I’ve lived in New Zealand all my life. Until last week, I knew of Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula in name only, not as an experience.
Hot Water Beach has become part of the tourist route and judging by the number of young people in there at 8.00am, it is a huge attraction.
To get maximum enjoyment from visiting the beach you need to be there from one hour before low tide to one after low tide – a daily window of two hours. Having decided that it was a must for our Scottish visitors we found out the tide times on our chosen day and left that morning before breakfast. Hot Water Beach is about 20 minutes drive from where we were staying in Flaxhill Bay. With a 21 month old and four year old in the mix, getting out of the house early was no easy feat!
By the time we arrived the parking lot was close to full. There were people of all ages – but mostly young adults predominantly German and French speaking. First task was to hire a spade from the local kiosk – $5 hireage with a $20 deposit. Then we made the short trek toward the hot water spot crossing the stream pictured in my previous blog ‘Ocean’.
When we arrived at the spot there were already people lying in their hot water pools and many others at work digging their own pools. No-one was telling you what to do, how to do it or where. You had to burrow your toes into the sand to find a hot spot in which to create your pool and then dig.
Our efforts in the beginning were fruitless to say the least. No sooner than a trench was begun and sand with moved to one side, a wave would come in and wash our shallow hole away. It was comforting to see that we weren’t the only ones having excavation efforts drowned. So we left the men to their labour and thinking sneaky thoughts put another plan into action.
We lurked around the edges of the main section of pools, encouraging the children to dip their toes in. In truth, they didn’t need encouragement. As good child minders we had to keep a close eye on them didn’t we? It wasn’t long before our prey left the pool – and we took over! We beckoned the men “Hey, come and see what we’ve got” and with a bit more strategic digging we managed to enlarge our pool so that we could all fit in.
The water is not just hot, it’s scalding hot. Hot water bubbles up through the sand and you have to cool it down with buckets of cold water (hence the bucket in the picture). You cannot lie in the pool for too long for fear of burning. We were extremely hospitable with our pool – we could afford to be – it wasn’t long before we were inviting other people to join us to see what all the fuss was about.
Feeling a little hot from the heat of the sun and the heat of the pools I ran down and had a swim in the bay. To spite the name Hot Water Beach, the water in the bay isn’t hot. It does have warm spots though where the hot water is bubbling up from the seabed. It felt wonderfully luxurious … even getting changed back into dry clothes on shore wasn’t a problem. It was as if we were all in a mixed sauna with no need to feel embarrassed. (I confess to changing behind a rock giving me a just a touch of privacy.)
As we departed, the two-hour window being over, people were still arriving. The tide was on the rise and pools closer to the shoreline were disappearing fast. We shook our heads, it was such a shame they were going to miss out.
It had been great fun for all of us with a heart-warming community feel about it. I really really loved it – I was like a pig in clover!