Travel Story | Working at Hot Water Beach Part 1

by Flip Flop Wanderers

After a few weeks of traveling through the northern part of New Zealand, it was time to work again! Because unfortunately money still doesn’t grow on trees! So yeah, we definitely had to make some money in order to travel further through New Zealand. This working was done at Hot Water Beach, a really small town in the Coromandel Peninsula, and a famous holiday destination for Kiwis. The same named beach is what attracts most people to this area: a very unique beach where, within two hours either side of low tide, you can dig yourself your own little spa pool! Underneath the sand is a hot water spring and the water can get as hot as 64 degrees Celsius! How cool is that?!

Read our travel story about our road trip through Northland!

Opposite of this beach is a campground: the Top 10 Hot Water Beach campground. And let that be the campground we were working! It’s a huge and very popular campground, especially during summer. And with summer on its way that November it was getting busier and busier. So that’s why they really needed us to help in housekeeping. As said in our previous story our main tasks were cleaning cabins, ablution blocks and helping with the laundry. During this job, we could also stay on the campground for free on a powered site, which saved us a lot of costs. While the work wasn’t exactly our dream job, we did have an amazing time on this campground for almost three months, especially because we have met some really cool people and because it was summer with perfect weather and that whole summer vibe was just great (missing it now that we’re stuck here in really cold wintery Wellington)!

Working really hard on our van during our time in Hot Water Beach!

First day at work in Hot Water Beach

Let’s just start with our first working day, which was on the 26th of November (yes, a long time ago already). Because it was a Sunday it was immediately a very busy day, meaning a lot of people only stay at the campground for a weekend and then leave on Sunday, but that actually gave us the opportunity to learn quick. Our day started at 8 am and once we introduced ourselves to the small team (around 8/9 people), we all started cleaning the dorm rooms first. At the back of the campground there are 8 big dorm rooms and 4 small ones and the most backpackers that stay in here come with Kiwi Experience. This is a famous, big tour bus company that drives all around New Zealand. Agreement is that they leave early in the morning, at 7.30am, so that’s why we could clean that first thing in the morning. The cleaning exists of making the beds, clean the table and kitchen and vacuum the floor. We did this with the whole team.

Bram cleaning a cabin

After this is done we mostly had a break (or smoko how they call it here) already and then it was waiting for people that have checked out of the cabins. Check out time is 10 am so sometimes we had to wait till that time till someone had checked out, but often there were already people that check out earlier. At that time we got split into teams of 2/3 people and each team had a list with which cabins they had to clean.

There are a lot of different cabins on the campground, ranging from super-de-luxe ones with own bathroom and a big kitchen to small cute cabins with only a bed in it and even glamping tents. In total there are more than 40 cabins and some days we had to clean every single one of them! So yes, it can get really hectic on this campground!

Cleaning the windows

Our first day, however, we ‘only’ had to clean 27 cabins, which was actually still a busy day. The cleaning of the cabins consisted of making the beds, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, vacuuming the floor, mopping etc. Everyone had its own ‘task’ per cabin.
Of course, there are also ablution blocks on the campground which had to be cleaned, but that was mostly the task of two guys of the team because it was the dirtiest work ๐Ÿ˜› Bram was ‘lucky’ he didn’t have to do this, he could make beds with us!

Bram can actually make a bed!;)

Around midday, we would have a quick lunch break and then after midday, once we were finished with all the cabins, we helped with the laundry and then, once all that was done, we were mostly finished with working around 2 pm. But that all depended on how busy the days were! This first day it was quite busy and we had a lot of laundry, so we were finished around 3 pm.

So that’s a bit how a normal busy day would look like at work and the rest of the days we worked looked quite the same.

Manon cleaning a bathroom

Quiet days at work

So the weeks that followed we worked like this 6 days a week, with one day off every week. Our first day was actually quite okay in our opinion and we thought the work wasn’t too bad. We liked the people that worked there and the biggest bonus was: we had the whole afternoon free! So there was enough time to explore the area.

Of course, vacuuming also needs to be done ๐Ÿ˜‰

Especially in the beginning that we started working there were some pretty quiet days. It wasn’t high season yet, so the only really busy days were on the weekends. During the week there weren’t a lot of new people staying at the campground so there wasn’t much to clean either. We did a lot of extra jobs, like cleaning windows, but it still meant that in the first few weeks we often were done really early with working, sometimes even already at 12.30 pm! We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t earn much money this way, but it was also a good opportunity to explore the area, work on our van and enjoy the really good weather!

Manon is also really good with the vacuum

With the weeks passing by, we were getting a bit bored of the job. It isn’t exactly our favourite thing to do, but the main thing was that the atmosphere wasn’t always great at work. Let’s just say that there was a lot of gossiping and a lot of times there were some tensions. But well, we just had to deal with it for a while and at one point we just decided to just stop worrying about it. Although that was sometimes easier said than done.

