A place I love: Wilhelmina Shrimpton’s Coromandel escape

Matarangi beach on the coromandel in the north island of new zealand

Radio host Wilhelmina Shrimpton’s happy place is a beautiful white sand Coromandel beach where she reconnects with a special group of friends.

Where in New Zealand holds a special place in your heart?

Definitely Matarangi. It’s a place that has become special to me in the past few years because of my lovely friend, Cass Kenworthy. She has a wonderful family bach in Matarangi and her parents are happy for her to invite people around. So we have a group of close friends who go to the bach and hang out with Cass and her family for a couple of days. We’ve been there about five or six times in the last couple of years. We were there at New Year – we had fish ’n’ chips and champagne on the beach to bring in 2022. It’s the most stunningly beautiful place. The sand is so white, the water is crystal clear and the waves aren’t too big.

How good is it reconnecting with friends after the lockdowns?

It was actually one of the first places we went after the very first lockdown in 2020. I think it was June, it was a winter break and it was the first time we were allowed to leave Auckland. It was amazing. It’s great when you go out for lunch or go for a walk with your friends, but spending an extended period of time together definitely brings you all so much closer and we had missed each other. You come away and you’ve got all your hilarious anecdotes and jokes from the weekend. It reminds me of summer holidays when I was a teenager. Last time we were there, Cass’s dad turned to me and my husband Mike and said, “You guys are part of the family now.”

What do you do while you’re there?

It’s so good to get out in nature. We get up and go for walks. There’s a lookout trail that we try to do every time we go there. You walk along the beach and there’s a big hill at one end. We clamber to the top and enjoy the best view of the whole beach. It’s incredible. There’s also a tradition – the five o’clock swim, regardless of what the weather is doing. Everyone is supposed to do it – it’s a condition of coming to stay. I have to admit that I have chickened out a couple of times because it’s been freezing, but most people do jump in.

What’s the journey to get there like?

It’s a three-hour drive from Auckland. You get to Thames and then you take that windy coastal road. It’s a bit of a mission because you’ve got all these twists and turns and I’m not very good in the car – I get very carsick. But as soon as we arrive, it’s completely worth it.

What would you recommend to first-time visitors?

Go to Luke’s Kitchen, which is an absolute institution. It’s just over in Kūaotunu, and they do the best pizzas. You can get delicious ice creams at the shop next door too. The other thing I want to do is go to the Mercury Islands. It’s about an hour’s boat trip away from Matarangi. I’ve seen photos and it looks stunning. I will definitely be nudging my friends to go next time. It’s very weather- dependent and was just way too windy at New Year.

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