A (not so) Hidden Gem



I blame Barb.  She’s been so busy tramping, kayaking and hiking around New Zealand over the last four years that our normal walks around town simply aren’t cutting it anymore.  With the two week school holiday break in effect our third Musketeer, Megan, has the flexibility to walk any time of day or all day.  Barb suggested a walk that would have us leaving Paihia (a 20 minute drive away) to walk to Opua where we would catch the car ferry as passengers to Okiata Point, continue to Russell and then catch the passenger ferry back to Paihia.  The route follows the coast and at times takes you through mangrove forests on a raised boardwalk.

“I think it will take six hours”, says Barb, “but we can stop for coffee on the way!”

She’s lucky we’re up for the challenge and with such beautiful scenery and the best of company we have decided to go next week when Megan returns from a short trip to Nelson.

Inspired by the thought of a longer walk out of our normal zone I suggested that Barb and I do a training walk from Mangonui to Cooper’s Beach.  Mangonui is a picturesque village 40 minutes north of Kerikeri that sits on the Mangonui Harbour and is famous for their fish and chips.  Like many locals we enjoy driving there for lunch over the winter, or stopping for a meal on our way to or from camping further north.

Sunhats on, and backpacks filled with water, sunblock and a picnic lunch we parked on the main street and headed north.  The day was sunny and warm without summer’s heat, with just the odd cloud drifting in the distance.  Our first destination was Mill Bay to access the ancient pa site which we’ve both seen when driving through the area but had never visited.  Prior to European contact Maori fortified many coastal hilltops with food and structures to use as fortresses during battles. The enemy would be at a disadvantage trying to attack from below and were vulnerable to spears and rolling rocks from above.


There were historic signposts dotted around the bay providing points of interest but didn’t prevent us from getting lost trying to find the track to the pa site.  A friendly council worker pruning trees pointed us in the right direction and 20 minutes of huffing and puffing later found us awestruck at the 360 degree views.

After the obligatory photo session we sat to share a cheese scone and sip some water while chatting about how lucky we are to live in an area so stunningly beautiful.  And we marveled at how we’ve driven past this site for decades without knowing what it had to offer.

We began our descent to find the right-of-way that would lead us down to our destination of Cooper’s Beach and were distracted by the vast array of hibiscus flowers on show in local gardens.  I wish I had taken photos to share but you’ll just have to trust me when I say they were breathtaking in their colours, size and delicate ruffles.

The path to the beach was located and we watched with envy as several families swam and caught waves in the surf. The next time we’ll both remember to bring our swimsuits and a towel. A leisurely lunch seated on a bench overlooking the beach fortified us for the return trip to the car.


Fortunately, our foray to the pa site made it easy to find a quieter route back than walking along the main highway.  Coffee helped to distract from the beginnings of some aches and pains before heading home.

As if the day hadn’t been perfect enough, last night’s full moon provided a magical finish to the day.




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