Beautiful Sandy Bay and Matapouri – East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island

9 04 2013

IMG_0355It’s time for us to make our way south to Auckland. We are to depart New Zealand tomorrow! We plan to party tonight in Auckland. But we’re in no rush to get there. So we decide to meander along the east coast – explore the many nooks and beaches along the North Island along the way.

So we take the main road south, but we divert east on a road marked “To Matapouri.” We knew that town was on the coast. This turns out to be one of the most wonderful drives of our trip. This road makes countless switchbacks and tight, blind curves through beautiful lonely farmland and then all of the sudden reaches the Pacific!

We never pass by another car on the way. But when we reach a spot called Sandy Bay, well, it’s a little overwhelming. This beach had probably 30 surfers, less than 10 houses, and is tucked in on each side by beautiful peninsulas. No crowds. Turquoise waters. Warm breezes. An easy surf break.IMG_0358

Holy cow we just found a slice of paradise! And it’s completely below the tourist radar. There’s almost nobody here! Purrrrfect weather.

We spend an hour soaking up the weather and the view. Waves were only four feet high, but perfect for mellow surfing. The beach sand is a golden color, very gentle feeling. On the left, there are some rocky outcroppings enclosing an easy snorkeling area.

One can’t help but get the feeling that we are in a private beach. Of course it’s not. We drive on south along this coastal road and discover even more beach bays, one after the other. This is really a beautiful part of New Zealand, and it’s not generally covered in the travel journals.

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Maybe because it’s relatively close to Auckland, I’m not sure. But all I can say it’s absolutely beautiful and so uncrowded.

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We headed south to Matapouri, a super quiet town on a bay near the coast.

Elwin, Angelique and I were all hungry, so we stopped in by a shanty shack place advertising seafood. It is here I made the classic mistake on expecting something and then getting something entirely different.

I see a “red snapper” on the menu. I adore red snapper, so I order it. The menu said nothing like “broiled” or “fried” next to red snapper. I began to have misgivings about my order but let it go as we waited outside. I also ordered “medium chips,” and I knew those were what we Americans call French fries.

When the call came for me, “ROD,” was heard, I went to the counter to pick up my order. When I saw it, I knew I blew it! My newspaper-wrapped red snapper was deep fried, in a fish and chips fashion. I accepted it as if this was what I expected, but truth be known, I don’t like fried fish very much. I wish it were broiled or baked. And then there is the issue of the chips, which Americans know as French Fries. As an American, I asked for some ketchup. The response was, “$2 for the tomato sauce (that is Kiwi for ketchup).” I can’t imagine paying that much for a little ketchup! So I just went without. While this wasn’t my ideal meal experience, I just went with the situation and tried to enjoy as much as I could! In another country, Argentina, there was another peculiar custom at many restaurants. Often a restaurant adds a surcharge for your silverware! I guess one saves by bringing their own?

All taken together, our day meandering down the coast of New Zealand’s North Island was an unexpected slice of paradise!

Then it’s on to Auckland. We’ve booked a room at the Juicy Hotel in the heart of the city. We depart tomorrow, later in the day.


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