It is a short 540 km from Auckland to Tāne's Rest but a long way from the congestion of Auckland to the wide open spaces of Tolaga Bay where on a fine day the sky is blue and the sea is bluer. Along the way the trip is a kaleidoscopic tour of the eastern North Island.
Beginning in the urban landscape of Auckland, perched on an isthmus between two beautiful harbours and built on a field of over 50 different volcanoes our journey starts in a unique location. Traveling south the motorways quickly have us over the Bombay Hills and into the broad expanses of the northern Waikato basin.
To avoid the traffic congestion of holidaymakers rushing to the Coromandel Peninsula we head south to Ohinewai before turning east to Tahuna, a detour that takes us along the Waikato River flowing to the sea from Lake Taupo, then we skirt around the southern shore of Lake Waikare, one in a necklace of lakes spread across this landscape.
From Matamata we head further east to climb the Kaimai Range with spectacular views back across the Waikato before crossing into the Bay of Plenty and descending into Tauranga, another city built on the shores of a large harbour. The journey south from Tauranga is quickened by the new expressway and we quickly pass through the gentle landscape and the kiwifruit capital of the world around Te Puke.
At Pukehina, the road drops suddenly to the coast and the drive to Matata is alongside beautiful sandy beaches under arching pohutukawa trees clinging to the coastal cliffs, a tantalising taste of what much of the coast may once have looked like. On a clear day we can see White Island and its steaming volcanic crater on the horizon.
Matata is halfway.
It is also the beginning of the eastern Bay of Plenty, an area of bounty that was one of the first settled after humans arrived in Aotearoa. Here we turn inland to bypass Whakatane by heading through Edgecumbe to Taneatua, the gateway to the Urewera and its national park.
The Waimana George is stunning with its native forest and rushing waters of the Waimana River on its way to join the Whakatane River. Rounding the Ohiwa Harbour we see the southernmost extent of mangroves growing as a stunted dwarf forest on the mudflats, a far cry from their five metre tall brothers in Auckland.
From Opotiki the road climbs the long and winding path of the Waioeka Gorge, which isn't a gorge at all but nevertheless has spectacular rugged scenery with impossibly steep country clothed in native forest. At the top of the gorge is Matawai and the beginning of the Gisborne District. We are looking forward to seeing this area blanketed in snow on one of our winter trips to the East Cape.
From here the road begins the long descent towards Poverty Bay through some beautiful and big rolling hill county. The Poverty Bay alluvial flats are a sign that Gisborne is close from where it is only 65km to Tane's Rest.
The drive from Gisborne northwards along SH35 passes Wainui Beach, one of New Zealand's best surf beaches. Leaving the city behind for the last time the road visits a string of glorious beaches one after another where you can swim, surf, collect shellfish and even feed stingrays all from the roadside.
Turning inland the road follows coastal valleys through big hill country stations and climbs over the hills between them before arriving in Tolaga Bay with its huge river flats and the village as an outpost of civilisation.
Mangatuna is a quick 12km drive north towards Tokomaru Bay where Tane's Rest is cradled in the first folds of the East Coast hill country on the inland edge of the flats and where it is seven hours since we left Auckland.
This blog is the ongoing story of our piece of paradise on the East Cape we have named Tāne's Rest. Visit our About pages to read more about our project, and feel free to leave a comment on any of our posts.
Uawa County existed for 45 years from 1 December 1918 to 1 April 1964 before merging with Cook County. Click on the map to download a copy.