Tiritiri Matangi

Tiritiri Matangi Island is a 220 hectare open wildlife sanctuary situated in the Hauraki Gulf. Tiritiri Matangi means ‘looking into the wind’ or ‘wind tossing about’ in Māori.

The island is managed by the Department of Conservation in partnership with a volunteer community group, Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi. In 1984 a native replanting programme began. Over 280,000 trees were replanted between 1984 and 1994. Many rare birds such as the takahē, North Island saddleback, North Island robin, rifleman, and little spotted kiwi have been re-introduced. Tiritiri Matangi is a bird watcher’s dream.

Takahē

Takahē

360 Discovery Cruises operate ferry services to Tiritiri Matangi five days a week, Wednesday to Sunday, all year round. Over the summer holiday period they operate seven days a week.

0001

360 Discovery Cruises to Tiritiri Matangi Island depart Pier 4.

The ferry departs from Downtown Pier 4 at 9:00am. Tickets are $69 for adults,  $61.50 for seniors and $37.00 for children. Family passes are also available.

It is a 75 minute journey from Downtown Auckland to Tiritiri Matangi. The ferry stops at Gulf Harbour Marina around 9:50am to pick up passengers. Majority of the passengers boarded here, as there is free parking at Gulf Harbour. Ticket prices are also cheaper for those boarding from Gulf Harbour – $52 for adults, $47 for senior and $31 for children.

Passengers waiting at Gulf Harbour Marina

Passengers waiting at Gulf Harbour Marina

When we arrived at Tiritiri Matangi a Department of Conservation ranger did a briefing on the island, safety and biosecurity.

The Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi offer 1 ½ hour guided walks of the island. It is $5 for an adult and $2.50 for a child. These can be booked through 360 Discovery Cruises. From our ferry group about 90 passengers had booked for a guided walk. Mary-Ann, the guiding manager, quickly allocated guides to larger groups and those with children.

We were given a choice of the Kawerau Track or the Wattle Track. Both guided walks finish at the Visitor’s Centre.

Stitchbird feeding station, Wattle Track

Stitchbird feeding station, Wattle Track

I choose to do the Wattle Track, the shorter of two walks because I was booked for a tour of the Island’s lighthouse at 1:15pm. My small group of six went with volunteer guide Annette. She was very knowledgeable and passionate about the bird life on the island. She also had a small photo album with photos that she and her husband had taken on the Island that she referred to.

Birds at the water trough, Wattle Track

Birds at the water trough, Wattle Track

Also be sure to purchase a map and brochure of the island for $1. Guides will be selling these on the boat on the way over and they are also available from the Visitor’s Centre.

At the Visitor’s Centre there is gift shop, information displays and complimentary tea and coffee. Profits from the gift shop go to support the island and its conservation work. No food is available for sale on the island so bring a packed lunch or order one through 360 Discovery Cruises.

On the hill behind the Visitor’s Centre are the keeper’s houses, which were built in 1918 to replace the original houses. The first keeper’s house at the top of the hill is now used as the Ranger’s residence. The second keeper’s house, at the bottom of the hill is used as a bunkhouse for overnight accommodation. This can be booked in advance through the Department of Conservation. Although availability is limited.

First lightkeeper's cottage, now Ranger's residence

First lightkeeper’s cottage, now Ranger’s residence

At the top of the hill is the island’s 20.5 metre tall lighthouse, which was built in 1864. It was the third lighthouse to be constructed in New Zealand and is now our oldest operating lighthouse.

Access to the interior of the lighthouse is normally closed but was open when I visited as part of a 3-in-1 historic day.  As well as tours of the lighthouse, visitors could visit the recently restored Watchtower and hear the impressive diaphonic foghorn.

Lighthouse built in 1864

Lighthouse built in 1864

As part of a small group of eight I climbed the steep and narrow stairs to the top of the lighthouse. Ray Walter, the last lighthouse keeper on the island, was at the top to explain the history and the change to the automated solar powered system. The view from the top of the lighthouse was amazing and the visit to the lighthouse was the highlight of the day for me.

0032

Top of the lighthouse

Top of the lighthouse

The diaphonic foghorn was built in 1932 to replace the previous Gun Cotton Explosive signal.  This diaphonic foghorn is only one of two in New Zealand. I went inside the room and when the volunteer sounded the horn I could feel the vibrations in my chest. It is definitely loud.

The original Watchtower was built in 1912 and has been rebuilt to its original condition using Ministry of Transport plans.

After visiting the lighthouse area I went along the East Coast track to Emergency Landing, and then returned back to the Wharf via Hobbs Beach track.

Hobbs Beach is a 10 minute walk from the wharf. This sandy beach is popular with visitors who wish to swim. Many people anchor there boats offshore and come in by dingy to spend a day on the beach, picnicking and swimming.

Hobbs Beach

Hobbs Beach

The ferry departs Tiritiri Matangi at 3:30pm. Although you need to be at the wharf 15 minutes before for boarding. The ferry arrives back at Gulf Harbour at 3:50pm and Downtown Auckland at 4:50pm.

It’s not possible to explore the entire island in the five and bit hours, which is great because like many natural treasures they are there to be revisited.

Coromandel Town

C0001

Passengers check in at 360 Discovery Cruises ticket kiosk, Quay Street

This weekend I decided to get out of Auckland and visit the small township of Coromandel.

