Considered one of the Coromandel’s best kept secrets, Cooks Beach is 3 km of crescent shaped golden sand beach flanked to the west by the tree clad Shakespeare Cliff and to the east by the Purangi Estuary. What makes Cooks Beach unique is its location. This is a quiet coastal haven unspoiled by traffic noise, yet Cooks Beach is just 10 minutes drive from the thriving town of Whitianga, the popular Hahei Beach and two of Coromandel’s busiest tourist attractions, Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.
One of the most sheltered beaches on the Coromandel east coast, Cook’s Beach is a safe swimming beach and has two boat ramps, making it popular with families and boaties alike. You can also hire kayaks off the beach and explore the surrounding rocky outcrops and the pristine waters of the nearby Te Whanganui A Hei Marine Reserve, located between Cooks and Hahei Beach. Teeming with marine life, this reserve is also home to the world famous Cathedral Cove.
Cathedral Cove is one of the most visited and photographed locations on the Coromandel Peninsula and is only accessible by foot (via an access track at the northern end of Hahei Beach) or water. Exploring Cathedral Cove by kayak is a sensational experience as you’ll reach beaches, caves, blowholes and islands that others can’t get to by boat or foot. If you prefer to stay dry, head to Whitianga Marina and take a leisurely boat ride to Cathedral Cove on the Cathedral Cruiser or one of several glass bottom boats.
Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is one of the top surfing spots on the Coromandel Peninsula but the real reason for its fame is what gives this beach its name. An underground river of hot water surfaces at the beach and two hours either side of low tide, people flock there to dig up and soak in their own natural geothermal heated spa pool in the sand. Winter or summer, this is a natural phenomenon that once experienced, you’ll never forget!
While you’re there, learn to surf with Hot Water Beach Surf School or grab a great coffee and delicious homemade food from Hot Waves Cafe; just a short walk from Hot Water Beach and right next door to Moko Artspace Art Gallery. Moko is filled with contemporary NZ and Pacific art, design ware and jewelery and is made for browsing.
Hiking and Leisurely Walks
At the western end of Cooks Beach lies Shakespeare Cliff Reserve, an immense edifice of rock clad in natural bush. A walk to the top rewards sightseers with breathtaking views of the ocean, Cooks Beach and Lonely Bay. You can walk down into Lonely Bay, a picturesque beach popular as a venue for weddings or continue on to Flaxmill Bay and Ferry Landing.
Eggcentrics Cafe in Flaxmill Bay is one place that’s got everybody talking. It’s hard to put your finger on the one thing that makes this place so special as it’s really a combination of factors; the name, the casual atmosphere, the art and sculpture that lines the walls and floors, the impromptu sing-along’s and food “you just can’t fault.” House specialties in all their mouth watering glory include crumbed mussels and luscious scallops in cream macadamia sauce.
Work off your meal with a short walk to Ferry Landing where you can catch the Whitianga Ferry for the short trip across the harbor to Whitianga. Another way to see the sights is by quad bike which are available for hire at Ferry Landing. They are a great way to get around and explore the sheltered north facing beaches of Flaxmill Bay and Front Beach or if you want to go a bit farther afield, you can also hire a scooter.
Local Produce and Cafes
If you love macadamias, then you must visit Cathedral Cove Macadamias in Hahei. Organically grown and handpicked, the macadamias are then turned in oil, ground into nutty sprinkles for salads, coated in chocolate for a chocolate lover’s treat or made into spreads. You can sample the produce before you buy and just sitting in the beautiful setting of macadamia and native trees makes this worth the visit.
Colenso Cafe is situated in an old home on the main road into Whitianga, again just minutes from Cooks Beach. Surrounded by lovely old plum trees and an immense herb garden, this place gives you that warm tingly feeling of cozy country comfort; you’ll just want to sit back and enjoy the peaceful surroundings and fresh local produce.
One way to see the Cooks Beach and the rest of the Coromandel Coast is by helicopter. Coromandel Helicopters based at Whitianga Airfield takes scenic flights all over the Coromandel but for an absolute buzz sure to get your heart racing, fly in to the Pinnacles range and mountain bike out starting with 2300 vertical feet of adrenalin pumping downhill.
There’s so much on tap for you here at Cooks Beach. Close to all the popular tourists spots of Whitianga, Hahei Beach, Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach plus the not so well known but beautiful white sand beaches of Lonely Bay, Flaxmill Bay, Front Beach, Buffalo, Brophys and Simpsons Beach, Cooks beach is the ideal location to base your Coromandel holiday. So come and visit Cooks Beach and see what makes this such a great place. But be prepared to stay awhile as there is just too much to do for a short stay.
Leslie Preston is founder of Bachcare, a NZ provider of Coromandel holiday homes and accomodations and New Zealand’s favorite holiday and vacation destinations.