Nearest town: Whangapoua, off SH25 between Coromandel Town and Whitianga.
Type of track: DOC says it’s a loop but the connection is pretty hard to see. It’s easy enough to do as two one-way tracks.
Official distance: 500 metre loop
Official time: 30 minutes return
Jenny’s time: about two and a half hours
Toilets: not that I saw!
Tips: Go within a couple of hours of low tide so you can walk all the way around on the beach.
I have a visitor here at the moment, and while I tend to do things slowly, this particular friend and I go really slowly. Opera Point was supposed to be a quick walk, 15 minutes each way. We somehow turned it into two and a half hours.
How did we do this? Well, for starters, there are actually two paths at Opera Point. It starts as one, but then within just a few metres another track goes off to the left. If you follow this upwards it snakes up to the hilltop, which is an old Maori pa (fortress) site. There are lovely views of Matarangi Beach and Castle Rock from here.
I went this way, thinking my friend had gone up there, when in fact he’d gone the other way. I got to a T-junction at the end of the track, where a trail marker clearly indicates that the path goes straight, but the only visible routes actually go to the left or the right. Neither of these has any actual markers on them, however.
So I went right, down the hill under some trees and found myself in a grassy area, where I busied myself for a long time taking photos of a wood pigeon that was hanging out there. And that was cool! Usually they hang out in trees and are quite hard to see.
Eventually my friend came along, having gone along the lower path around the coastline, and then up what he said was only sort of a track and very steep and muddy. I wasn’t keen on going down that, so I went back the way I’d come, stopping this time to take pictures of a friendly fantail.
When I reached the bottom I started along the lower track, which is actually the line of a tramway that went to a sawmill in the 1800s.
Eventually I ran into my friend, who thought I’d gone down the other way! From here we continued along the path, which goes down to a pretty little beach where you can have a ride on a rope swing.
If the tide is relatively low you can go quite a long way around the coastline on the beaches, past the flat grassy area where the sawmill used to be. There are lovely views of Whangapoua Harbour and Castle Rock the whole way.
Eventually you reach a large ‘island’ rock, the beach ends, and you can climb up the steep hillside or go back the way you came.
So it’s up to you how long you want to spend at Opera Point. I think if you can find the right track, the loop would probably take you about 30 minutes. If you’re doing two there-and-back tracks you might want to allow a bit longer though.
Either way, make sure you look for gannets diving into the water to catch fish. They hit the water so hard it’s amazing they don’t hurt themselves!