Noddy Watts runs the show and loves it with a passion. “I call it the mechanical fountain of youth,” he said. “You get behind the wheels of one of these things and you forget how old you are. It puts a smile on your face and you’re having fun.”
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Noddy has the help of an army of volunteers to run the Beach Hop, which has grown from 4000 visitors when it started to about 110,000, making it one of the largest events of its kind in the world. The line-up of V8s in town has the petrol station pumping flat out. The locals get in behind the festival which is estimated to contribute more than $7 million to the local economy, according to a survey by the Thames Coromandel District Council. The festival raises funds for local emergency services and charities, with more than $500,000 donated to the Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club, Volunteer Coast Guard, St John, Land Search and Rescue, Westpac Helicopter and Fire Service.
More than 1000 cars from around New Zealand and some even shipped from Australia, enter the event along with as many as 70 retro caravans. Activities during the Beach Hop March 27–31 will include the Repco Whitianga Beach Party, Castrol Edge Thunder Cruise to Onemana, Vintage Market, a burlesque show, Hop Idol at Whanga Bar, a Grand Parade down the main street, a range of classic car, bike, hot rod and retro caravan shows, live music all around town and an auto swap meet.
The Repco Beach Hop 20 has certainly helped put Whangamatā on the map, and the New Zealand Herald voted it ‘Best Beach’ in Jan 2018. The judges said Whangamatā was set apart by its wow factor of a stunning beach, accompanied by modern conveniences. It offers the ability to do every activity you could hope for at the beach from kayaking to nearby Whenuakura Island, SUP’ing, snorkelling, fishing, surfing, golfing or finishing a good book. If all the activity works up an appetite, Whangamatā has that covered with plenty of cafés, restaurants and deep fried nourishment. It seems we Kiwis like beautiful white-sand beaches with waves for the adventurous, rocks and caves to explore, safe swimming areas along with ice blocks and flushable toilets.
Now for those who love the beach atmosphere but aren’t so keen on sand between their toes I suggest you sneak off for a round of golf while the family are at the beach. There is a choice of two courses: the nine-hole Williamson Course in the centre of town and the 18-hole Tītoki Course on the outskirts of town. The Tītoki is nestled in a sheltered valley, with the greens rolling down between established trees, in a park-like setting. Local golfer Ben Harwood has returned to Whangamatā as the NZPGA Professional Golf Coach. He is keen to share his love of golf with locals and wants to introduce the game to young people.
“Both the Tītoki and the Williamson Golf Courses are world class,” said Harwood. “Mark Hollard and his green-keeping team should be praised the way they preserve and present the golf courses.”
After a challenging game of golf there is another new face at the clubhouse and that is Chef Ralph Arnold. The Social Club Catering Company have a great range of ‘fresh, tasty and delicious’ to satisfy your appetite. The venue at the clubhouse overlooks the golf course, with tall trees in an elegant setting. As well as providing great food for golfers, resident Chef Ralph and his team cater for special occasions on-site for up to 160 people or off-site depending on your needs. I have been to two weddings and a funeral catered by Chef Ralph, and the food was excellent – definitely ticked the fresh, tasty and delicious boxes.
So whether it’s a round of golf, surfing, fishing or classic cars, Whangamatā has a way for everyone to play. For those who love classic cars, the sound of V8 engines and the rockŉroll, The Beach Hop is the place to be. The ’50s and ’60s were a great time in United States history as the country rose out of World War II and the Great Depression. With few rules and regulations to hold them back, the American motor industry designed and produced extravagant cars with polished chrome, large tailfins and big V8 engines. With the Elvis-led era of rockŉroll music, drive-in movies and glamorous women with voluminous skirts and tiny waists – what’s not to love.
For those interested in attending the Beach Hop in March, you need to be in quick to make a reservation for an RV site or accommodation. As the event is so popular it is likely you will need to stay at beach towns north or south of Whangamatā such as Whiritoa or Waihi in the south or Onemana, Opoutere or Tairua in the north. For more information on the Repco Beach Hop visit: beachhop.co.nz or their Facebook page. For a slice of paradise at the Whangamatā Golf Club visit: whangamatagolf.net.nz