Shakespeare Cliff Scenic and Historic Reserve, a promontory above Lonely Bay, offers a breathtaking panorama of the vast Pacific Ocean studded with islands, and the Coromandel Peninsula stretching for miles to the north. The information boards at the summit were so absorbing, I lost track of time. I was fascinated by the story of Kupe’s month-long, 2960km voyage in his waka Matahorua from Hawaiki to Whitianga in 950AD, navigating by the stars. And Captain James Cook’s arrival 800 years later in the HMS Endeavour. Cook observed the transit of Mercury across the face of the sun on November 9, 1769, naming the broad bay before us after the planet. Other information boards described Māori garden centres, shipwrecks, the trade in kauri logs, gum and gold, and the establishment of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve.

A 65th party at Pauanui was next on our agenda. After the celebrations, much to the surprise of our friends we declined an invitation to stay the night at their beautiful home on the waterways, preferring to park our luxurious, fully self-contained Britz motorhome, nicknamed ‘the Ritz’ at a sublime freedom-camping site right on the beachfront at the foot of Mt Pauanui.

Lonely Bay from Shakespeare Cliff Scenic and Historic Reserve

Next day, after a sunrise breakfast and a stroll along the beach, we rejoined our mates for a fishing expedition to Shoe Island. Chris was ecstatic with a magnificent silver kingfish he caught.

In the afternoon, we borrowed our mates’ e-bikes and rode the length of the 3km beach and back, along the estuary and boardwalk – an exhilarating ride made much easier on the grass and sand by the power-assisted pedaling. For once I could keep up with my super-fit husband.

Great views of Pauanui and Tairua on the way up Mt Paku

We decided Mt Pauanui must be climbed … yet again. It’s a long and strenuous uphill hike on a steep, gnarly, zigzag track with an infuriating number of false tops but the sense of achievement and sweeping vistas of Pauanui, Tairua, Mt Paku, the estuary, the Pinnacles and the offshore islands including the jagged Aldermens in the distance make reaching the 387m summit highly rewarding. From the car park, the direct route to the top is 1.4km long, and takes about an hour. You can also take a much longer but gentler track to the summit via Cave Bay and Flat Rock.

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