Cleaning the windows

Meeting some cool people

While the atmosphere at work wasn’t always great, the atmosphere on the campground itself, on the other hand, was really good. We did meet some cool people while working and some of those colleagues also lived on the campground so we were always close to each other. After work, we often had a few drinks and sometimes Bram even went for a surf with them. We all could get along well and during the Christmas period, we even camped right next to them haha. On Fridays, there was always an open-mic night at the Hot Waves Cafรฉ opposite of the campground, which we sometimes went to with our colleagues and which were always fun times!

There was not much around the campground and Hot Water Beach (we had to drive for half an hour to the closest supermarket in Whitianga), but the campground itself was super nice and we had all the luxury we needed. We could rent surfboards for free and there is even a fish&chips shop which is really good, so you can imagine what we ate a lot of nights ๐Ÿ˜› All in all, we really liked the camping life in Hot Water Beach, especially since it’s a very lively campground with nice people and just a super chilled atmosphere. We felt like one big campground family haha. Still missing that life!

Part of that camping life was also working on our van!

The busy Christmas period

While the first weeks at work were really quiet, once we got closer and closer to Christmas and New Years it got more busy on the campground. Children were getting school holidays and we noticed we, therefore, had much more to clean. We also started with extra cleaning shifts. For around two months there was an extra shift at 6.30am in the morning, and two extra shifts in the evening at 5 and 9 pm, in which the ablution blocks needed to be checked and made neat again. Both of us did one morning shift and around two times the evening shift together every week. Those one-hour shifts were really easy to do, but it meant that we didn’t have much free time left but oh well, at least we made much more money this way!

Bram with the Top 10 Mascot: Toppy!

Building our van

Besides all the working, we, of course, had our afternoons free in which we spent most of our time building our van. Because as you all might know from our previous stories, we bought an empty van and at the moment were sleeping on our mattress on the floor. We really wanted to build our own interior in it and we now had enough time for it! Plus we could also use the tools from the maintenance team on the campground, which made it perfect.ย 

During the first weeks we were in Hot Water Beach, we worked really hard on the van, especially with the quiet days at work. Once we got our first salary, we immediately bought a lot of wood and the day after we started making the floor.

A few days later we made our bed, and another week later the drawers for under the bed were already done. So we could do a lot in a short amount of time! The building consisted of a lot of sawing, painting, and drilling, but we loved to do it! It was also a good way to get more experience with this all ๐Ÿ˜‰

With the busier Christmas period at work coming up, we didn’t actually have enough time anymore for our van, so we put it on hold for a while. But so far we at least finished our bed and some storage space, and we were already really happy with the result and couldn’t really believe that we did all this ourselves!

The end result after making the floor and the bed!

Just before New Years though, we received our curtains in the mail from Marti, which she made all by herself especially for us! Before we could hang them up we had to remove all the blinding that was already on the windows of our van when we bought it. This was more like a thick layer of paint, pretty weird, and so it took a long time before we finally removed all of that! We literally had to remove everything with a scraper. But once we could finally hang up our curtains it looked really beautiful! We are so happy with them!

We also have a cool little timelapse for you guys from all the work we did on our van haha:

Want to know how we exactly build our van and how you can do it too? Then our step-by-step guide will follow soon!

Incredibly good summer weather

Besides all the working and building on our van, you would think we didn’t have much free time left but yes, we also managed to find time for nice things and to explore the area! We especially did this on our days off.
Firstly, the weather was incredibly good this whole summer. We had many sunny days and the temperature was almost 30 degrees every day, which is apparently very good for New Zealand. And with the humidity over here it feels much warmer than 30 degrees. Apparently, it was even the hottest summer on record for New Zealand! So we were really lucky with the summer weather we had and we absolutely loved it! To enjoy this weather we laid in the sun often after work and we went to the beach regularly.

Summer days on the beach

Bram’s birthday in Hot Water Beach

And of course, it was also Bram’s birthday on the 5th of December! We got the day off because it was quiet anyway at work, so we decided to spent the day at Hahei Beach. But first a present from Manon: bungee jumping in Taupo! Of course, we were not going to do that that day, but we could do it later once we were finished working. That afternoon we just chilled on the beach and built a sandman ๐Ÿ˜›

In the evening we went for dinner at Coroglen Tavern. This is a pub in a town where practically no one lives ๐Ÿ˜› Yet it is pretty well-known, behind the pub is even a large garden with a stage where events are held regularly. It looks pretty nice over here, a bit like a roadhouse. The food was also really good.

Afterwards, we drove back to the campground where we celebrated a bit more with party poppers haha, and where we had a few drinks with some other people.

We know how to celebrate a birthday in style ๐Ÿ˜‰

Digging a hole at Hot Water Beach

Then onto the other fun things we did during our first weeks. 3 years ago we had already been to Hot Water Beach and also dug a hole at the beach, but when we were there there wasn’t really a low tide because of a massive storm, so we never really felt the hot water underneath the sand! So this time we, of course, had to experience it ourselves! During our first week at work, we already went one night, when it was low tide. It is actually pretty hard to find a spot where the temperature is exactly right because in one spot the water is still cold and in another spot the water is too hot! But eventually we found a good spot where the temperature was just perfect, so we dug a hole and made ourselves our own little spa pool!

