I have been visiting Simpson’s Beach at Wharekaho since I was a kid. In the sixties, windy gravel roads and clouds of dust were synonymous with a trip to Whitianga. We pulled up at Simpson’s Beach with our blue Holden station wagon overloaded with camping/fishing gear and set up camp in the paddock at the end of the beach. My Dad fell in love with the place after catching a snapper off the beach – he claimed he was in the tent with the fishing line tied to his big toe when he hooked the fish. A year later we were proud owners of  ‘blackberry hollow’, a beachfront section with a couple of baches and a rundown caravan. This was the beginning of an era for our family and extended family who have holidayed at ‘the bach’ for the last 50 years.

Whitianga was a sleepy little town with a small cluster of shops on the main street. It burst into life every summer as it filled with holidaymakers on their annual Christmas break. The aisles of the small New World supermarket were crammed with people stocking up for the holidays. It was a festive time of year with campgrounds overflowing and boats filling the harbour.

Time stands still at Otama

A busy scene at Hot Water BeachMy Dad liked the gravel road over the Tapu Hill as in his opinion it kept people away. The peninsula changed with the opening of the Kopu-Hikuai Road in 1967 especially after it was sealed in 1973. This road made access to the east side of the peninsula much easier and led to steady growth in the Mercury Bay area.

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