Tag Archives: kauri

More Coromandel Highlights

Sarnie, our  Coromandel Adventures guide to the Waiau Kauri Grove spreads her arms out wide and asks us to imagine a kauri tree (Agathis australis) with an eight metre diameter: filling the gap in the forest immediately in front of our viewing platform, where its ancestor either fell or – more probably – was milled in the 1800s, it would tower over us today and its canopy would blot out the sunshine.

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Behind the space that our imaginary tree would occupy, five or six ‘young’ kauri (they’re around 800 years old) escaped the brutal milling process and our scenic walk takes us to their base. Along the way Sarnie shows us two baby kauri – just two and three years old, with only a handful of leaves and just a few centimetres tall. Then we climb onto a platform around the base of the kauri: this wooden structure allows us to ‘hug’ the trees and breathe in the scent of their tangy resin and at the same time prevents us from trampling on the ground over their roots and thus reduces the risk of anything on our shoes conveying the ‘dieback’ disease to these kauri trees. In other parts of New Zealand dieback (a fungal disease, Phytophthora taxon Agathis) is destroying kauri groves and forests but so far the Coromandel Peninsula has remained free of it.

 100B2891 Nikau palm (Rhopalostylis sapida)

100B2892 Mamaku – Black tree fern, cythea medullaris

Like the hillside where we travelled on the Driving Creek Railway, the Waiau valley was almost completely denuded during the late 1800s, but whereas at DCR the reforestation has been done by hand, here in the Waiau Valley, just a few kilometres south of Coromandel township, the secondary growth of native trees has occurred naturally through seed brought by the wind and birds.

100B2902 The Boatshed, Pottery Lane Cottages 

When we return to Coromandel it’s late afternoon – perfect for relaxing on the verandah of our ‘Boatshed’ cottage at Pottery Lane Cottages. The boatshed is one of three cottages in a peaceful garden setting just a few hundred metres from the centre of Coromandel township: a perfect location for a short stay.


Dinner time finds us a short walk from the cottages, in the Star and Garter – an historic building which was once a bank and then a drapery and is now a café-pub-restaurant. The long kauri bar is made up of the three counters where fabrics were measured and the walls are a fascinating collage of old photos and snippets of news relating to the gold mining days.


This platter (above) of mixed seafoods, including local, melt-in-the-mouth, green-lipped mussels in tempura batter, featured on the  Star and Garter’s menu as a starter for four, but my friend and I shared it as a very delicious main course.


Coromandel was humming in the late summer sunshine on Sunday morning and we enjoyed another great meal – brunch (above) at the Success Café. Success was the name of one of the gold mines that was particularly productive. This plate of pancakes with bacon, boysenberries, cream and maple syrup set us up for the day.

 100B2921 Leaving Coromandel, 4.30 pm 9th March 2014

As the Auckland-bound ferry left Coromandel on Sunday afternoon we were lucky that the sea was still fairly calm: the perfect ending to a great weekend.

For more on the places mentioned, see www.360discovery.co.nz for ferry details, www.drivingcreekrailway.co.nz for the narrow gauge train ride, www.coromandeladventures.co.nz for guided tours including the Waiau Kauri Grove, www.coromandelcottages.co.nz for Pottery Lane Cottages, www.starandgarter.co.nz


Coromandel highlights

The ‘360° Discovery’ ferry to Coromandel, a catamaran, clips purposefully down Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour on a dead calm sea. Brief stops at Waiheke Island’s Orapiu wharf and at Rotoroa Island are soon, like mainland Auckland, far behind. Ahead, as the cat crosses the Firth of Thames, rise the mountains of the Coromandel Peninsula. To the south, where the mountains fade into the horizon, there is only a faint, hazy hint of the Hauraki Plains. Gannets dive for fish and little blue penguins frolic endearingly. Islands – lush and large and small and craggy – are strung along the Coromandel coast, so the township only comes into view as the ferry approaches Hannaford’s Wharf, inside the island haven.

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Just two and an half very pleasant hours after leaving Auckland we arrive in Coromandel at lunchtime. The town was named after HMS Coromandel – in turn named after eastern India’s Coromandel Coast. The ship visited the area in 1820 to take on kauri timber for masts. Until then, the village was known by its Maori name, Kapanga.

Coromandel is the birthplace of New Zealand’s gold mining era. Charles Ring discovered gold in October 1852 and although he managed to keep his find secret for a while, Coromandel was soon inundated with prospectors, traders … everyone and everything needed in a bustling gold mining town with a population of around 10,000. Sadly the deforestation which had begun with the milling of the ancient kauri forests for masts and ship building accelerated during the mining days and again when forested lands were cleared for farming.  

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Although there are fewer than 2,000 inhabitants today, many of the buildings of the mid-late 1800s remain, making Coromandel both fascinating and appealing. Green-lipped mussel farming and tourism have both boosted the town’s economy in recent years. And very gradually, through planting programmes and natural second growth, the forest is regenerating.  A great ways to see how the native forest is growing over hillsides that were completely bare in the early 1900s is to take the narrow gauge (38cm) Driving Creek Railway (DCR) ride. Artist, engineer and conservationist, Barry Brickell began building the railway over 35 years ago as a way to get clay out of the hills for his pottery. At the same time he started replanting native New Zealand trees – to date 37,000 trees have been planted by Barry and his helpers. The railway line is now a very popular tourist attraction – it wends its way  for 3 kilometres through the bush and tunnels, over bridges (including a double-deck one) and zig-zagging line to the Eyefull Tower – a viewing platform surrounded by forest and with magnificent views in all directions.

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Coromandel Highlights – part 2 coming soon