New Zealand Diary: Coromandel

Hunderwasser in New Zealand, moving day, and a day spent on the Coromandel Peninsula.

DAY 6, DECEMBER 19, 2017

We spent most of the day in the car. The stretch between the Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Peninsula seemed endless.

Before we left the Bay of Islands, we visited a market in Paihia, which apparently always takes place when a cruise ship is anchored in the bay.
I bought a lavender cream that was supposed to protect against mosquito bites – but I have to say that I couldn’t verify that, because we weren’t really plagued by mosquitoes. Anyway, the lavender comes from the north of the South Island of New Zealand. There are lavender fields there that are reminiscent of France.

I probably sound like a broken record because I’ve mentioned this so many times, but I’m in love with the Pohutukawa, the New Zealand Christmas trees, which grew particularly luxuriantly in the Bay of Islands.
I had taken several photos of motifs with the Pohutukawa that I really wanted to paint. This is one of them.
And I really wanted to finish this painting in time for Christmas 2018, which I did, and since then I put it on my mantelpiece every year during Advent, along with other Christmas decorations.

In Paihia, I painted one of my ‚Watercolour Actions Sketches‘.

And at home, when I painted my series of mini watercolours, there was also this piece with the motif that I later painted with pastels.

At the beginning of our trip to Coromandel we visited another highlight: Hundertwasser’s public toilets in Kawakawa.
During my studies at the art academy, there wasn’t a focus on Friedensreich Hundertwasser and his work, so I didn’t know as much about him as I would have liked. Before we planned our trip, I didn’t even know that he had spent a large part of his life in New Zealand. I only then read about what he did there.

Hundertwasser encouraged local talent and used local materials during construction. Students from schools in Kawakawa made tiles for the project and he used old bottles from the district for the windows.

The colourful columns, curves, and the roof garden are very typical for Hundertwasser’s architectural style – this is very much a younger sibling of the Hundertwasser House in Vienna.

If you wish to learn more about Hundertwasser in New Zealand, his friendship with the people, about his legacy and the Park Trust, then go to

The artist bought a farm near Kawakawa. He is buried there. He was an ecologist, trees were very important to him, and a tree behind this building was the last one he ever planted.

We live in paradise, but we don’t know it, we live in paradise, but we constantly destroy it.
– Hundertwasser

Hundertwasser became a citizen of New Zealand in 1986, and in 1990 they declared him a „Living Treasure of New Zealand“.

These public toilets were his last creation.

We had a break in the north of Auckland. We left the motorway on the off-chance, because we needed something to eat and coffee, and didn’t really know where we would end up. We then found the „Food for Thought Café“ by chance. I had to look up on the map where exactly it was… on the corner of Fairview Heights and Northcross. The owner, Vida, was very friendly and gave us a warm welcome, and the food and coffee were excellent.

From the motorway and the bridge over the harbour we had a great view of Auckland’s skyline.

We had booked accomodations at the Albert No. 6 Motel in Whitianga, which is a seaside town in Mercury Bay.

The view across Mercury Bay. Captain James Cook and his crew came here in 1769 to make scientific observations of the transit of Mercury across the sun. This is how the bay got its name.

And this is the tiny passenger ferry. On the other side are scenic and historic reserves, a cemetery and walking tracks.

In the evening we went for a walk around the Esplanade and had drinks at the marina.
The dinner, however, was terrible, so I won’t even mention the restaurant…

DAY 7, DECEMBER 20, 2017

Agapanthus africanus. I have never seen so many jewel lilies as on the Coromandel Peninsula. And hydrangeas. Both grew there in huge quantities just like that at the side of the road. Here at home, it is often so frustrating to cultivate the plants and keep them alive…
Aren’t they beautiful?

On this day, a classic of New Zealand travellers was on our programme: Cathedral Cove, a „must visit site“. We drove to Hahei and then tramped the Cathedral Cove Walk which usually takes 1.15-1.30 hrs, but because my sister and I stopped all the time to watch birds, look at trees and take photos, so we took a bit longer.

We had naturally wondered whether the hype around Cathedral Cove would really be justified, or whether everyone just goes there because they’re worried about missing out on something, because it was such an Instagram photo motif that had somehow developed a life of its own…

But it was definitely worth it! Especially because the hike there is beautiful.

WWI Memorial Forest Project: Around the Coromandel, eight sites have been established to pay tribute by planting an equal number of trees to New Zealand soldiers who were killed in the War.
In the grove near Cathedral Cove 2779 trees have been planted to commemorate the 2779 soldiers killed in the Gallipoli campaign.
It was particularly fitting in that a few days later we would see the Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa in Wellington.

Cathedral Cove as it is in ‚real life‘ 😉
If you visit this place at a normal time, not first thing during sunrise, then this is what you will see: many people, all trying to get an instagrammable photo – which is honestly understandable, because the beach and cove are very beautiful.

I was also very fascinated by the trees growing at the top of the cliffs – in some places it seemed as if they were about to fall down on me…

…and the rocks had beautiful structures and patterns – probably very interesting for geologists.

The hike back to Hahei was just as beautiful as the way there, and I found a motif that I then chose for my series of pastel paintings. I think the best compliment I ever received about this painting was from a Kiwi travel writer: „I know that view with every bit of my soul #ChildhoodHappiness“

In Hahei we followed one of our nephew’s recommendations and stopped at The Pour House Bar and Brewery. Very tasty chips! In addition to snacks, they serve award-winning coffee and their own craft beer – which I couldn’t try because it was my turn to drive that day.

Next stop: Hot Water Beach. I have one word for you: mad!

My sister took a picture of me while I was standing there, quite speechless in front of this madness….

We did test this phenomenon of the water from the hot springs seeping through the sand, but then walked further along the beach until we found a place where we wanted to go for a swim.

This is the place where I was completely in the Pacific for the first time – holding my nose and submerging myself and everything 🙂

I also have a pastel painting of this place in progress, but it’s not finished yet. Nevertheless, I show you a few details here:

For the sake of completeness: we had dinner this time at Saby’s Kitchen in Whitianga, and it was delicious and the hosts very nice.

Some of the abstract watercolours I painted after our trip were inspired by the Pacific Ocean of the Coromandel Peninsula. There are several paintings in progress here.