A beautiful Sunday morning (dry heat with the sun beating down and absolutely no rain in sight) prompted a long beach day… and to the Edwards, a “beach day” is not a simple American one. They beach hopped from one to another and showed me all the beautiful east coast beaches, which I was so blessed to see. And get this… the parking is free! America, take notes…
Each beach averaged only about 15-25 people max, and there were lots more families than usual just because of the holidays. In California or Hawaii, this is unheard of. The water was quite cold (despite the misleading heat and how many were surfing or swimming in the ocean), and my feet went numb in the first beach we went to where we had to cross a dirty stream down to the beach. All of these beaches were north of Whangarei and have been visited by the family a few times before.
(1) Sandy Bay
An intimate beach popular with surfers. There was a crystal-clear view of the rolling Hobbit-like hills 180 degrees away from the ocean (as most beaches on the east coast do, apparently). The water was pretty churned up from all the rain the day before, so it wasn’t exactly Hawaii or Tahiti-like. Still, the turquoise and aquamarine blanket of sea overpowered and glistened in the sunlight. Far, far nicer than Wellington harbor (the same ol’ thing I’ve taken for granted over the past few months). We stayed here for about 20 min. before driving to the next beach which was right next door (over the hill).
(2) Woolley Bay (off Tutakaka Coast)
This one was beautiful since the large rock formations in the middle of the ocean reminded me of a much-smaller scale of Cathedral Cove. The water was noticeably nicer on this beach, and some of the Edwards clan climbed the lava rocks all the way to the top for a better view of the ocean.
(3) Whale Bay
By far my favorite beach of the day. It had a Hawaii-esque feel to it, and this time the green farmland view was a backdrop to the turquoise ocean. The water was the cleanest here, although there were jellyfish eggs cluttered everywhere on the sand, throughout the water, etc. I was a bit scared to wade through the waters after that. I also decided to pull a Kiwi thing and go barefoot on the lava rocks here, which was the dumbest decision ever since it took me twice as long to hobble and wince in pain as I tried to find some smooth areas to step.
It was also at this beach where I discovered pesky jumping bugs… they jumped at least 5 inches high each time, and they were almost impossible to swot away. They almost looked like mini hopping silverfish or fleas. I still don’t know what a sandfly looks like either, but if this bug is related, I’m not a fan.
By the time we reached this beach, I knew I was baking. The sun is much different in the southern hemisphere since it basically beats down on you and cooks you… which makes it seem twice as hot as it actually is. There still is a breeze, but I couldn’t sit in the same position under the sun for more than a minute without feeling uncomfortable.
This small town is home to a resort hotel, which looked like it could accommodate a good 100 if it was lucky. Definitely a small scale place. We stopped by to look around at the surf shop, antique store, art gallery and dairy while here.
(5) Whangarei Falls
My favorite, and last, stop. I’m obsessed with waterfalls… if I see one, I’ll run to the very edge and take a billion photos of it as I watch the water flow into the basin. They’ve always fascinated me in Hawaii, and it’s been a life goal to jump from one (not to kill myself, but just for adventure).
EDIT: Downsides of not checking your iPhone while on vacation: Missing out on an opportunity to see something. A friend’s friend owns this cool surf shop a block away from Whangarei Falls… one of these days, I’ll visit.
Although the water here was a bright brown, the falls itself were amazing. There’s a lot less safety precautions here than in America, judging by the flimsy steel grated bridge that allowed visitors to cross from one end of the stream to the next. The grating was designed with pretty large holes as well, so I tried to cross as quick as possible. I knew in that moment that I was being a silly, paranoid American, since things like that cause Kiwis to take the crap out of us (especially since they’re so carefree).
Speaking of carefree, their mother is the Energizer Bunny but always with a smile on her face. She’s fearless, unstoppable, and never runs out of energy. She is in extremely good shape, such a sweet woman, and by golly, she power walked through the whole hiking trail down to the falls… on the trip back home, I tried to swallow so I wouldn’t show how out of breath I was. Man, some Kiwis are just so happy-go-lucky and unstoppable, it’s awe-inspiring.
Nine hours and four beaches later, this girl came back with massive sunburn and two large sandfly bites. I never learn, and yet I still hate the concept of sunblock… I always figure I just turn brown anyway.
We ended up having an instant dinner, which is something out of the ordinary for a family like this. We had two enormous orders of hot chips (fries) with tomato sauce, which tasted amazing after an exhausting day. I even copied Sara and made a chip sammie… exactly what it sounds like. Chips (fries) on a piece of bread, covered in butter and tomato sauce. Apparently, it’s usual for Kiwis, and it tasted pretty normal. I’m obsessed with fries and potatoes, so I basically eat their most common staple anyway. Their dad also was smothering avocados on the chips, which gave me quite the comic relief.
While we were in the family van for the majority of the day on narrow, windy roads to each beach, we had spectacular views of sheep, cattle and more farmland. I’ve been taking it in and enjoying every second, since I know I might not get the chance to come to the northland again…