It’s always helpful to build friendships while traveling. Aside from the obvious reason that friends are fantastic for their own sake, locals will often be a great source of inspiration for where to visit. Come Sunday, I’m often interrogating my friends for ideas about places to explore on Monday. And a few months ago, I had this text conversation:
But then some time later, another friend from the church (her dad, actually) asked me to help him move some stuff on his family’s farm. I figured it would be as good an excuse as any to get down there.
The area I traveled to is outside the Auckland Region. It’s in a region called Waikato, named for the Waikato River. The Waikato is the longest river in New Zealand, and it flows North for most of its journey!
My friend was being a little overly dramatic regarding the lack of entertainment in the area. I will say though that the particular area I went to has really nothing much in the way of civilization, even in the way of towns. That’s OK by me, as I don’t travel to see towns!
Waikato is basically the Shire, but with more sheep. It’s covered in beautiful, rolling hills.
It was a Sunday afternoon that I was helping my friend move some stuff around. He kindly drove me down and back. On Monday I started my adventure even further South, which I’ll cover in the next post. And then I drove to Port Waikato, which is the subject of this one.
Google Maps was designed by engineers living outside of San Francisco. I’ve been out that way over a dozen times myself, and it is the epitome of modern living, without many dirt roads. So while Google’s navigation system will find you a route, it does nothing to tell you what sort of route it has found you.
In my case, from the Limestone Downs to Port Waikato it found me the Port Waikato – Waikaretu Road (helpfully named after the two towns it connects). I was on this road for about 20 km, and for at least 16 of those kilometers it was a narrow, dusty gravel road. For those 16 km I never even made it out of third gear. The only other vehicles I saw were big 4x4s, and I’m sure their drivers were laughing at me in my little Italian roadster. I made it, but I definitely needed some place to relax and recover my wits afterward.
Thankfully, Port Waikato has just the place in the form of Cobourne Reserve, a tranquil little park right where the Waikato River empties into the Tasman Sea.
I could seriously spend all day here just soaking in the peacefulness!
The Reserve is lovingly maintained and full of nearly every color of flower one could wish for! I even found some more of the Orange Clivia I liked so much in the Auckland Domain!
Thinking back over that drive, I get tense. But looking at this scenery just melts that tension away.
If you want to see more of Port Waikato — and I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you decided the Cobourne Reserve was sufficient and just stayed there — you can walk down the road a fairly short way to see the beach. On the way there, you will also see this nice pink tree!
You will also walk by some local artwork on exhibit. I didn’t frame it well, since as usual I cared more about capturing the hill and the sky than the sculptures, but those gray stones in the background are meant to be four fingers and a thumb sticking up from the earth.
Welcome to Sunset Beach!
There are some lovely rolling hills overlooking the beach! You can see a sort of walking track along the side of the hill; I intended to go along that track, but ended up getting in a conversation with a local instead which lasted long enough that I had to get going.
Before heading off to my friends’ place for dinner, though, I did manage to walk along the beach a bit. As with many of the Western beaches, this one is a black sand beach.
Sadly, I did not get a chance to see the eponymous sunset; I hear it’s gorgeous.
So that’s the Waikato Region, or at least some of it. We’ll stick around here next time and see some more of this amazingly beautiful area.