Coromandel: Head for the hills

By Alexia Santamaria

Rural Coromandel was so much fun Alexia Santamaria's kids want a return trip — immediately.

Within an instant of arriving at a Coromandel farm holiday, city kids are having fun. Photo / Supplied
Within an instant of arriving at a Coromandel farm holiday, city kids are having fun. Photo / Supplied

This is the best place in the world!" screamed the excited six-year-old upon discovering the enormous inflatable "jumping pillow" at the holiday park. The in-ground trampoline on steroids easily accommodates six bouncing adults or probably double the number of kids. It's the little things.

Add to this a heated pool and pedal cars and our stay in Coromandel Town was off to a rip-roaring start as far as the small people were concerned. And let's face it, if they're happy, we're all happy.

The Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park is perfect for young families. It's extremely clean and well looked after and the location, so close to shops and restaurants, is perfect.

All bounced and swum out, we finally retired to bed so we could rise and shine early for our trip to Driving Creek Railway the next day. Driving Creek is a narrow-gauge train ride through replanted native kauri forest climbing up to the mountain-top terminus where you get out and take in the amazing view before descending again.

The train was originally designed by Barry Brickell, the potter who owns the land, so he could get access to clay for his works (and pine for kiln fuel) so there are pottery and sculptures dotted the whole way up. It's exciting for young trainspotters like ours and stimulating for adults as Brickell is renowned for his talent. It's a bit like a gallery on wheels. It's amazing to think that something not designed as a tourist attraction now carries up to 500 visitors a day.

After our train ride we thought it would be rude not to sample the local delicacy and Coromandel Mussel Kitchen turned out to be the best possible location for it. A great restaurant with mussels done every way, it had excellent food and lots of space for the kids to run around. We devoured the mixed platter and the chowder and would like to sample more of the menu next time.

Just up the road from Coromandel Mussel Kitchen is the 309 Rd. We had heard it was worth driving a couple of kilometres up to see Stu's Wild Pigs. This is not an official tourist attraction but rather a mad roadside collection of more than 50 wild pigs who hang out with their owner, Stu.

The kids loved the six-day-old piglet and Stu is a character. We didn't have food with us but Stu warned that if we did we would have had to be careful. These piggies aren't shy! Apparently, busloads of tourists even stop now to have a gawk. You have to see it to believe it - New Zealand rural randomness.

After mooching around Coromandel, the boys getting an icecream fix at Caelyx's and me poking around in an Aladdin's cave of a bead and jewellery shop, we headed 25 minutes around the beautiful coastline to Colville, where we checked into Colville Farm Holidays, a 1260ha sheep and cattle farm. This was heaven for city kids and we had a magical evening with no phones, TV or iPads - and lots of country air.

The next morning, one of the owners, the lovely Ngaire, took us to feed the chooks, goats, sheep and pigs.

Our kids were fascinated by the freshly laid eggs and the bright yellow yolks when we scrambled them later on. After breakfast we went for a half-hour horse trek with Ngaire's daughter, Belinda. Our 6-year-old didn't like the idea particularly, but our 3-year-old rode for 30 minutes like a born cowboy with Belinda leading him and me riding alongside.

If we hadn't had the kids, there were plenty of other options for one- or two-hour treks around the farm and down to the beach.

We were all feeling sad to depart our country paradise but checked out and headed to Colville.

Considering it has only a general store, a cafe, a tennis court and one shop, Colville kept us entertained; only a city girl can go to a tiny town like that and still give the credit card a bashing. The one store happens to have lovely clothes and accessories from India at very reasonable prices.

After a bite at the cafe, we bought ice blocks at the general store and went up the road to the mudflats to eat them. Lovely views and great poking around for the little men.

"I'm going to miss that farm and that big bouncy pillow," came a sad voice from the back as we drove home.

"I hope we come back."

Guess we'll have to, if it's the best place on earth.


Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park, 636-732 Rings Rd, Coromandel Town, Ph: (07) 866 8830.

Driving Creek Railway, 380 Driving Creek Rd, Coromandel, Ph: (07) 866 8703.

Coromandel Mussel Kitchen, corner of SH25 (Manaia Rd) and 309 Rd Coromandel, Ph: (07) 866 7245.

Wild Pigs on the 309, just drive up the 309 Rd past Mussel Kitchen for2-3km. You can't miss it on the left. Just look for the pigs.

Colville Farm Holidays/White Star Station, 2140 Colville Rd, RD4, Coromandel, Ph: (07) 866 6820.

Alexia Santamaria was hosted by Tourism Coromandel.

- NZ Herald

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