Cathedral Cove

Another thing we just couldn’t miss in the area of Hot Water Beach was Cathedral Cove. This famous spot is in Hahei and while we also visited this 3 years ago, we definitely wanted to see it again. It’s a pretty unique place, a sort of natural cove with views on a beautiful rock formation. You just have to see it for yourself! The walk to Cathedral Cove takes around 45 minutes and is already really beautiful.

On that walk you can first visit Gemstone Beach, a gorgeous beach full of rocks.

Eventually the walk ends at Cathedral Cove, where you can see the gorgeous formation. There is also a beautiful beach surrounding the place, so we decided to chill a bit in the sun.

After this must-visit, we drove to the center of Hahei where we got a yummy ice cream. That’s real summer to us! After a bit of chilling in the town, we went to the Pour House to have dinner. This is actually the local brewery, but it also has a beautiful garden where they serve delicious pizzas and other food.

Exploring Cooks Beach

Because of the quiet days at work, we had another extra day off, which we used to explore the other towns around Hot Water Beach. First stop was Cooks Beach, which we noticed was a real New Zealand town, complete with beach baches. A bach is simply put a small beach house. Often they are built simply, made of cheap material like corrugated iron or timber. Intentionally there were meant as a sort of holiday houses, but we noticed that a lot of kiwis actually live in there year-round. We really wonder how cold it is in such a house in winter?!

Anyway, after Cooks Beach, we had a look at Ferry Landing, where you can take the ferry to Whitianga, the biggest town of the area and the town where we always had to get our groceries. Unfortunately, you can’t get on the ferry with your car, as it is only a passenger ferry, so to get to Whitianga we always had to drive around for half an hour, while with the ferry it only takes 5 minutes! Really weird right?! Why don’t they build a bridge or something don’t you think? Because as you can see in the next photo, the distance over the water is really really small.

On the other side is Whitianga. You can see how close it actually is, yet we have to drive all the way around for half an hour to get there! Crazy!

Because we, of course, couldn’t drive any further haha we decided to drive a bit back to Shakespeare Cliff Reserve, where we had a beautiful view over the bay of Cooks Beach.

Christmas photo shoot

On another day off we explored even a bit more around the area. First back to Ferry Landing, because there was the Whitianga Rock Walk we were going to do. It was a beautiful short walk with some great views.

Through this walk we also came at Back Beach, a pretty hidden beach, where we found a walking stick on Bram’s cap haha. Super funny!

After this walk we went to Lonely Bay, a pretty unknown beach, but really beautiful! The sand is super white and it is surrounded by cliffs. You have to take a walk to get there, but it is definitely worth it! We decided to do our annual Christmas photo shoot over here. That means: Christmas hats on and taking photos on a beautiful beach! This time we even found a big branch from a huge tree, which looked just like a Christmas tree! We put it in the sand and it looked very real!

After many pictures we decided to eat something at Hot Water Brewing, another brewery in the area. New Zealand really had many small breweries, which is pretty cool!

Bram working hard with the drill ๐Ÿ˜›

Christmas Eveย 

Of course, we also had to celebrate Christmas! While we had to work both days (extra money!), we did have a nice time on Christmas Eve. That night we went with our colleagues to Cooks Beach and had a nice campfire/bbq which was pretty cool! It was a fun night ๐Ÿ™‚ The rest of the Christmas days were pretty quiet for us though.

New Years Eve in Hot Water Beach

New Years Eve was a bit less quiet! Most of the time we love to celebrate this pretty big, but because there is not much to do in the area of Hot Water Beach we decided to just stay on the campground. There was a live band coming so that would be fun! Unfortunately, we had the two night shifts that day, but that didn’t spoil the fun. In between our shifts, it was already time for some oliebollen making! A real Dutch treat and of course this is part of New Years Eve! A long time ago we already bought the mix in the Dutch Shop and now we could finally use it. Yummy!

And after our last shift for that day (at 10 pm) it was time to party! We went to the live music on the campground and drank something with our colleagues. It was really fun. Unfortunately, at 12 o’clock it started raining, just when we started counting down to 2018. The counting down and everything wasn’t really special, haha, but we’re a bit used to that by know here on the other side of the world. It still isn’t the same as at home ๐Ÿ˜›ย 

On the campground of Hot Water Beach, fireworks aren’t allowed, but we heard that there would be a lot of fireworks on the beach. Well, we looked at the beach and literally saw one firework going into the air! I don’t know if it was because of the rain, but for only that we were not going to the beach ๐Ÿ˜› So after 12 we still stayed at the kitchen area on the campground for a while chatting with some people. Although it wasn’t really a big party, we still had a good time!

The next day we had an extra day off, so we could rest from a bit too much alcohol haha.

And with the end of 2017, we will also end this blog. Because of course we weren’t done with working yet in 2018, but we guess this blog is long enough already haha. In our next blog, we will tell you about the rest of our time in Hot Water Beach!

See you then guys!

Love from us

Work hard so you can travel harder


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1 comment

Marti June 29, 2018 - 10:37 pm

Mooi verhaal weer, even een half jaartje terug in de tijd ? je hebt een mooi huisje gecreeรซrd in jullie nusje!


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