Saturday dawned cloudy and there had been showers in the night – it was that sort of weather. We were keen on a walk out to the lighthouse on Tutukaka Head – it’s on an island that is cut off at high tide. We got ourselves going reasonably early, packing our lunch and clothing for whatever sort of weather we might get. We headed back through Tutukaka, thinking it was probably a bit late for the walk but thinking we’d check it out anyway. Except we never found the road off to it, so ended up at the next bay – Matapouri Bay. This is a gem. A lovely big horseshoe shape sandy bay, backed by an estuary. The tourist guide said we could discover the Marmaid Pools at low tide but nothing said where these pools were. There was also mention of a walkway around the coast to Whale bay. Anyway, with the tide coming in we went for a walk around the bay. We waded to a small beach at the end and here found a sign saying it was 2 minutes away from the beach to Hole in the Rock and Mermaid Pools. The Hole in the Rock was actually a large crack down through the headland to the sea on the other side. Here there was cliffs and rock shelves and rock outcrops and lovely pools in the sea – presumably the Mermaid Pools. The water was calm and clear. A couple of divers were preparing to explore and a man and his three young children were swimming off the rocks. It would be a good place to have a wetsuit and snorkel. We went back to the beach through the hole in the rock and waded back to the main beach.
From the a track lead over the headland to the start of the walkway to Whale Bay. We didn’t have jackets or walking shoes but decided the weather might hold. It was calm but overcast and threatening to rain. The walk was over the cliffs through native vegetation inhabited by tuis. The walk was worth it for the views of the coast. Eventually our track met a much better track which lead down to Whale Bay. There is a much shorter option from a carpark on the main road. Whale Bay is a delight – a lovely sheltered sandy beach fringed by huge pohutukawa trees. It even has flash flush toilets – not bad for a remote beach. Obviously it gets very popular in summer. The guide says that Whale Bay is idyllic, and it is not wrong. We headed back the way we’d come along the top, and just beat the rain back to the car. We enjoyed a late lunch in the car with a cup of tea making a start on the Saturday Herald. We drove a bit further north to see Wooley’s Bay and Sandy Bay – at this point the road heads inland but we headed back to Ngunguru – we’d had the best of the day earlier on. Matapouri Bay and Whale Bay and the Mermaid Pools are gems – I might have to learn how to snorkel. We’ve seen lots of beaches over the last couple of months, but the Tutukaka Coast is right up there.