A fascinating slice of this region’s history came nearly a century after the gold miners and decades after the bushmen who felled the kauri that once stood tall in the rainforests of the rugged Coromandel Range.
It was time for the hippies to move in and the beginning of a thriving artistic community.
Why would they come here? Well, it is hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been to this area what drew hundreds of what was termed “the Flower Children” to the Coromandel during the 1960s and 1970s.
At first glance, it’s a pretty unpromising country to head for if you’re after a comfortable living off the fat of the land. Think rugged, stony, heavily forested and where we were housesitting on the western side, and where Coromandel Township is very tidal.
Was it the stillness of the rainforest, the misty vistas of mountain, headland and sea that called the souls of the commune-founders hither?. Or perhaps it was the ready availability of cheap land and abundant earth that produced premium clay for pottery. Or the more cynical may believe it had to do with less productive work in the form of having camouflage in the way of the bush to plant their crops, in those days it had more to do with pot than clay.
Whatever the reason, Coromandel, rivalled only by Nelson was to become Hippy Central for New Zealand. And while most of the residents of the communes in the 1960s and 1970s spent the 1980s turning on and tuning in to the stock market, there are still real hippies living, feral and shy, in and around Coromandel. Just a few years older like myself.
The great thing about people who live alternative lifestyles is that they are, to make a sweeping generalisation, are usually creative and unconventional types. They made Coromandel the place it is today, still a relatively speaking thriving artistic community. Viewing art is one of the primary reasons I love visiting this area and of course, not forgetting the stunning bush and beaches.
Coming over for a visit? Then check out when the next Artist Tour is happening – https://www.coromandelartstour.co.nz/our-artists
My Connection – Waikawau Bay
I was first introduced to the Coromandel when my brother and friends brought thick bushland further up the peninsula during the 1980s. I was to make a few trips with this lot of entrepreneurial nut tree growers, mainly in the role as a chief cook [not a dishwasher], and tree planter.
Other memories linger more vividly.
Those times were when I stayed alone at the base camp to cook up a storm. Where more than once I could be found sitting on a chair with feet tucked up with arm stretched out trying to stir the simmering pots. While waiting patiently or not, for the tree planters to return to assure me the visiting rat had gone!
The real fun memories were to be created when the Squire and I had the opportunity to enjoy a few occasions up in “the bush”, enjoying the delights of an outdoor bath and dinner by candlelight after a day’s exploring. Those stays were in the comfort of a building with a roof, door and windows. Then on our last night, I was reminded of a previous visit, when we heard scratching on the window.
Throughout our history, memorable moments are made from the unexpected. Don’t you agree?