f
l
TAGS
H

Winter's Light Shines on a Local Treasure

When we were on the property search around Whangarei we were pretty sure the picturesque east coast beaches would be our lure. The coastline surrounding the city is vast and diverse, with so many wonderful little bays connected by seemingly endless stretches of luminous sand met by the ocean's ever-changing rhythm.

Our first experience of the popular Tutukaka Coast was at about this time last year. The three of us visited on a whirlwind tour of potential locations for our new life. With only a bit of internet research and some hazy memories of pre-marriage roadtrips, we were here to quickly soak it up, sponges to the look, feel and vibe of every place. Following the twisting coastal road, entering the lovely settlement of Matapouri, we took a right turn, parked the car and wandered up the wooden walkway leading to the beach. Our mouths dropped... it was the middle of winter but the sparkling ocean reflected the cloudless sky, intense blue lapping so gently against the golden sand. Hand-holding couples strolling and delighted squeals from kids swimming made this a stunning scene for our wintry Wellington eyes.

I'm not sure we were expecting such unquestionable proof of the 'winterless north' brand that this region gets but it was this introduction that confirmed the transition for our 10 year old... in moments her shoes were off and she was skipping in the sand with only one, very urgent question, 'when do we move??".

So when it came to the business-end of the property search, most of our viewings took place close to the sea with the exception of just a couple of properties. It was however, an undeniable pull to the quirky little cottages overlooking a beautiful patch of native bush that won us over. Whilst it's not where we thought we would settle, it was the summer months of exploring with visiting friends that affirmed our decision about this location.

Amongst the many attractions close by, it turns out that our local beach is an absolute treasure and a place that we found ourselves returning to as often as possible. When I say beach, I actually mean beaches - this awesome part of the coast boasts something for every summertime fun seeker and also makes a beautiful spot to visit in the middle of winter.

In fact in the short time we've been here, a tradition has emerged with a trip to 'our local' being one of the first activities for visiting friends and family. It was a recent winter walk which framed this favourite spot in a lovely new light.

The place is Pataua, consisting of two distinct bays, Pataua South is connected to Pataua North by footbridge and between the two is a lovely inlet. The footbridge is a popular attraction for kids of all ages over summer, being perfect for jumping off and going with the flow of the current back to shore. Wandering over the bridge, I'm always filled with nostalgic memories of summers spent swimming, climbing ancient Pohutakawa trees and retreating to their shade in the heat of the day. Well, Pataua North is this quintessential kiwi scene, chunky ropes hang from the gnarly branches and makeshift steps lead to treehouse platforms for hours of adventure. The water is calm here, perfect for swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding, more water fun also beckons from pontoons strategically anchored around the bay.

Meandering around the point however, reveals an entirely different sight. The magnificent pacific ocean stretches out, looking north presents the interesting silhouette of the Tutukaka Coast. Some days this stretch of beach can be as wild as the west, sometimes attracting a convoy of well-informed surf seekers to it's rolling waves and impressive pipelines. On this winter afternoon, it was decidedly calm.
To the south of this spot is a grassy knoll which sits in the middle of these two bays and punctuates the inlet. The afternoon sun on this day threw a moody light on this rocky outcrop, when accessed from the south side of the bay the goat track to the top makes for a great (although steep) walk with a rewarding 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape.
The walk is just half of what is on offer on the south side. While the image below wasn't taken on our visit the other day, it shows the view from the top of the knoll and another amazing beach option. I think the locals call it 'Frog Bay Beach' and just a short walk over the sand dunes reveals this gorgeous little bay - very Matapouri-esque (if I can say that) with beautiful rolling surf and offering hours of summer fun. When the sand gets up to a toe-scorching-heat there's nothing like a quick stop by the 'Treasure Island' campground shop (only open in the summer months) to cool down with an ice cream. Then spending the afternoon in the calm waters and shady goodness of Pataua North is the perfect way to languish in a beach 'all-dayer'.
The winter walk just reminded me how lucky we are to have discovered this beautiful place, it's a true slice of stunning New Zealand coast and I love that it's a bit of a local secret. Not studded with over-the-top beach mansions, it holds all the character and goodness of my childhood memories. It's cherished by the locals who know it and remembered fondly by the many lucky visitors who stumble across it.