Monday, 25 April 2016

Whitianga and The Mercury Bay Museum - Work trip, fun trip

Bean Rock Lighthouse, Auckland
What better way to spend a glorious autumn day than to travel from Auckland to Coromandel by ferry?  I work as a tour guide at the National Maritime Museum of New Zealand and  was off on a work trip with a group of colleagues.  We had been invited as guests of the Mercury Bay Museum in Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula. Skimming across a flat azure sea under clear sunny skies, past verdant islands and contented fisherman lolling about on their boats the two hour trip sped by in a flash.  At Coromandel we were met by a bus which ferried us over the high ranges to the beautiful township of Whitianga.  It had been many years since I had been there camping with my family and I am pleased to say that although it has grown somewhat the town still retains its quiet, laid back charm.

A pristine boat skims the pristine sea off Waiheke Island

From the top of the Coromandel Ranges looking back towards Coromandel township
There's no doubt about it, small towns sure know how to make visitors welcome.  The enthusiastic volunteers and trustees of the Museum greeted us with afternoon tea, wine and loads of good conversation. Housed in a former dairy factory, the museum is impressive and although it covers many aspects of New Zealand life there was more than enough maritime history and information to keep us engrossed. Over two days we were treated to lectures on coastal trading, Captain Cook and the wreck of The Buffalo, which occurred just off the town's long golden sand beach now named Buffalo Beach. The ship still lies off shore and can be seen from the air, at times, lying in its sandy grave. I found all the lectures absorbing and valuable, it's always satisfying to learn new things and increase your knowledge.

Mercury Bay Museum

Excellent exhibits and good conversation

Mural on the exterior of the museum
This visit exceeded my expectations.  Our hosts were warm, hospitable and fun to be with.  Their information and knowledge helped broaden ours.  We have invited them to join us at our museum and look forward to hosting them sometime soon.
Nature paints a beautiful picture in Whitianga
As I have mentioned before, I love getting up early in the morning and going for a walk, especially when on a holiday.  It was no exception in Whitianga. I wandered along the beach and all around the sleepy, early morning town.  Mist was swirling over the hills and the sun was just poking its head up behind them.  Fishing boats at anchor made perfect reflections in the dark mirror-like water.  Tiny colonial cottages with their curtains drawn sat in rose festooned gardens and the smell of coffee filtered out across the bay. I felt pangs of nostalgia remembering the happy times my husband and I  had shared here when our children were small.  Sadly, the camping ground we stayed at now houses luxury apartments.
Finally I found the lovely Harbour House Cafe on the waterfront  where I sipped coffee, ate breakfast and read the morning paper. I felt perfectly at peace with the world.
The Whitianga boat harbour

Picturesque colonial cottage right in the heart of town
Then, all too soon, it was back to Auckland by bus.  My visit to Whitianga has whetted my appetite to return, only next time it will be for longer as there is so much to see around the area that a short visit cannot do it justice.  Our visit this time was for a purpose and one that was fulfilled many times over.  A big thank you to the trustees and staff of Mercury Bay Museum.  You have a fine museum, a real credit to you.