The “counter-culture” town is entirely self-governing through the Cooperative Society Ltd. The Colville General Store is the town’s main supplier. Make sure you fill up your tank here since this is the last gas station before heading north up the peninsula.
The store offers primarily organically grown fruit and vegetables, muesli and dried fruits, as well as homemade wine and jam. But even in this remote region, reality encroaches upon the visitor. The people of Colville are struggling to save Coromandel from destruction. What once occupied a small number of adventurers, is, should the New Zealand government have its way, soon to be transformed into the business of international mining companies.
The plan is to mine the remaining gold in large quantities by way of modern technology, which would destroy as much as 70 percent of the surrounding countryside through open-pit mining, the most ecologically devastating form of mining. Until now, it has been possible to have these plans stalled, due to continuing citizen protest and court cases against the government’s decision.
Deserted Beaches at a Sacred Mountain
The continuing journey becomes a very dusty matter. From here on there are gravel roads all the way to Colville Bay. At the end of Colville Bay, there is a turnoff leading to Cape Colville. This road runs along Mount Moehau, regarded as sacred by the Maoris. According to Maori legends, Tamatekapua, captain of the Arawa canoe, is buried near here. If you want to trace Tamatekapua’s footsteps, you can tackle the climb to the top from Te Hope Stream (Port Jackson Road) or from Stony Bay, on the east coast. Both take approximately four hours. Port Jackson and Colville Farm Park are situated in an extensive bay (with a nice camping ground). Many New Zealanders regard this as Coromandel’s finest beach. However, the excursion to the bay is a 26 kilometer singletrack road. Make sure you obey the street signs marked No Exit! The road ends at Fletcher Bay.
There is nothing of great interest on the journey from Port Jackson to Fletcher, unless you want to tackle the three-hour hike to Stony Bay, where you have to wait for a farmer to give you a lift back towards Waikawau Bay. There is no public transportation here.
To approach the bay and the Farm Park by car, head towards Colville on the way back.
Stony Bay’s high waves and excellent wind conditions make it primarily popular among surfers. For those preferring something more peaceful and less exposed to wind, Little Beach at Kennedy Bay is an alternative. There is a group of summer houses here. The best views of the entire coastal region can be had from the nearby Lucas Lookout.
From this point on, the road turns uphill into the mountains. Abandoned mines situated at the foot of Mount Tokatea (480 m) bear witness to the gold rush days. Even back then, the gold diggers who looked up from their work in the mountains could enjoy a rare sight: From the pass, it is possible to see the west coast and east coast at the same time.
From here, the road makes its way back downhill towards Coromandel. On the way, however, it is worth paying a visit to artist Barry Brickell’s one-kilometer long miniature railway running through the green wooded area. Barry escorts groups of tourists on the 30-minute trip through the forest at 5:05 p.m. every day. At the end of the trip, visitors can have a look at some examples of Barry’s pottery exhibited both in the house and around the yard. Barry also runs an “international Academy of Art,” reminiscent of the hippy era. The whole place has a certain charming chaotic flair about it, and isn’t far from Coromandel.
On any trip through New Zealand you will often meet people like Barry Brickell. This type of New Zealander makes an impression on the tourist in the way that they don’t live off the land, but live with the land. They have managed to realize their dreams by developing an individual lifestyle.
After a trip to the “wilderness,” there’s is probably no better place to have the typical British 5 o’clock tea than on the terrace of the Firlawn House in Coromandel. Built in 1881, it had its heyday during the Victorian era. At that time, large numbers of Aucklander arrived by steam ship across the Hauraki Gulf. During the gold rush and kauri boom, they certainly knew how to let their hair down at the notorious Coromandel parties. But things have changed. Even during the summer months, Coromandel’s population never exceeds 4000 – and the pace here is always slow.