When I read Robinson Crusoe as an Australian child, I had no idea that New Zealand was a place harbouring secret beaches where real life castaways could hide from civilization beneath the shade of cool ferns and caves, on beaches overlooking mysterious islands out at sea. The main difference between Coromandel Peninsula’s New Chums beach and the shipwrecked settings depicted in Defoe’s novel is that the only things running riot here are the crimson blossoms of the native Pohutukawa trees. Instead of toothless mutineers, there are placid dotterel birds nesting beneath the sand.
Part of Wainuiototo Bay, New Chums is accessible by clambering over the wet rocks (remember your balance from gym class?), north-west of Whangapoua Beach. You ascend a dirt track through rainforest to a pale bandage of sand that I thought was reserved for epic novels, or at least South America.