First off, this place truly is beautiful. This is our first travel blog, but after doing this trip I couldn’t help but think that it would have been awesome to know a lot of this stuff prior to heading off. P.S. we are looking at making videos of this stuff from now on too!!
A bit of background if you know nothing about us. Basics. We have an average income. We are a family of three, two adults, one three year old (and one in the oven due in March YAY). For more information on us read in our bio!
Travel dates (we did an overnighter on 23 Jan – 24 Jan 2017).
If you are going to Hahei, it is likely that you will be going to Hot Water Beach as well. Here is some info we think will be handy!
Talking with other travellers it seemed most families made their way from Auckland. The trip through to Thames is nice, but if you haven’t experienced New Zealand’s windy roads, you get an intro on the turn off to Tairua / Whangamata. On another note, if you want to work to a budget, Thames is a great spot to pick up some normal priced groceries. Like most locations that have an influx of tourists, Hahei prices are rather high with most things being double the price you would pay for them at a supermarket.
Tairua is a good place for another stop along the way. We noticed a park that looked out onto the ocean but we were on a pretty tight timeframe so we carried on straight to Hot Water Beach. From Tairua the road becomes really windy and if you’re not familiar with New Zealand road rules it might pay to start looking at one lane bridges as you hit a few of them. Signs through to Hot Water Beach are all clearly visible.
Hot Water Beach
Once we arrived at Hot Water Beach it was pretty easy to find our way. One thing that caught us off guard was the paid parking and the amount of parks available. There are a lot of people and not a lot of parks. In addition the parking right next to the beach and the secondary parking just above are both paid. So be ready for this. We also read on other blogs that there were four parking areas but with our son we really were hoping to find a park right next to the beach (we were lucky and did get one). Talking with our host at our accomodation it sounds like March / April is a good time to head to Hot Water Beach, when there aren’t as many people. A lot of the information we read talked about making your own private spa, but you’re nearly right on top of each other, so get use to that quick if it’s not your thing! This pic hopefully gives you an idea..
Don’t let this detract you. And to contradict myself it is a lot of fun. We actually enjoyed watching everyone! It kind of felt like part of the fun. The best time to head down is 2 hours before low tide and 2 hours after so you have a 4 hour window to get ready. Be on the lookout as high tide approaches as we watched other peoples spas, bags and clothes take a swim as the tide got higher. It really did seem to catch people off guard so keep an eye out on the little ones.
You will need your own spade to dig your pool but they are available at the cafe and if the life guards are on duty they hire them out too. There is a changing room next to the carpark and this is the only toilet facility. It’s approximately 2oo meters to where you can make your spa and you have to cross a small river on the way there (ankle depth but up to hip depth if you cross in the wrong place). All of this our son loved as it was part of the adventure! Back to digging your own spa. There is only a very small area on the beach where the hot water comes from. We noticed a small white sign on one of the rocks above the beach which seemed to mark the start. There was a lot of people walking around telling each other where it is good to dig but it only seems like its a 100 – 150 meter area. A really good piece of advice we got was IF YOU DIG AND THE WATER IS COLD STOP DIGGING UNTIL YOU FIND SOMEWHERE THAT IT IS HOT. Our son loved digging anywhere, but I think your stress of not finding hot water seems to start rubbing off. We noticed a lot of upset kids as families worked hard to find the hot water. Ultimately we took a spa that someone else had dug. A lot of people leave once they have had enough and a good idea is to walk through some of the spas that are vacant and check if they are hot and make it your own.
Our son really enjoyed it, and we had fun as well. Before we left we handed our spa over to another family and went on a search for a snack. We ate at the cafe by the beach. I can’t remember the name but the prices were average. Muffins were yum, pie was great, and ice cream was a hit with Mr Rakeiora. There is also a small art gallery across the road from the car park. We went across and had a look but there a lot of signs asking little ones not to touch which is kryptonite for our son when you’ve got large animal ornaments. But we made it through there unscathed and continued on our adventure.
Hahei is not a large town and is only 5 – 10 minutes away from Hot Water Beach. It has a small shopping area with cafes, a gas station, small general store, ice cream and pizza store, and a small store that sells souvenirs and art. There is a playground and tennis court next to the shopping area which our son found really fun. The area is named after Hei a maori leader from the Arawa canoe. There are still walks to old pa sites (Māori villages) where terraces are still visible. To get there follow Pa road. (link here). The beach is beautiful, beautiful sand and not too choppy.
Food, Ice Creams and Pizza!!
For lunch we ate at Coastal Co-Op which specialises in icecream, pizzas and milkshakes. We got a ham and pineapple pizza (with a tonne of ham, probably a bit much for us), milkshakes all round and ice cream (chocolate covered waffle, YUM). It wasn’t really busy and it took a while for the pizza so if you are hungry take that into account. Overall the food was nice. There is not a lot of seating so we ended up eating our food over at the park.
Dinner was at a mobile food caravan called Hungri Hunter specialising in BBQ sausages. Papa ate the spicy Hungarian sausage which is wrapped in ciabatta bun, with mustard (highly recommended by Papa). Mama and Rakeiora shared beer battered hoki and kumara chips. Both were really nice but watch out for the local birds who are clearly in the know about where to eat and will come right up and take what they want! Again limited seating outside the caravan but we were lucky to get seats.
