Ensemble co-founder Rebecca Wadey has spent every summer of her life in the Hauraki-Coromandel, a region she calls her favourite place on earth.
“My favourite time to visit is in winter when there’s no one around and the water is so clear you can see your chipped toenail polish moving over rippled sand patterns as you swim. My least favourite time is in high summer, but I’ll be very grateful to be there this year despite the swelling crowds.”
Ensemble acknowledges the need to be mindful of travelling this summer, particularly to places with low vaccination rates. However thanks to the mammoth mahi of Māori health provider Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki, vaccination rates in the region are on the rise, and we hope most locals do not follow the example of the Thames Coromandel mayor who is vocally unvaccinated.
Small towns in the Hauraki-Coromandel, like many vaguely off-grid communities around the motu, are partly populated by those who have chosen to live away from what they see as government intervention.
With that said, we’ve tried to vet the below to promote only those businesses we know are abiding by government mandates around vaccine passports. As always, practice excellent hygiene, wear a face mask and scan in using your Covid tracing app.
What’s so great about where you visit?
My parents bought land in Ōpito Bay in 1976, the year I was born. They've since sold it but we are loathe to ever go anywhere else for a Kiwi summer, and so far we never have. Last year we even relocated there for six months and the kids went to a local area school. It was a completely transformative time, even without the lockdowns.
My husband, children and I love everything about it; ocean swims all year ‘round, living off tank water, the pet octopus we fed live crabs to in a rock pool every day for two months last year, the friendly shark we accidentally fed bait to every day for a week earlier this year as he visited our fishing rock, and local Ngāti Hei, led by kaumātua Joe Davis who works tirelessly to protect resources such as fisheries (his work in this area has resulted in a two year rāhui on scallops being implemented) and the preservation of native forest against kauri dieback.
It’s an incredibly special place to me, but this summer we’ve pre-loaded the bach with food, and won’t be exploring as widely as we have in previous years.
Where do you get your morning coffee - and what’s your order?
Kua Kawhe, in nearby Kūaotunu. It’s a little drive for us to this cafe, but it’s an incredibly scenic one. Located next door to famed pizza joint Luke’s Kitchen, and originally also owned by Luke, Kua Kawhe was bought three years ago by the German-born manager, Lisa, and is now proudly part of The Realness network of independently owned cafes.
I get an oat milk flat white. The coffee is unbelievably good; it’s Coffee LaLa, roasted only 1km away from the cafe, and my husband is so addicted he now gets it delivered to us in Auckland each month. Very important to note - on a Sunday they make doughnuts. Get in quick as competition can be fierce and hearts are easily broken.
Where do you go when you’re after local art or design?
Kua Kawhe also serves as somewhat of a gallery space for local artists whose work adorn the walls and are available to purchase. In the past couple of years it’s also started stocking an amazing array of local suppliers from ceramics to hot sauce and you’ll often find fresh walnuts, salad greens and the occasional locally grown avocado, which are much appreciated given the lack of grocery stores in the area. We love curling up beside the fire in winter, but are just as happy sitting outside in summer looking out to the Kūaotunu reserve watching children bomb off the bridge.
Best reminder of home?
I know, you likely go on holiday to leave the pretensions of the big city behind, so who wants to be reminded of them with sourdough? But Bread Mobile’s sourdough (particularly the seeded loaf) is brilliant so you will be forgiven.
Based in Whitianga she delivers to several places around the peninsula and even does home delivery for those in her area. Delicious bread and butter with freshly caught fish, lightly pan fried with some parsley and lemon. Yum.
Brunch on a Sunday: where would we find you?
Wharf Road, Coromandel is so good that my carnivorous husband didn’t even notice it was vegetarian until he tried to order a side of bacon after we’d been there half a dozen times. It’s a favourite of my kids (the Turkish eggs snob rates them above Peter Gordon’s), has a dog friendly courtyard next to a great vintage store, and is home to one of the best things I’ve eaten this year. When we feel sad about driving home after a weekend away, brunch here on the way out goes a little way towards easing the pain.
Ninety Seven Smoothie Bowls - delicious smoothies and smoothie bowls served out of an old caravan in Whitianga (currently parked in the garden at Hammer Hardware). Extra points for having reality star, former Heartbreak Island contestant and local icon Ella Kington on the tools (tools being Vitamix).
Favourite place for live music?
Eggsentric in Flaxmill Bay is part live music venue, part gallery space, part cafe. This wonderful venue is only open through extended summer months and well worth a visit. We were gutted not to see Lawrence Arabia play here at the very beginning of the pandemic last year but hope to take our boys there for live music at some stage.
Until then, we will continue to visit for fresh fruit ice creams as a post-hike reward for the kids after visiting Shakespeare Point, surely one of the prettiest, family friendly walks in the region.
For something fancy?
We don’t often need ‘fancy’ when we’re on holiday but when we lived in the area last year the incredible Asian fusion restaurant Blue Ginger in Whitianga satisfied all our wedding anniversary and birthday dinners.
Where do you go for a workout?
There’s been a great yoga scene in Kūaotunu in previous years. A little further away I can highly vouch for Steph at Yoga Whitianga.
Of course, all that said there are so many incredible walks (the Ōtama headlands, the Rings Beach wetlands loop, New Chums, Shakespeare Point, to name but a few) and swimming, surfing and paddleboarding workouts are generally pretty organic and free range. There’s nothing I love more than exploring bush, beach and slippery unstable rocks. I’m famed by family and friends for under-selling adventures; people hold little trust in my ‘short walks’.
The place you’re keen to visit?
Gather and Roam. Disclaimer: I’ve not yet visited the Whangamatā-based food truck run by Simon Wright and Creghan Molloy-Wright formerly of The French Cafe fame. But I’ve drooled over their menu, featuring everything from crisp fresh salad bowls through to burgers and ice cream sandwiches, and I’m pretty sure when I get close to Whangamatā I am certainly going to want to spend all my time and money there.