Late summer, a meeting in Tauranga – why not make the most of it, and turn it into a road trip to show my girlfriend Liz a bit more this amazing country. I checked the map – there are two main routes to Tauranga (though there are probably hundreds more diversions if you want them!). The main route on Google maps takes you via Matamata. The BEST route is to go through Waihi – snuggling up under the Coromandel Ranges all the way to the coast.
Plotting the Route Auckland to Tauranga
There is no difference in the hours estimated on Google maps, and the distance via Waihi is a few kilometers shorter – so it should be the preferred option, but what do Google Maps know!!
My road trips resolve around food, and our first stop is Ngatea and The Copper Kettle Tearooms. While you can get a very fine espresso here, that is not what this stop is about. This is a traditional tea rooms, with traditional food – like grandma use to make.
The only slight difference is there is a rainbow flag flying outside – gay owners Terry and Dennis have proudly owned what began life as Montgomeries Bakery, for over 18 years. If you want to linger you can explore Wilderness Gems Ltd and the Ngatea Water Gardens.
Next stop is Paeroa, not only the home of Lemon and Paeroa, but fantastic Antiques and Collectables shops – Liz is in heaven – spots an antique traditional South American ceremonial dress that she longs to buy, but at $350,000 budget restraints win over. We settle for a 20¢ tartan child’s dress (plans to enter a wearable arts event with a tartan focus) We could have spent all day browsing – or rather she could have, but Liz manages to tear herself away.
Karangahake Gorge awaits
This beautiful river Gorge winds through steep wooded country – is an absolute must for a stop. Liz has packed a flask of tea and some nibbles. There is a car park with lots of cars, but it is not hard to find a quiet spot by the river – we rock hop and find a comfortable one to sit on and share out tea.
Liz wonders if she could still do the trick required in Girl Guides of cooking 4 eggs and sausages in the middle of the river with just three matches. I am not sure she can, she drops her glasses in and struggles to recover them.
Mt Tutu Eco Retreat
For accommodation in Tauranga, I did not have any one in my Women Travel NZ network, so my next preferred search took me to the Organic Explorer network. We choose the Mount Tutu eco sanctuary and B&B.
Set in a beautiful native reserve, lovely gardens, a tennis court, lots of sunny spots to sit, a waterfall, heritage sheep, this is a lovely setting. While the rooms are a bit small, the setting beguiles and the night time walk to look at glowworms in the bush is fantastic.
There was home made cake to welcome us, and the ‘Short Sisters’ entertained us with some popular classics in tight sisterly harmony.
Matatoki Cheese Shop, Thames
On our way home, we headed off on hwy 26 towards Thames and stopped at the Matatoki Cheese shop. They sell FANTASTIC cheese, and also they are a café specializing in gorgeous cheese platters. We are full from the café at Karangahake Gorge, so we just buy some lovely cheeses to take home.