As a child of the Central North Island I can't think of a better place to be than the Bay of Plenty.

When I suddenly found myself an Aucklander at 16, after taking up a scholarship at King's College, I quickly realised that I had a lot to learn.

As a provincial kid (or a "country kid" as they quaintly dubbed us at King's - even though I was from a city with a population of 60,000) my move to the Big Smoke for the purposes of education turned out to be an education in itself.

Parties were no longer just a group of teenagers listening to music in someone's parents' garage, they now had security guards and guest lists and DJs.

There were whole malls filled with shops, rather than a few streets boasting Pagani, Glassons and Just Jeans.


Hoodies were definitely not cool.

Going to the movies was a significantly more expensive exercise.

And I was introduced to the great Auckland tradition of the weekend away.

For the first time in my life, I had friends whose families had holiday homes in places like Pauanui. Towns in the Coromandel that I'd never heard of or been to.

Come to think of it, I've still never been to Pauanui, but over the decade or so since I first arrived as a provincial import to our great urban jungle, I've made the obligatory trek to the Coromandel Peninsula a few times.

This weekend - the highly anticipated opener of the long weekend season - will no doubt involve a mass departure of the city slickers, as we all stagger exhaustedly into the first decent break since early June.

Many of us will pile into our cars to engage in our favourite futile game of "beating the traffic", clogging the motorways from 2pm on Friday until noon on Saturday in an attempt to crawl to the Coromandel.

I know this will be controversial, but I really don't understand the obsession with the Aucklanders' peninsula playground.

The landscape is beautiful, granted, and many Auckland families have been holidaying there for generations, but add in the revolting traffic and the fact that you're leaving Auckland to spend the weekend with more Aucklanders and the destination starts to become rather unappealing.

The smell of summer was in the salty air and I felt a hankering for long sunny days at the beach, walks around the Mount, ice creams slurped along the boardwalk.


I've often sat at the roundabout leading to the Coromandel turn-off, stranded behind a fleet of irritated Audis and Porsches, waiting for the bulk of the weekend wanderers to turn left so I can continue on my merry way to the sunny Bay of Plenty.

As anyone who has made the trip down State Highway 2 will know, once you've cleared the Coromandel roundabout and parted ways with two thirds of the traffic, it's a relatively easy journey.

I'll declare my bias openly. Full disclosure: I'm a born-and-bred Rotorua ambassador who spent her summers holidaying in Mt Maunganui.

I dug for pipi and tuatua at Mt Maunganui beach, went on school trips to Maketu and spent New Year's Eve with friends in Ohope.

I learnt to kayak on Lake Okareka. I was lucky enough to have the glorious summers of a middle North Island child, and even now as an adult, I can't think of a place I'd rather be.

I was in Tauranga recently, performing the last show of my tour, and I felt a thrill of anticipation as I drove into the city.

The smell of summer was in the salty air and I felt a hankering for long sunny days at the beach, walks around the Mount, ice creams slurped along the boardwalk, and the warm, welcoming Bay of Plenty spirit.

I visited Whakatane on that same tour and was reminded of just how friendly small-town Kiwis are.

I'd forgotten what a joy it is to have a conversation with strangers during which no one mentions traffic, the "entitlement" of millennials trying to clamber on to the (eye-wateringly high) bottom rung of the property ladder or the Real Housewives of Auckland.

Auckland-bashing is something of a guilty pleasure outside of the 09 - a juicy, low-hanging fruit on the tree of national conversation - and it's certainly not my intention to fuel the fire of anti-Auckland sentiment, but leaving our urban paradise every now and then to reconnect with fellow New Zealanders can be a refreshing experience.

What strikes me the most, however, is that from Tauranga, Rotorua, and Whakatane to Papamoa, Opotiki and the many lesser-known gems dotted around the Bay, there's a geographical smorgasbord of things to do and see.

In my humble opinion, the Coromandel simply can't compete.

There's mountain biking in the Whakarewarewa forest for every weekend warrior who needs a break from terrorising the cars on Tamaki Drive, breathtaking treks through Te Urewera for the intrepid, world-class spa treatments for the overworked, Maori art and culture, waterfalls, a smouldering volcano, lakes for every day of the week, glistening white sand, sun and surf at any beach of your choice, and a Maketu pie to keep you going on the drive back to Auckland.

What more could you possibly want?

Coromandel, eat your heart out.