Our first trip to the Coromandel Peninsula was this month (April 2016) and stayed in a really nice bach in Tuateawa. It was a few hours drive from Auckland and we had to cross over the new Kopu Bridge just before we reached the town of Thames, where we stopped to have lunch.
The first thing we noticed about Kopu bridge was the Pou standing guard, it almost makes driving over the bridge quite eerie and spiritual. The amazing cultural design features of this bridge include 10 Pou, waka etching, water etching and design on handrails and concrete barriers, Patiki etching and Ureia (Taniwha) bridge Pepeha.
According to Maori folklore, Ureia was the taniwha who lived in Tīkapa (the Firth of Thames). Accounts differ as to the form Ureia took, some say he was a fish, others say a school of fish. Either way, Ureia was a powerful symbol of the fertility and mana of the Hauraki region. Ureia was killed at Pūponga, by the Manukau Harbour. There is a carving of him located inside the Hotunui meeting house, which once stood at Thames and is now inside the Auckland Museum, if you wish to see it.
After having lunch at a little cafe just past Thames, we continued on our way, winding up the hills, though the valleys and every now and then, catching a glimpse of the mussel farms out in the Firth of Thames.
We finally arrived in Tuateawa and the view from the bach that we were staying in was utterly amazing! We were surrounded by forest with a spectacular view out over the Hauraki Gulf.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see any whales during our stay, but waking up to this view every morning was well worth the long drive!