Lovely Coopers Beach, New Zealand - a treasure on the North Island
COOPERS BEACH, NEW ZEALAND – For the last week and a bit, as I was travelling about this great country, folks asked me what I’d be seeing. When I said I’d rented a small “bach,” or bachelor’s place, up at Coopers Beach, everyone said the same thing. “Oh, it’s great up there; you’ll love it.”
It certainly took a while to get here from Auckland. I departed downtown Auckland at 10 a.m. and drove for a while on a highway, and then a toll road where you had to pay by phone or on the Internet or get off the road and enter your license number on a machine at a rest station. After that, though, it was all two-lane road that dipped and swirled past green, rolling hills and small forests. There were a couple of fast-food joints but mostly mom and pop coffee shops and restaurants, such as the highly decorative Café Eutopia.
Roadside signs offered up advice on where to buy the best fresh fruit or cement or gravel or hardware.
As you reach the outskirts of Whangarei, you see the massive hills called the Whangarei Heads that jut out into the Pacific like a south seas island postcard, fronted by aquamarine waters. I had lunch at the Serenity Café in the cute port town of Whangarei, then laughed as I drove out of town and passed a watermelon truck on my left and a fresh sushi truck on my right.
Highway 1 passes close to the water but, sadly, you don’t get to see much of it. But as soon as I turned the corner at Coopers Beach, some five hours after departing Auckland, I looked out and realized why everyone had smiled when I said I was heading this way.
It’s a stunning crescent of deep brown sand that goes for perhaps two or three kilometers, backed by twisty trees and fronted by glorious, blue-green water. You can look out and see the long Karikari peninsula stretching out to the north. To the southeast is a lovely headland and a couple of small bays.
The water is probably 23 or 24 degrees, and the shells on the beach put Sanibel or Captiva Island in Florida to shame.
My “bach” has a small but full kitchen, an eating area, two sofas, a small bathroom and two small bedrooms, one with a mattress with the consistency of soft iron. But there’s a large deck overlooking the bay and a barbeque, and it’s precisely 69 steps down to the beach.
The highway is quite close and the traffic noise is a nuisance in the day. But at night you mostly hear the cicadas and the surf rolling in on Doubtless Bay a few feet from your window. On a clear night you might wake up at 3 a.m. to a nearly full moon casting silvery light on the bay and glance to the south to see the glories of the Southern Cross.
The price? $120 New Zealand a night; less than $100 Canadian.
Sorry about that, folks.
More to come tomorrow or - more likely - next week on Coopers Beach and the cute, little town of Mangonui...