CORO­MAN­DEL

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We rounded a cor­ner to the fi­nal stretch of the Coro­man­del Coastal Walk­way, my mind drift­ing to the sandy beach ahead. Waves crashed against the sea cliffs be­low and a cool breeze shook the Manuka bushes be­hind us.

The sea sparkled all the way to the hori­zon.

Then I looked up from the trail and re­al­ized we weren’t alone: run­ning to­ward me at a slightly alarm­ing pace was a tiny, fluffy, sur­pris­ingly speedy lit­tle lamb.

It hit the brakes about a meter away and stared at me. I stared too, at its lit­tle pink ears and black nose. A minute into this face-off, just as I was de­bat­ing whether to run away or reach over for a cud­dle, it wagged a fluffy pink tail and bolted down the trail, with one word over its shoul­der. I prom­ise, the tiny lamb looked me in the eye and said “baaaa!”

The trail ahead crossed a pad­dock full of lambs and their moth­ers be­fore de­scend­ing to Fletcher Bay. It was a jux­ta­po­si­tion you’d find only in New Zealand: lambs frol­ick­ing in Manuka-edged fields with Pa­cific sea stacks and end­less waves in the back­ground.

At Fletcher Bay, our guide pro­duced a cof­fee press and a gas burner for boil­ing wa­ter. I was bliss­fully un­aware of ev­ery­thing ex­cept the per­fect hot cof­fee, the cool sea breeze, the sound of waves and the fact that lambs who live in bright green fields atop sea cliffs re­ally do say “baaaa.”

Spring­time in the north­ern Coro­man­del is heaven.

Just about two hours from Auck­land, this re­gion is star­tlingly rugged and pris­tine with mas­sive farms, for­est parks, wild beaches and rain­for­est val­leys. Its large-scale beauty has gone rel­a­tively un­no­ticed by travellers in part be­cause its gravel roads are a no-go for many rental cars and the rest of the Coro­man­del is so gor­geous many don’t imagine it’s worth the ef­fort to keep trav­el­ing north.

For those in search of some­thing spec­tac­u­lar, the north­ern Coro­man­del is ab­so­lutely worth the gravel roads. As a sign at our lodge, Tan­giaro Kiwi Re­treat, put it: “Dif­fi­cult roads of­ten lead to beau­ti­ful des­ti­na­tions.” And the truth is, our jour­ney wasn’t that dif­fi­cult. We ditched the car for the week­end and caught a shut­tle in Auck­land on Fri­day evening. We’d called ahead to ar­range trans­port from the shut­tle drop-off in Coro­man­del

Town and made our way to Tan­giaro af­ter dark. Our host Teresa pointed out the bird calls we heard on the short walk to our comfy cabin. I’d hoped to hear a kiwi but hadn’t ex­pected it to be so loud, so close, or so soon af­ter we ar­rived. I felt like a kid fight­ing sleep that night so I could lis­ten for kiwi calls.

We woke up early to the sound of birds and en­joyed breakfast on the ve­randa of Tan­giaro’s restau­rant. Our Coro­man­del Ad­ven­tures guide, Willie, picked us up and we were off to Stony Bay and the start of the walk­way. Willie is a pro at navigating the wind­ing roads and stop­ping for per­fect photo op­por­tu­ni­ties. From his easy sto­ry­telling, we learned about the nat­u­ral his­tory and Maori cul­ture that shaped this area.

The walk it­self was as beau­ti­ful as any trail I’ve seen, wan­der­ing along sea cliffs and through for­est to lookouts over the Pa­cific. I’d love to re­turn to spend a few days at Fletcher Bay. This time, I was happy to climb on the Coro­man­del Ad­ven­tures shut­tle at the end of the trail for a ride back to our lodge. Teresa brought a lovely din­ner to our cabin and we put our feet up by the roar­ing fire. But I still had one more goal: a soak un­der the stars in one of Tan­giaro’s spa pools hid­den in na­tive for­est. It was an ideal end to a spec­tac­u­lar day. I even heard the kiwi again, but this time had no trou­ble fall­ing asleep.

The next morn­ing, we dug into an­other hearty breakfast on the ve­randa and took the 15-minute walk to Tan­giaro’s wa­ter­fall. I was sad to leave this val­ley, but ex­cited about our next stop: a horse trek at Colville Farm Hol­i­days’ White Star Sta­tion.

White Star Sta­tion is a 1,260-hectare farm in the heart of the north­ern Coro­man­del. We were met with a warm wel­come from Belinda, whose fam­ily has run the farm for gen­er­a­tions. It was love at first sight for me when I met my horse Chance and learned a few rid­ing ba­sics. I quickly re­al­ized that Chance was much smarter trekker than me and would carry me safely across streams and up hills without a se­cond thought.

The amaz­ing thing about trekking at White Star is that from your van­tage point on a horse, you are com­pletely sur­rounded by nat­u­ral beauty: green fields un­fold be­low you, bush-cov­ered moun­tains jut up be­hind you and gen­tle an­i­mals with beau­ti­ful eyes saunter be­side you. It was an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for some of the more ex­pe­ri­enced rid­ers in our group who let their horses run through the open pas­tures. For me, it was purely re­lax­ing and serene.

We cov­ered just a small part of White Star Sta­tion’s vast ter­rain. It in­cludes three wa­ter­falls (which Belinda’s daugh­ter told me are ex­cel­lent for kid-ap­proved swim­ming) plus glow worms in an old mine shaft and hours of walk­ing tracks. When I saw guests help­ing with the spring­time bot­tle-feed­ing of lambs and calves, I vowed to re­turn next year for a longer visit.

We made our way back to Coro­man­del town in time to grab a late lunch of lo­cal green-lipped mus­sels from the Star & Garter, then caught the shut­tle to our ferry across the Hau­raki Gulf to Auck­land. The sun be­gan to set as we rounded the gulf’s is­lands and neared Auck­land har­bour. Re­turn­ing to the city by boat -- as if we’d been on an over­seas hol­i­day -seemed ap­pro­pri­ate. Though it’s not far away, the north­ern Coro­man­del is a re­fresh­ingly dif­fer­ent world.

Tan­giaro Lodge

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