For breakfast we headed over to the Hahei Beach Cafe. We all shared pancakes with bacon, bananas, and maple syrup, which was YUMMY. There is a big selection of food at the Cafe from toast and spreads through to the full monty! There is a tonne of seating inside and out on the deck where you can look straight out to the park.
Prices all seemed reasonable at the food stores. With our little guy and his wandering hands we decided to stay away from the arts store. The Hahei General store prices were pretty high with nectarines costing us $6.99 per kg, compared with $2.99 in Thames. Taking into account they need to get the products there, it is to be expected. But our plan for our next trip is to bring our own fruit etc and we would recommend it if you’re not rolling like the Kardashians.
I’ve just realised that we sound really unhealthy with our food choices. LOL. But that is part of the fun and you can’t be by a beach in New Zealand without fish and chips!
Where to stay?
When we were booking the trip, we changed our minds constantly on where to stay. We put in a fair bit of thought into whether to stay at a camping ground or somewhere else. During peak season the prices are raised everywhere in Hahei. In the end we decided to stay at The Church which was a great choice. Andreas our host was helpful with a lot of knowledge on local activities, and our room was quiet and cute. The office is closed for a couple of hours during lunch so there is a self check in sheet if you arrive during this time. Parking is right outside your door which is great for unloading the kitchen sink that we travel with. There is a shared lounge room where you can grab a few older DVDs (El Dorado was a hit), board games and books (including kids ones). The laundry is next to the office with beach towels and spades. There is a small cost for using the laundry facilities. Price wise it seemed great at $185 per night (pitching a tent at Hahei Resort is $80 in peak season), and it was worth it for the privacy. If you are looking at staying with small children you will need to look at the self contained units (which has a toilet and bathroom, TV, and fridge) as there have been complaints in the past about noise in the studio units. Andreas was nice explaining this to us when making our booking. Normally bookings have to be two nights or more, but if only one night is available, which you can see on their website there is the ability to book by emailing them directly. The Church has its own restaurant which was busy during our stay but we didn’t eat there. Next time we will definitely book in.
Regardless of where you stay the beach is close. There are not footpaths all the way to the beach depending on where you are staying and with our son, we chose to drive wherever we went. Parking wise there is a lack of it which was a real theme for our trip. There are two main car parks near the beach but one is difficult to find, but if you drive around a little you will see it.
The water is beautiful but it drops off within two metres of the shore which means you’ll need to stay close to the little ones. We spent our time building sand castles and getting our feet wet (as the water was freezing brrrr). The view is amazing and you can sit and take it in all day. The toilets and changing rooms are next to the car park. There is also a track that you can take up to Cathedral Cove from the beach if you are keen for the walk.
Journey to Narnia – Cathedral Cove
There is a lot about this beautiful spot that we didn’t know about and for a family I think it’s important to be prepared so here it goes. Cathedral Cove is a 40 minute walk from the main carpark. The way there is sign posted clearly but getting a park is extremely difficult. The car park fills up during the night with local campers (apparently the view is beautiful by night up there) and by 8am it is full which for most families means an early start which didn’t go down well with our little one. Papa ran through to Cathedral Cove in the morning which he recommends if you have a good level of fitness and said that people were walking the track as soon as the sun broke.
If you are like us you then you have only a few other choices left. Walk (which is up a very steep hill and will add 20 minutes to your trip), park at the parking next to The Church (or if you are staying at The Church walk next door) and take the bus which heads up to the car park regularly all day. The cost is $10 for a family of two adults and two children, or $5 per adult $3 per child (for more information click here). There are also a number of people who sell parking for $10 on the front lawn of their homes but you still have a 10 minute walk to get to start of the track. The Hahei water taxi also travels to Cathedral Cove every thirty minutes. The taxi won’t operate if the sea is choppy (it wasn’t operating on our first day) and it will pay to amp the kids up for the ride (our boy wasn’t keen) and prepare them to get wet (click here for info). Prices for a one way trip for our family (2 adults, 1 child) was $65 so not cheap but an option. There are also other attractions that come at a cost that get you to Cathedral Cove including a Kayak trip which comes highly recommended by people we talked with but we weren’t ready to do with our little guy.
So that’s getting you to the start line. There were a number of families walking the track and depending on the amount of time that you are looking to spend at Cathedral Cove will depend on how much you need to carry. We carried a small backpack with food, water and our swimming gear. The route is all up and down, which meant we found ourselves doing a fair bit of carrying of our little guy but as you can see in the picture the track is really well maintained. The view is beautiful along the track with native New Zealand forest and farmland. Depending on your fitness will change your walking time but I think you should be planning to walk for 40 minutes. Add more time if you are looking to stop at Greenstone Bay or Stingray Bay (attached is the DOC brochure which can give you more info on the walk).
There is not really much more to say about when you get there. It is beautiful. The water is chilly (it warms up in Feb – March according to the locals). The view is beautiful and there are photo opportunities everywhere. You might want to take some shade but there are a lot of places that have shade during the day, including the big cave ha ha. Toilets are located at the end of the beach, which is a long drop (might pay to look this up if you don’t know what it is). We had a bit of trouble looking for them but if you look for the small waterfall at the end of the beach you will find the toilets.
Overall, it’s definitely worth the walk! Remember you are going to have to walk back 40 minutes once you leave, so we took a dip in the fresh water waterfall before we left to get the salt off.
So a lot of information but we hope that you find this useful. Keep an eye out for our next adventure, and please let us know if you think the info was helpful!