Those of us who labour behind the scenes at Te Ara would like to wish our readers in New Zealand and other parts of the world a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. And we have a Christmas gift for you – the 18th of our Places entries: Hauraki–Coromandel, a very special region covering the Hauraki Plains and the Coromandel Peninsula. Written by distinguished historian Paul Monin, the entry explains the many attractions of Hauraki–Coromandel through the centuries – first for Māori people of different tribes, and later for Pākehā seeking kauri timber and gum, gold, or hoping to establish farms.
Nowadays, this beautiful area is attractive to another group of people – holidaymakers – and looking at some of the fabulous images, such as the photo of snorkelers in sparking turquoise water at Cathedral Cove, it is easy to see why. When Christmas holidays roll around, thousands of people from Auckland, Waikato, and further afield converge on the region: this interactive map shows how the populations of various beach resorts boom over summer.
For motorists coming from Auckland, the excitement begins to mount as they queue at the famous one-way Kōpū bridge. If heading up the western side of the peninsula, they will be greeted by the sight of massed pōhutukawa (the New Zealand Christmas tree) in spectacular bloom. Some may be lucky enough to enjoy the retro delights of a real kiwi bach, such as these ones made of old Auckland trams.
Visitors from Waikato heading for the eastern side of the peninsula will probably pass through Paeroa, with its well-known Lemon and Paeroa bottle statue. This icon had its origins in a 1967 promotion by the local businessmen’s association. Inspired by the moon landings that year, the association built a 7-metre-tall rocket and coined the slogan ‘Paeroa rockets into Christmas’. In 1968 the L&P bottle replaced the rocket.
Once through the rugged Karangahake Gorge, it will be onwards to Waihī and then beaches at coastal towns such as Whangamatā, Tairua, Pāuanui and Whitianga. Whether heading east or west, there’s lots to see and do on the way – for instance you can stretch your legs on the Karangahake Historic Walkway, take a ride on the Driving Creek railway or call in at The Waterworks.
Don’t you wish you were there? Perhaps you will be – in which case, have fun and take care. Remember to swim between the flags, so you don’t create headaches for volunteer surf lifesavers. And never drink and drive, as some did during the prohibition years of 1909–1926 – this type of risk-taking should definitely be consigned to history.