Murray and enjoyed supper, especially
the birthday cake Cathie had made for Murray.
At 8:30am six cars drove to the
end of McAuslin Road in Sandy Bay, where we began the Whananaki Coastal Walkway. This track follows the
coast for about 10 kilometres to Whananaki South. It is a very picturesque walk, winding around hills
and lush farmland, through cool forests and often providing wide views of the coast and its islands such
as the Hen & Chickens. We paused at the Captain Bougainville Monument which is a granite pillar in memory
of the 16 lives that were lost in 1975 when a fire broke out in a cargo ship during a storm. Morning
tea was eaten on a shady, grassy bank overlooking the beautiful beach. Cathie shared a reflection on
the importance of Godís family and the bond we share with other Christians, even strangers. Those who
have had itinerant lives can appreciate the quick connection they find with other members of Godís family.
After a short walk along the beach the track followed the coastline past Whananaki South, until we came
to the bridge which crosses the estuary. This is the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere at
395 metres, and it provides a link between Whananaki South and Whananaki North. At Whananaki North we
ate lunch and rested on the grass overlooking the estuary. Many took advantage of the nearby café to
buy coffees and smoothies. About 1.15pm we set off again across the bridge on the return journey. We
had Winston Petersí holiday house pointed out to us on the southern side of the estuary. Trailing along
the edge of the estuary we passed the caravans, rundown baches and an assortment of vehicles and horses
that make up Whananaki South. Arriving back at the cars we stopped at Matapouri Beach for a very welcome
swim. It was hot, the tide was in and the beach was crowded. Matapouri Beach had been voted the second
most popular New Zealand beach in the NZ Herald poll and we could see why! We enjoyed another stop for
icecreams at the dairy to revive us further and then back to the Holiday Park for showers and dinner.
The morning was wet. Our morning plan had been to walk along Matapouri beach
to the Mermaid Pools, a set of large, deep rock pools on the ocean side of the headland, accessible only
at low tide. The steep walk there can be slippery and dangerous and we were warned by the camp manager
it would be unsafe to go that day. We were disappointed as this was to have been a highlight, but decided
not to take the risk. Instead we visited Tane Moana, the largest kauri on the Tutukaka coast and one
of the largest in the north. The camp manager pointed out the track we could follow directly from the
Holiday Park which is only available to people staying there. It was a 40 minute walk up a farm track
to the top of the hill where we turned onto a farm road until we reached Tane Moana. We admired the tree
from the boardwalk surrounding it and then ate morning tea nearby while Murray shared a reflection. He
shared about a book he was reading which gave an insightful perspective on Godís creation and our relationship
in it. After lunch back at the Holiday Park we set off again for Matapouri Beach. Walking along the beach
in the rain we joined the track that heads up over the hill to Whale Bay. The rain stopped and we all
had a most enjoyable swim in the calm clear water, some of us attempting synchronized swimming! The rain
returned as we completed the loop walk back to the cars.
We packed up and parked
our cars in Tutukaka village. From here we walked up a track to the Tutukaka Headland. Steep steps took
us down to a beach which we crossed over and then up a track to the Lighthouse. The views were stunning.
We ate morning tea, had a group photo and Christine presented Ian with a T-shirt of NZís nine Great Walks,
as he had just completed his ninth one.
Everyone wandered back to their cars and began the drive
back to Auckland.
The weekend was a perfect mix of great company, hot, sunny weather, beaches
and swims and wonderful walks with stunning views.
Accommodation: varied between $90
and $150 pp for 3 nights (tent, Backpackers Dormitory, Cabins)
Transport: $30.50 per passenger paid
to driver from Auckland to Tutukaka and return, $6 per passenger paid to driver on short trips during
Food: $20 per person.