New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula is just another jewel in our country’s scenic crown. The beautiful Coromandel lends itself to sightseeing- and activity-based trips with loads to see and do while circumnavigating the peninsula. Located on the east of the upper North Island with good proximity to Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, the area can be explored as a stand-alone trip or during a greater tiki tour around Aotearoa. Here are our top pics to experience along the way.
Start in the Karangahake Gorge
In between the towns of Waihi (famous for gold-mining) and Paeroa (famous for its namesake L&P drink) lies the Karangahake Gorge. Following the curves of the Ohinemuri River, the gorge was once the site of one of the country’s most lucrative gold strikes and now boasts various walkways, tunnels and cycle trails including part of the famous Hauraki Rail Trail. Visitors heading here from Bay of Plenty should consider a stay at nearby Omokoroa, before attacking the Gorge and the Coromandel Peninsula.
Head up the eastern side
We prefer heading up the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula first. You can either take in Waihi, exploring the town’s gold-mining heritage before driving north via Whangamata; or you can visit the giant L&P bottle in Paeroa and hang a right at Kopu, taking the slow-yet-striking Kopu-Hikuai Road.
Feel the sea breeze and sample a Hot Water beer
Keep trucking north past Tairua and base yourself at Seabreeze Holiday Park. This site features the usual great range of Kiwi Holiday Park and Accommodation (KHPA) options including cottages, chalets, camping and motorhome sites as well as backpacker and hostel style digs. During your stay you can check out the onsite Hot Water Brewing Co. restaurant and craft beer.
Now try a Hot Water Beach
Within easy reach of Seabreeze Holiday Park is Hot Water Beach where you can have the unique experience of digging your own sauna on the sand! For two hours either side of low tide, hot water fills pools dug by locals and visitors. Be ready to share though, as the activity is very popular.
Ten minutes up the road is Cathedral Cove — a must-see natural cove at Hahei beach. Accessible only by foot along an easy walking track, a roundtrip visit to the cove takes about 1.5 hours. You can also experience Cathedral Cove via kayak or glass-bottom boat.
Burgers, brews and live music
Coming back inland to continue north, be sure to stop in at the Coroglen Tavern. The iconic Kiwi pub is the hot spot for tasty beers and mouth-watering burgers. If you time your trip right, you can enjoy live performances from high profile local bands like Salmonella Dub and international acts such as Donovan Frankenreiter.
New Chums Beach (Wainuiototo Bay)
Carry on north and pass through Whitianga, Wharekaho and Kuaotunu before arriving in Whangapou. This coastal town is the halfway point of our trip around the Coromandel Peninsula and home to one of the world’s top-ten beaches — New Chum’s Beach or Wainuiototo Bay. This protected kilometre-long stretch of unforgettable golden sand is accessed via a one-hour return walk through the giant Pohutukawa trees and nikau forest found on the Mangakahia Dr track. Absolutely worth the effort of checking tides and the hike, this expedition requires some preparation — read more here.
After New Chums Beach we recommend leaving the Pacific Ocean behind and winding down and across to Coromandel Town on the west side of the Pensinsula. Situated on the edge of the Hauraki Golf, Coromandel Town became a thriving centre with the discovery of gold back in 1852.
Retaining many of its heritage buildings, the town recognises tradition with Driving Creek Railway and Potteries. An hour-long return train ride carries passengers through picturesque native Kauri forest and takes in tunnels, spirals and large bridges. Learn the story of the how the railway was built to bring clay and wood to potteries and kilns and view outdoor artworks and a predator-free wildlife sanctuary.
Head down the Hauraki Gulf side to Thames
After exploring Coromandel Town, the coastal drive south to Thames lasts an hour and serves up lovely aqua blue views of the Firth of Thames and plenty of majestic Pohutukawa. Thames is the southwest gateway to the Coromandel Peninsula and the historic town has loads of fishing and bird-watching options. A stay at Dickson Kiwi Holiday Park puts you in a prime spot at the start of Rocky’s Walk — a steep climb that rewards walkers with access to Tinkers Gully and a spectacular vista of the Firth of Thames.
If Waihi didn’t quench your third for gold-mining history, you can take in a guided tour through operational 19th century gold-mining machinery in Thames. Or, if you want to get up a head of steam, try the fourth annual Steampunk The Thames festival which celebrates the arcane and thaumaturgic arts in November.