Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents - ByTaraKen­non

We headed out Thurs­day evening, cruis­ing through farm­land to Waihi’s Manawa Ridge Lux­ury Lodge as the stars came out. Our hosts Willem and Carla wel­comed us warmly and I re­al­ized im­me­di­ately that the lodge it­self was a work of art. Our suite was a dream of cosi­ness with an open fire­place, un­der floor heat and a pri­vate out­door spa with wa­ter from Manawa’s nat­u­ral spring. It was the per­fect gate­way to our jour­ney ahead.

We woke in the morn­ing to bright blue skies and a hint of frost in our gar­den. Af­ter break­fast at the lodge, we made our way to Waikino, home to a qui­etly thriv­ing arts com­mu­nity. Mosaic artist Con Kier­nan wel­comed us to his studio set in na­tive bush. I’ve al­ways loved mo­saics and couldn’t take my eyes off the rep­re­sen­ta­tions of New Zealand trees and flow­ers. But I was es­pe­cially moved by pieces de­pict­ing Waikino’s her­itage and to­day’s so­cial is­sues. I’d never thought about mosaic as a ve­hi­cle for so­cial com­men­tary and left with a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion for this pow­er­ful art.

Back in Waihi, time slipped by as we lin­gered in the Art Mar­ket, a charm­ing gallery filled with re­mark­able work from more than a hun­dred New Zealand and Pa­cific artists.

We set off next for Tairua, a laid­back and re­fresh­ingly real beach town, to find The Lit­tle Gallery of Fine Arts. What we dis­cov­ered was an in­ti­mate gallery be­side Tairua’s es­tu­ary, man­aged as a co-op of

artists from The Coro­man­del and packed with world-class work.

Af­ter so much art in­spired by The Coro­man­del’s land­scape, we set our sights on Mount Paku, a twin­coned vol­canic peak at the edge of town. We left our car near the top and walked about ten min­utes to the sum­mit. From here, the sea stretched for­ever and forested is­lands dot­ted the horizon. Two tiny fig­ures strolled along Pauanui’s gold­sand beach be­low.

Full to the brim with in­spi­ra­tion, we had din­ner in town then set­tled in at Sunlover Re­treat. I couldn’t get enough of the view from this comfy haven and the lights twin­kling in towns by the sea.

We woke to sun­rise over the Pa­cific and started the day with our host Donna’s freshly-cooked break­fast be­fore set­ting out to visit the artist stu­dios we’d cir­cled in the Mer­cury Bay Art Es­cape guide. (We called ahead when vis­it­ing stu­dios here and later in Coro­man­del town.)

In Ha­hei, we found painter Ginny Deav­oll. I im­me­di­ately rec­og­nized her strik­ing work from a bright seas­cape I’d ad­mired in a friend’s kitchen. Ginny first came to The Coro­man­del as a sea kayak­ing guide, she told us, and grew as a painter by de­pict­ing her ex­pe­ri­ences in na­ture.

I can’t drive through Ha­hei with­out a de­tour to Cathe­dral Cove Macadamias’ idyl­lic or­chard. Af­ter stock­ing up on dark choco­late

macadamias, we car­ried on to Cook’s Beach. Years ago, I’d vis­ited this stretch of white-sand beach for a lively sum­mer week­end with friends. Now it was a peace­ful par­adise for sea birds and, I learned, for painters like Jill Cameron. At Jill’s studio, we learned about her ap­proach to us­ing wa­ter­colours and inks to de­pict the land­scapes that have brought her wide renown.

We car­ried on to The Lost Spring in Whi­tianga and spent the af­ter­noon soak­ing in its hot min­eral pools. Happy and thor­oughly re­laxed, we savoured an early din­ner at Motu Kitchen that was ev­ery bit as in­spir­ing as a gallery visit. Then, on to our lodg­ing at the tran­quil Sea Es­cape. Be­tween the fire­place and the spa un­der the stars, I couldn’t imag­ine a more per­fect home on a chilly evening.

We made good use of the break­fast pro­vi­sions in our lodge and set out to cross the penin­sula in time for the morn­ing train at Driv­ing Creek Rail­way.

I was ea­ger to see this area cre­ated by renowned pot­ter Barry Brick­ell but wasn’t pre­pared for the feat of en­gi­neer­ing we en­coun­tered. The nar­row-gauge rail­way -- orig­i­nally cre­ated to carry clay for his pottery -- took us through na­tive bush to spec­tac­u­lar views of the Hau­raki Gulf. His pi­o­neer­ing work played a ma­jor role in build­ing Coro­man­del town’s arts com­mu­nity.

Af­ter this in­tro­duc­tion, we were ea­ger to check out ce­ram­ics stu­dios nearby. We walked a few min­utes to find Louis Kit­tle­son’s “per­fectly im­per­fect” cre­ations. These sculp­tures, bowls and mugs seemed even more beau­ti­ful af­ter I saw the brick kiln where they were fired for four days. Down an­other foot­path, we were wel­comed to Caitlin Maloney’s studio by the warmth of a roar­ing fire. I was cap­ti­vated by her steady hand in paint­ing in­tri­cate pat­terns on a ce­ramic vase.

On our way out of Coro­man­del town, we pulled onto a lane to Daniel Kirsch’s invit­ing studio. I loved his con­tem­po­rary graphic take on iconic New Zealand themes and had a blast try­ing my hand at sim­ple screen print­ing.

The gor­geous coast road led us to the Thames Society of Arts, a for­mer school­house with a mes­mer­iz­ing sea view and lovely col­lec­tion of lo­cal art. In Thames, Café Sola tempted us with bright land­scape paint­ings and hearty sweets. I wan­dered a few doors down to De­bra­sic, a work­shop where Lau­ren Haynes forged ear­rings from re­cy­cled gold and sil­ver at the back of a shop filled with trea­sures by New Zealand jew­ellery artists.

I was re­luc­tant to get back in the car but perked up when I re­mem­bered our last des­ti­na­tion of this jour­ney: we were headed for Mi­randa Hol­i­day Park for the night, where a nat­u­ral hot pool promised one last soak un­der the stars. Af­ter an in­spir­ing and in­dul­gent week­end in The Coro­man­del, win­ter didn’t seem so harsh af­ter all.

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