The numerous pockets of hot mineral water that erupt through New Zealand’s outer crust can spring forth in the most unlikely places.
There’s nothing volcanic looking about the flats on the western coast of the Firth of Thames, for instance, and yet at Miranda, a few kilometres north of the Waitakaruru River, an earthly gift of hot mineral water brims to the surface from an old fault line and has given rise to a hot pools complex and a popular campground that is one of the best in the Auckland region.
Built up by the tides from gravel, sand and cockle shells, the low, flat terraces of the Miranda Coast comprise New Zealand’s only chenier plain, and until I went there I’d thought it an incongruous setting for a holiday park.
There’s a hot pool complex next door (a separate entity), but I’d assumed there was not much else. I was wrong. The Miranda Holiday Park offers many options, and I liked its relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Everyone seemed to want everyone else to be having a good time.
On the Miranda Coast it wasn’t always so. The settlement of Miranda, known to Maori as Pukorokoro, was renamed in1863 after the village was shelled from a flotilla headed by the war ship HMS Miranda. Later 900 government soldiers captured the settlement, built several redoubts, and named one for the ship.
A long drive bordered by Phoenix palms leads to the entrance and the reception office that is based on the ground floor of a two-storied home. We were given a full-blooded welcome, which set a sociable tone for our stay. Several of the 91 powered and unpowered sites were available and we chose a roomy hardstand set between hedges in a quiet location.
I set off to examine our surrounds. The central hub comprises a large kitchen, lounge and TV room, immaculate ablution blocks and laundry, a spacious barbecue area under shading umbrellas, and there’s a dump station (never attractive but always close to RVers’ hearts).
The grounds, enhanced by gardens and copious mature trees, are appealing, and pleasant-looking chalets and family units clustered together along one side of the park. In an area set to one side is the dog owners’ corner, where RVs are allocated large, secure pens so their pooches can run free.
The Miranda Holiday Park is more like a resort. An inviting 38°C thermal pool is surrounded by rock gardens. I discovered volleyball, tennis and petanque courts, a mini golf course and a giant outdoor game of chess.
Kids were leaping around like demented fleas on a large trampoline, and families were circuiting the pathways in provided mini carts. There’s also a flying fox, a BMX track and a playground.
Frank and Joan were our neighbours. They come here for a break from the city several times a year and were also self-styled tour guides.
“Y’know there’s a good cafe at the pools next door,” said Frank. “I think it’s called Hot Springs Kiwi, something like that. And have you been to the Stray Dog Café down the road – great food and a great little art gallery next door. Then there’s the fish and chip shop at Kaiaua.”
“And the Woodturners Café,” said Joan. “You come here to eat then?” I said. They grinned, “Pretty much,” said Frank, “and to read a bit, lie about in the pool, go for bike rides and catch a bit of tennis. We’re keen birdwatchers so we also do a bit of spotting along the shoreline every day.” It all sounded good to me.