Location: Kauaeranga Valley Road, north-east side of Thames
Access: car parks at visitor centre and camp sites along Kauaeranga Valley Road
Length: up to 20 km; shorter walks of 0.5-3 km
Configuration: Series of ca. 7, loop and there-and-back tracks
Grade: Undulating to steep; some of longer tracks may be poorly defined and rough, and may involve stream crossings.
Cafes and restaurants: many cafes in Thames
More information: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-visit/coromandel/coromandel/kauaeranga-valley/activities/
The Kauaeranga Valley is the only area of any extent where we can walk the dogs in Coromandel. This is sad, for much of the other bushland around here isn't especially gifted by rare wildlife. Still, beggars can't be choosers, so we might as well make the most of what we have here.
In total there are a dozen or more tracks in the Kauaeranga Valley, so to help find our way around it's definitely worth picking up the trail map from the information centre. According to the Doc brochure, dogs are allowed on most of these paths, the main exceptions being the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail, the Pinnacles Track and the area around Pinnacles Hut. As we find, however, this is rather less generous access than it at first appears, for these banned routes take in most of the longer trails, and severely truncate the places we can get to with our dogs.
There are, it has to be admitted, a number of shorter walks, and these are easy to access from the gravel entrance road. Thy include the interesting nature trail to Hoffman's Pool, a few hundred metres beyond the information centre, and the Booms Historical walk that starts almost opposite Booms Flat campsite. Both are easy strolls that shouldn't take more than 20 minutes or so.
At the other extreme, some of the long walks that we're permitted to use require a bit of determination. The trail via Catley's Track to Tarawaere Dam, for example, involves the crossing of a sizable river and has some very steep sections; the trail up to Orange Peel corner requires some stiff climbing along a not very well formed path. So for this visit we stick to the middling trails - ones that give us an hour or so of walking, and perhaps a little bit of a work-out, but aren't going to leave us all leg-weary and muddied at the end. The Boom's Flat circuit is one such - a 5km loop with some steady climbs through dense bush, though nothing too daunting, and affording occasional views out across the valley. The mountain bike circuit from Hotoritori campsite is another - about 3.5 km, but with some steepish sections to test our muscles out.
Together, these give us a couple of days of healthy walking in the Kauaeranga Valley, and the dogs seem happy enough to head home. It's difficult, though, not to leave with a slight sense of disappointment, for the restrictions are just a tad too constraining (and for the most part seem unnecessary), and make us feel that we've only been allowed to scratch the surface of a small part of the Coromandel. On the whole, we're probably better heading in future to an area of the country that might make us more welcome.