I took the Ferry from Auckland to Coromandel with 360 Discovery Cruises. The adult fare is $69 for same day return and $92 for open return. There are child, senior, family and 10 trip pass options available. The ferry departs from Pier 4, Quay Street. They request that you check in at least 30 minutes prior to departure and I recommend you check in early and are waiting near the boat for boarding if you wish to stake out a good spot on the boat.

The ferry departed at 8:45 am and took approximately 2 hours. After 50 minutes the ferry picked up and dropped off passengers at Orapiu Wharf (Waiheke Island). We made an unscheduled stop at a private wharf for two passengers and their dog before dropping off passengers exploring Rotorua Island. Once we passed Rotorua Island the water was a bit choppy so I was glad I had taken travel sickness tablets.

C0002

Approaching Hannaford’s Wharf, Coromandel

The low water level at Coromandel Wharf means the ferry is unable to dock there, so a complimentary shuttle bus meets the ferry at Hannaford’s Wharf to transport passengers the 20 minute drive into Coromandel Town.

This shuttle service is provided by Coromandel Adventures. They provide tours and transport around the Coromandel region. Coromandel town is a perfect gateway to explore the Coromandel Peninsula. If you do not have a car, you are very limited to what you can do, so the service provided by Sarni and the crew at Coromandel Adventures is an excellent way of getting you to all the attractions around Coromandel.

I took the Coromandel beach explorer shuttle service. I was booked on the Northern Escape sunset tour but the driver was sick so I opted to this instead. Our driver dropped us at Whangapoua Store (376 Tangiora Ave, Whangapoua Beach). After grabbing an ice cream I walked along the beach to William Mangakahia Lagoon Reserve, which is at the northern end of Whangapoua Beach. From here there is access to New Chums Beach, a beautiful undeveloped beach that has been featured in Lonely Planet, National Geographic and was ranked in the top 20 undeveloped beaches in the world according to The Observer.

C0004

New Chums Beach

It is a 30 minute walk. It is best to cross at low tide, as you have to cross a stream. Good walking shoes are needed to cross the rocky shoreline but I did see hardened surfers doing it barefoot. The track is unmaintained and narrow at points. There is a handy rope at one point to get you up the steep bit of the track.  It is a beautiful beach but as the locals point out as more people know about it, it looses the magic of being a secret hidden beach.

Coromandel Adventures picked us up at 3pm and Sarni provided commentary on the landscape including Castle Rock that looks like a ‘sleeping giant’ from this side. Sarni dropped me off at my accommodation YHA Tidewater Tourist Park. It has all the charm you would expect from a small town holiday park. Hosts Tony and Linda are friendly and keep the facilities clean and well maintained.

C0005

View from Pa site, Kauri Block walk

I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon exploring Coromandel town by foot. Firstly I walked the Kauri Block track, which is an area that has been replanted with native kauri trees. To get to this track head through town along Wharf Road, approximately 50 metres pass the bright orange G.A.S station is the walkway, clearly signposted . It is a 15 minute uphill walk to an old Pa site, which provides stunning 360 degree views over Coromandel Town and the harbour. From the Pa site it is a 30 minute walk down to an exit on Harbour View Road or one can return to Wharf Road.

I stopped for a fish burger combo at Coromandel Takeaways (124 Wharf Road) before walking in the other direction past Coromandel Service Centre Memorial, School of Mines Museum (open 1pm to 4pm) and the old Hospital. There is a short walk, the Taumatawahine Walk, which is a 15 minute bush walk that begins on Rings Road just after Frederick Street and comes out on Main Street and joins back up with Rings Road.

C0006

Waitati Gardens

On Sunday morning I visited Waitati Gardens (485 Buffallo Road), a private garden that is open September through to May from dawn till dusk. $7 admission is requested to be left in the donation box at the top of the drive. After exploring the gardens I enjoyed a picnic breakfast in the garden.

Opposite the driveway to Waitati Gardens is Coromandel Gold Stamper Battery (410 Buffalo Road). Ashley provides tours of this fully operational historic gold processing plant at 10am, 11am, 12noon, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. Adults are $10 and children are $5. As I was the only one there they don’t start up the Stamper Battery for just one but Ashley gave me a free tour of the building. He was very informative and passionate about the history and area. If you get a chance to see and hear the old Stamper Battery working let me know in the comments what it was like. You can also pan for your own gold and at the back of the property there are steps up to a lookout for another fantastic view of Coromandel Town.

C0007

The Waterworks

I returned to the carpark behind Samuel James Reserve where Sarni picked me up and took a group of us to The Waterworks (471 The 309 Road). They describe themselves as “New Zealand’s quirkiest theme park”.  It is an interactive playground featuring whimsical gadgets designing with a bit of kiwi ingenuity that are all powered by water, hence the name.

C0008

Driving Creek Railway and Pottery

After an hour exploring the park Sarni picked me up and I joined a group taking the 2pm one hour return train ride through a replanted native forest at Driving Creek Railway and Potteries (380 Driving Creek Road) The best part for me was when the train stopped at the Eyefull Tower, and passengers climbed to the top of the building, for amazing views.

At the end of the day Coromandel Adventures shuttles all ferry passengers back to Hannaford’s Wharf for a 4:30pm departure. It was very smooth sailing going back and after a wonderful weekend I was back in Auckland a little after six thirty.