Our North Island New Zealand tour was definitely influenced by the weather (see Ride Your Own Ride). Another factor we considered was how to get back into Auckland without spending a day navigating through the city.
We came up with the plan to end our tour in Coromandel and take the ferry back into Auckland. This brilliant plan had us riding the Coromandel peninsula anti-clockwise, including a trek over the famous 309 Road.
The 309 is a mostly gravel road that extends from hwy 25 just south of Whitianga to hwy 25 just south of Coromandel. The route is fairly short, clocking in at 32 km from Whitianga to Coromandel, with a good 430 m of climbing, most of which is done in just over 10 km on a twisty gravel road. We were warned about the traffic on this route but we experienced very little.
The 309 takes you deep into the NZ bush.
There are lovely swimming holes along the way.
The top is obvious… even though there are no signs…downhill both directions. We had lunch at the top including Whittaker’s Dark Chocolate with Almonds, still not available in the US but our definite favorite!
What makes this road unique are the “attractions” on the west side. First stop an ancient Kauri Grove lookout walk. Kauri (Agathis australis) are some of the oldest trees on earth. They are the largest (by volume) tree in New Zealand. Pretty impressive. There are special shoe cleaning stations used before entering places where Kauri grow to help fight the Kauri die back disease.
After the Kauri grove there is the beautiful Waiau Falls just off the road. Next stop is the amazingly inventive the Waterworks Park. Using only the natural water pressure – the park is full of water based activities and an adult sized playground. There is something for everyone!
As you drop down towards the west coast the last stop is the “wild” pigs. JP was chased off by a momma pig- so we only managed one picture.
Riding the 309 is definitely worth the effort. The hill is manageable – sure beats all the traffic on hwy 25.
Enjoy the ride.