The Month we Lived by the Sea
Our second month living in New Zealand was spent by the sea. This my friends was paradise! I never knew just how much I loved the ocean until we spend a month living a stones throw away. We had spent the last month living in the largest city in New Zealand with a population of approx. 1,695,900 to the small town of Cooks Beach located in the Coromandel Peninsula with a population of less than 1,000 (we think this is just on Holidays really its probably closer to around 100 people regularly). It really was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city and such a great place for us to regroup, reenergize, and rework our travel plan. Our time in Auckland was spend exploring the city, adjusting to this new travel life of ours, and trying to continue working on architectural projects while traveling. However we soon found this to be a lot more difficult then we expected and we lost a really big client which put a big kink in our plans. Cooks Beach was exactly what we needed, it gave us the mental break we needed to truly think about our new life and future plans as well as time to truly enjoy our location and each other.
We also used this time to fine tune our homeschooling techniques with Gabriela. We were able to come up with some cleaver ways to encourage her to want to do her lessons and to make teaching while traveling work for us. As well as using this time to focus on some non-architectural projects we had been wanting to work on for a while but hadn’t had the time. I’m so proud to say that Sean finalized his sketches here in Cooks Beach for his first children’s book Mireya & Gaby: Journey to Azmatsa, which he has now finalized and published. You can get yours here. We are so very proud of him and want everyone to go check out his book. He not only wrote the story, he illustrated, and published it himself. Words can not express how proud we all are of him. We think his story is not only clever and creative but also kind and inspiring. It’s based on characters we gave our children long ago. Mireya has always been my little monkey and when Gaby was a baby she reminded us of a little owl with her big eyes. The illustrations are beautifully drawn and have a different flare then most children’s books. It really is a great read and a good way to encourage creative thinking and imagination.
We spent the majority of our time in Cooks Beach outside; walking on the beach, having adventures on the water, hiking up beautiful mountains and native bush. We also did a fair bit of wine drinking here on the patio all while learning all about the history and people of New Zealand with our amazing airbnb host- John, who turned out to be the first real friend we made here. We feel very lucky that we happened to pick his airbnb and that we had such a long time there with him being not only our host but also our neighbor. It really allowed us all time to get to know one another and build that bond. He also took us on quite a few adventures while in Cooks Beach including Gabriela’s first kayaking trip, a boat ride, and our first snorkeling experience in New Zealand. We had so much fun hanging out with John and we look forward to continuing our friendship with him for many years to come.
One of our favorite things to do while in Cooks Beach was walk along the beach. It was like having our own private beach most days as the majority of the homes there are summer/vacation homes so roughly 70-90% of them were empty, which in some ways seems like such a waste but then again if they were occupied it would have been such a different experience. We had a tiny taste of what it might be like during Holidays over Labour Day weekend. We saw lots more people, more traffic, and lots more noise. Nothing intolerable at all but definitely a different vibe during the holiday. Would I recommend going during a Holiday? YES! It’s that beautiful and magical that it really doesn’t matter when you go. Even during a Holiday it wasn’t anymore packed then other more popular tourist places so you really can’t go wrong. I guess it just really boils down to what you prefer, super chill and empty or party time? I am glad we got to see it both ways. Personally I prefer it better when its not busy but I think the fact that it does get busy probably helps keep it interesting in some ways.
Adjusting to life in a small town. At the time of our stay in Oct-Sept 2018 the town center only had one dairy (this is what they call grocery stores in NZ), two restaurants, a liquor store, a realtor, and a store for tools and fishing etc. This was something we had to really adjust to in the beginning of our time in Cooks Beach. The dairy and the restaurants close early or have strange hours so we learned to stock up. We also learned that it was more economical to drive to the town of Whitianga to get grocery, wine, and go out to eat then it was to go to the town center. Not only did it save us a ton of money it also gave us much more variety when it came to food both to cook at home and eating out. We are working on a list of our top restaurants and activities and hope to have those done for you guys soon.
We advise stocking up on things in Whitianga instead of paying 3x more for things from the dairy. As well as driving to Cathedral Cove, Whitianga, or Hot Water Beach to grab a bite as the restaurants that are in Cooks Beach are very pricey and the service isn’t the best. One thing to keep in mind if doing this is the amount of room you have to store your food, we had a very small fridge which in reality was perfect for a weeks worth of groceries but it like many other things on our travels was much smaller then we were accustomed to in the states. Luckily we thought about this and guessed that it was roughly the size of two grocery baskets and limited ourselves to that which turned out to be about a weeks worth of groceries. This was great because we rarely had food go bad and it keep us in our budget.
Time sort of seemed to slow down in Cooks Beach, we learned to appreciate things a little more, to prepare a little better, to be flexible when it comes to our plans, and that it really doesn’t take much to be happy.
The following is a list of some of our favorite things we did while in Cooks Beach
- Learning about the history of New Zealand while having wine with our new friends John and Tony (who we called Tiny for about two weeks because we thought he said Tiny but it was just the difference in the way Kiwis pronounce o and i. hahaha)
- Hiking up to Shakespeare Cliff Scenic and Historic Reserve then hiking down into Lonely Bay
- Cathedral Cove which was just a short drive from our airbnb – we enjoyed this so much we did it several times
- Hot Water Beach – wish we had done this more
- Stay up late and admire and wish on shooting stars
- Kayak along the Purangi
- Enjoy a boat ride on Mercury Bay
- Take the Ferry over to Whitianga
- Having our first date in New Zealand
- Visited our first New Zealand vineyard
We will be writing post about all of these places very soon so be on the lookout for those.
Overall Cooks Beach has been our favorite location on the North Island and we really do want to return someday. This place really is special and it seriously might be one of our favorite places in the world but we still have a lot of the world to see so we will see. I have a feeling that no matter where we go it always will be. Maybe it was because it was the first place where we made a friend and got to really experience that Kiwi hospitality you always here about, maybe it was because of the billions of stars we saw that sparked red, white, and blue (colors of the not only the US flag but also the New Zealand flag if you didn’t know), or maybe it because this place really is magical.