Holiday wanderings

Latesha Randall scopes out eco-accommodation options in the Coromandel Peninsula to suit thrifty travellers, families, and couples in the mood for a slice of sustainable luxury.

Like most Kiwis, my partner and I love a good road trip – and nothing beats wending your way around the Coromandel Peninsula’s coast, clear water lapping on shores that match the road’s curves. We arrive at our first destination to the pitter-patter of rain, which makes the forest surrounding Te Moata glisten. The retreat centre in Whenuakite is set on 344 hectares of native bush, and appeals to visitors seeking tranquility and the raw beauty of the land without lots of trimmings. Te Moata’s main centre and cottages host guests for meditation retreats and other courses in simple comfort, while those looking for complete privacy can hike deep into the forest for cabin lodgings. Either option won’t break the bank: prices range from $25 to $40 per night.

The huts have gas for cooking, but no electricity.We’ve opted for the Kauri Cabin, which has a view of the Pacific Ocean and is a 30-minute bush hike from the centre. A guide gets us started with a map and dry firewood, which we’ll need for the night ahead. It’s a steep uphill trek, with the odd slippery patch – we feel like explorers and grin at the fun of following the arrows and jumping over rock-dotted creeks. 

Dark clouds are moving in, so our log cabin is a welcome sight. The perfect simplicity of it – cushions, fireplace, wooden floor and meditation corner – is a delight. We soon have a fire crackling and enjoy a peaceful evening of chess by candlelight while the elements rage outside. 

Warm sunbeams and the warble of native birds wake us the following morning. We use the rainwater supply outside to wash our breakfast dishes and clean our teeth, commenting on how calm we both feel. The cabin doesn’t have much, but nothing is missing – and it has some pretty touches for a bush hut, such as stained glass windows and daisy tiles around the fireplace. 

Heading back down through the forest, we admire tall kauri and try to identify the native plants flanking the track. After returning our borrowed raincoats, we hit the road for our next stop: the family-friendly Te Mata Lodge near Thames. 

Te Mata Lodge is perched on the side of a hill, with a bubbling creek and swimming holes on the property. Outdoor hammocks, petanque, kayaks and crunchy-shell pathways are reminiscent
of the relaxed vibe of classic Kiwi baches.

The lodge is family owned and run, and the Wakelins do their best to honour the tranquil environment around them. “It’s little things,” explains our host Dorothy. “Using water from the creek, serving milk in glass bottles, using eco-cleaning and wellness products, planting trees around the property, recycling everything … we do what we can.”

The cabins, cottages and chalets combine to accommodate more than 30 people, and the pricing ($79-$149 per couple, children $10-$15 extra each)  makes it affordable for family holidays. We decide to take the kayaks out for a spin, which is unexpectedly exciting; we navigate mini-rapids and rocks on our quest to reach the ocean. Soaked and happy, we coast into open water just in time to watch an amazing sunset – accompanied by a flock of dotterels. Getting back proves to be more challenging, but we make it home safely with the last glimmer of daylight. Hiking and kayaking make for a sound sleep, and it feels like moments later when we wake up the next day. 

Today we’re anticipating a spot of eco-luxury. Indigo Bush Studios is only a few minutes from Coromandel Town, but it’s tucked away off the road with eucalyptus and native trees ensuring privacy. The Upper Studio is an artistic haven: the elegant Asian décor is inspired by owner Robyn Lewis’s many travels. Robyn built Indigo Bush Studios seven years ago with the attention to detail of a true artist – from her own carefully positioned sculptures to the incredible clay floor, which she hand-polished with a rock before sealing the surface with oil and wax. Robyn is known for her pottery, sculptures, textiles and jewellery, which are all on display at local artist collective shop The Source – and Indigo is clearly an extension of her love for symmetry and shape. 

After exclaiming over the exposed piping, giant pebble-floored shower and deciding we want to steal all Robyn’s décor ideas for our future house, we rejoice in the discovery of an outdoor bath. Aching muscles are soothed and our eyes are treated to the flicker of candlelight.

Indigo is romantic, comfortable and authentic. As a neighbor tells us, Robyn “doesn’t just believe in being ‘eco’, she lives it herself – it’s her way of being”.

We leave the Coromandel Peninsula deciding that this type of getaway is also our way of being. Simple, uncluttered and beautiful in a truly New Zealand way, our eco-holiday refreshed body and soul. 

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