What”SUP” in Whangamata: Paddleboarding to Donut Island
We haven’t done enough water activities recently. We really have not. Despite the canyoning, kayaking, diving, digging a hot pool at Hot Water Beach, getting caught in rainstorms, we still feel there is something missing: water. Anyway, enough bullshit… Today is our surprise activity with SurfSUP in Whangamata! (Well, as much as a surprise can be for a place that hires out kayaks, surfboard and stand-up paddle boards). All we know is we’re getting back out on the water again in the chilly winter breeze. Alright!
Robin finally masters driving the campervan
Because we had such a blast on the Pacific Coast Highway between Whangamata and Waihi yesterday (can you sense the sarcasm dripping right here?), we are stoked to be able to drive all the way back on the same road when leaving the holiday park in Waihi. However, this time, Robin totally nails it! No stress, no worries, just cruising. Has he finally got the hang of driving the beasty campervan?
We wanna SUP!
We arrive in Whangamata in good time and rock up the SurfSUP shop. We meet Naomi, who is keen to give us an adventure of our choice today. She suggests going out to Donut Island by kayak or stand-up paddle board (SUP), as the conditions are calm and there’s no surf today. Laura jumps on the SUP option immediately as it is something she has always wanted to do since she discovered it existed in New Zealand. Naomi offers to come with us and show us Donut Island later in the afternoon so we can paddle back during the sunset. Until then, we’re going to get some ice cream!
The cheapest ice cream in the Coromandel
Whangamata Beach is effing huge. There are 14 access points. The one we were at for lunch yesterday was Access 5. Today, we were hanging around Access 14, which is where SurfSUP operate from. Life on this part of the beach on a public holiday is pretty booming! There are kayaks, SUPs, horses, quad bikes, cycles, boats… anything you can think of to get around the beach and bay, there are people doing it. You’ve got to love the Kiwi life.
We walk a little further up the beach to go to a cafe Naomi recommended has great ice cream. What makes it especially great is that the cafe was just about to close for the winter season and everything was half price! Two-scoop ice cream tastes so much better when it’s $2!
It’s crazy to think that on the fifth day of winter we can be enjoying an ice cream on a sunny day in the Coromandel, while by nighttime, we can easily be inland to mountains with ski fields already getting blasted by snow.
Robin is falling behind!
We are now ready to hit the water and paddle board for the first time ever! Usually, beginners like us don’t take on a trip like this on their first paddle, but Naomi will look after us today.
Now, something crazy happens – something that will go down in BackpackerGuide.NZ history for centuries to come. Laura bosses paddle boarding straight away while Robin is failing miserably. This never happens! Laura is buzzing. Usually she is so sh*t at everything she tries while Robin always seems to own what he is doing. But finally, FINALLY, Laura can mock Robin as he eats her paddleboard spray!
The paddleboarding over to Donut Island is super relaxing one. We can see why so many Kiwis enjoy this sport both for pleasure and racing, (to which Naomi is fierce competition in). Laura is up ahead chatting with Naomi, getting to know about the history of Donut Island, as well as its relationship with the local iwi (Maori tribe). All the while, Robin is slithering well behind like a French snail.
Whangamata’s hidden gem
Around the side of Donut Island is an intriguing cave entrance. A few waves are starting to pick up so we kneel on our boards as we slowly go through the tunnel. What we see on the other side is freakin’ amazing! The cave opens up to a Jurassic Park-like hole. Rich green forest and mossy tree roots are winding their way up the walls and the roof completely disappears with the exception of the tree branches hanging across the opening in the ceiling. The water is a clear light blue colour reaching two tiny beaches made up on seashells. Honestly, we can write a friggin’ poem about this place if we had the skills (or the time to).
We land on one of the tiny beaches and just chill out in this tiny beautiful world which is completely ours for the time-being. Finally, we drag ourselves away to catch the sunset on the water back to Whangamata Beach. By this point, Robin has nailed the “kneeling and paddling” technique.
Naomi’s friend, Cas, meets us halfway with her tiny dog, Scout, who, incidentally, loves paddle boarding too! Even Scout is better than Robin as she jumps from paddleboard to paddleboard.
Onwards to Waikato!
Back on dry land, we get changed into some drier lower-half attire and head out for a beer with Naomi and Cas. They show us the local watering hole – with some fantastic beer might we just add? It’s a cool and relaxing way to end such an awesome day with these girls.
Our next mission, is to drive to Te Aroha Holiday Park where we will base ourselves for exploring some of the Waikato region, such as Karangaheke Gorge and Paeroa.
So long, Coromandel, it has been an absolute freakin’ fantastic unbelievable blast!
Just look at this awesome place!
Just look at this awesome place!
Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Just look at this awesome place! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Ice creams, paddleboarding, long strolls on the beach: we’ll be adding all our Whanagamata recommendations on HerePin. Check out why we are a little obsessed with HerePin here. We’ll also be posting some Instagram-worthy photos of Donut Island on Instagram very soon! Got to get those likes in, right?
For more of our guide, check out these articles: