What a summer it's been! We can't remember an New Zealand summer that has had so much sun, waves, light winds and all that other good stuff. If you're not ready for it to end just yet, then don't stress because neither are we...
To keep the good times rolling on, we sat down with a couple that know a thing or two about the amazing peninsula that is the Coromandel (better know as 'The Coro' or as Jackson puts it, The Mighty 'Mandel). Georgia & Jackson know how to sniff out an one hell of an adventure. So sit back, relax and start planning your trip to the top as Jackson shares their recent adventures and some of his top tips.
I had been frothing to get up around the top of the Coromandel for awhile and the fishing had just started heating up. A gap in the schedule opened up and aligned with a good weather window, which meant the boat was hooked on the back and the truck packed up with fish taco supplies. I know, a great way to jinx getting any fish on a trip but we’d been taking bananas out on the boat recently and hadn’t sunk the boat, so my superstitions were relaxed.
On the journey up we drove onto a swell exposed beachie for a quick log. Georgia and I got a few waist high runners and the happy tanks were filled. We got back on the tarseal which quickly turned into windy gravel roads for miles. Although obviously not as nice to drive on, it's always a good feeling getting off the tarseal knowing that you're heading somewhere that not every man and his 30ft camper can get to.
Arriving in the bay, we set up under some freshly bloomed pōhutukawa trees feeling like we were in some sort of textbook cliche NZ calendar scene. We were still very salty and sandy from the previous surf and in no state for a good night's sleep so a quick shower was first in order.
TIP #1: SHOWERS ARE VERY CRUCIAL
When tripping around the Coro, even if you’re not on a beach you’ll probably somehow get sandy and salty. And unless you’re one of those ferrel types that can go to bed with sand in between your toes, I would highly recommend taking some sort of showering apparatus. We use the 20L solar shower from West Supply which packs away super small and does just the trick for getting you so fresh and so clean clean. Theirs loads of other options for a warm shower, but you can't go past the tried & true gift of heat from the sun.
We launched the boat that afternoon and anchored it out front, ready to go for the morning fishing mission. Waking up to a glassy calm bay, we were was fizzing to get out on the water. We made a quick morning coffee and slowly started getting all the fishing gear together.
The slow pack up of fishing gear quickly turned into a full freak out as we looked out to see a big pod of massive Orca dorsal fins breaching the surface cruising across the bay. The fumbling of gear ensued as we sprinted down to the boat as fast as we could. We motored out of the bay scanning the horizon for the black dorsal fins but we couldn’t see anything and thought they must of dove down deep. As we were about to give up and start fishing, a big spray spurted out 100 meters in front of us as the pack breached. We turned the motor off and sat still not to interrupt them.
Within a minute we had about 6 Orca's surrounding the boat, sitting in the water looking up at us. The smaller ones were super inquisitive and wanted to hang out, whilst the bigger bull Orca’s hung out wider keeping an eye on the kids. They hung around us for a few minutes after continuing on their journey down the coast. In the panic and awe of watching them, I only managed to get out the camera just as they were leaving, but luckily we did get a iPhone video of the encounter.
The epic experience had us absolutely frothing and we completely forgot what we were out here for. But dinner wasn’t going to catch itself so we got back on track to go find a few tasty snapper to fill our fish tacos.
TIP #2: THERE'S NOTHING QUITE LIKE CATCHING YOUR OWN FEED
There’s nothing quite like catching and cooking up some fresh fish camp-side. If you’re tripping throughout the Coromandel, I would highly recommend throwing a rod in the back, even if you don’t have a boat.
February till June is the time that the fishing really heats up in the Coromandel and there’s tasty snapper everywhere. Especially up the top of the Coromandel where there are plenty of epic spots to fish off the rocks, and you’re in with a very good chance of levelling up your dinner game if your fishing in these months.
After getting just enough snapper in the bin for dinner, we headed back in for some well earned fish tacos. Food always tastes better when you’re camping but when you’ve caught your own fresh fish and added it to a taco there are not many better simple life pleasures than this. Even the resident ducks were pretty stoked on our catch and couldn’t get enough of it.
The next morning we got back on the gravel roads heading South to explore some offshore Islands off the coast of the Coromandel. The wind was forecasted to be West to South West for the days that we were tripping around, so we stuck to the east coast of the Coromandel.
TIP #3: IF THE WINDS BLOWING WEST, HEAD TO THE EAST...
... and if it's blowing east head to the west. Depending on the wind direction at the time that you’re planning a Coro roady, I would definitely try to head to which ever coast is blowing offshore.
Although the eastern beaches of the Coromandel are probably the most well-known, there are some amazing little bays along the North West side and the drive down that coast in my opinion is some of the best coastal driving in New Zealand. So if the wind happens to be forecasted for easterlies, I’d definitely recommend trying the west side of the Coromandel where the fishing is also epic.
Arriving in our final spot we plonked the boat in the water and headed out to explore the Mercury Islands. We anchored off Great Mercury Island and explored all of the pristine white sandy bays and epic walks that it had to offer. And if you’re a swing lover, there are some top tier tree swings out there, I tell ya!
TIP #4: THERE'S TREASURE OFFSHORE
The islands off of the Coromandel hold some of the best beaches around and an array of epic little coves. Although not as easily accessible, if you can get out to any of the islands it is well worth it and opens up a whole new part of the Coromandel that you never knew existed. Cuvier, Mercury, Slipper, and Alderman Islands are just a few of the stunning outer islands that offer countless hours of exploring.
Ahhh the good ol’ mighty Mandel! Has a bit of somethin’ for everyone. If the offshore islands are not quite accessible for you, get off the tarseal and get stuck into that gravel goodness and explore some of the epic bays that the top of the Coro has to offer.