Discover treasures in the rich landscape of the Coromandel, characterised by charismatic towns, secret, sandy coves and inviting forests.
Jutting off the eastern coast of the North Island, the Coromandel Peninsula stretches 85km into the Pacific Ocean. Just over an hour from major centres Hamilton and Auckland, it makes the perfect destination for both local and international holidaymakers. State Highway 25 circumnavigates the region, so it’s easy enough to explore and feel like you’re on an adventure without getting lost.
More than just beaches, the Coromandel offers a number of activities for families. Over on the west, spend a day at Waiau Waterworks, a curious play park that promises lots of wacky water-fuelled fun. A little further south you’ll find the narrow-gauge Driving Creek Railway, where you can take a ride up through the mountains, delving in and out of tunnels and native bush.
Driving Creek Railway
Towards the eastern coast, everyone will enjoy a trip to the new Gold Discovery Centre in Waihi. Learn the story of gold and gold mining past and present through fun, interactive exhibits before taking an impressive tour inside the operating gold mine.
Surrounded by coastline and blanketed in dense bush with rocky hills, the peninsula is one giant outdoor playground. Take a kayak, stand up paddle board or bike tour in and out of hidden coves and caves.
Dive the spectacular Aldermen Islands, sometimes called the Poor Knights of The Coromandel. Located at the gateway to the stunning east coast in Tairua, this is one of the best dive sites in New Zealand.
If you’d rather be riding above the water, the Coromandel has a number of decent surf breaks, with one of the most popular at Whangamata. Stop and ask a local for info, or if you’re a beginner, start with a lesson at a surf school.
Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach, as its name suggests, offers something a little different. Dig yourself your own private spa as the tide goes out, and steaming natural springs are revealed. Don’t forget to take a spade and some drinking water, both available from nearby cafés.
This region isn’t all about the water – there’s a variety of walking tracks to suit all levels. Hike the popular Pinnacles for spectacular 360º views or wander through old mining sites in the Broken Hills Recreation Area.
Fullers give visitors a taste of the best the town has to offer with ‘The Coromandel Town Explorer’, a popular day trip. Visit the famous Driving Creek Railway, New Zealand’s only narrow gauge mountain railway. Then join a guided tour to Coromandel’s most majestic grove of giant ancient Kauri. The experienced local guides will unfold the rich story of the Coromandel Kauri and the history of the Coromandel. You’ll also enjoy a short walk to the picturesque Waiau Waterfall.
Shopping and Culture
The peninsula is dotted with small towns, the largest being Thames, a former ‘boom town’, which developed during the gold rush. One of the first places you’ll reach coming from Auckland, it’s home to a historical museum, Goldmining Centre, and is one of the best places to watch the sunset.
With rich natural inspiration, a number of artists call the peninsula home. Find examples all throughout Coromandel, where you can peruse the locally made fare in galleries and boutiques. Highly recommended are Moko Artspace in Hot Water Beach, which exhibits and sells NZ art on behalf of over 100 New Zealand artists, and The Little Gallery of Fine Arts in Tairua.
Whitianga is a busy seaside town and the hub of the Mercury Bay area. Spend a morning shopping at popular outlets and independent stores, before indulging in an afternoon of cocktails and natural hot pools at The Lost Spring.
The Lost Spring
Food and Drink
Being close to the water, it’s no wonder kai moana, ‘food of the ocean’, is plentiful here. With a strong fishing culture, you’ll find an abundance of fresh seafood on the menu at Coromandel restaurants.
Whitianga and Thames offer a selection of eateries, from fine dining to the traditional fish and chips – you’ll find the best price for this classic kiwi combo from Buffalo Beach Takeaways for only $5! Highlights include the Hot Water Brewing Co, a fairly new brasserie offering delicious craft beer and food to match, and Salt; Whitianga’s top class restaurant, where you can enjoy a dish by their international chef with wonderful views of the marina. Whitianga Hotel is a family-friendly establishment that often features local live music in their garden bar.
Smaller surrounding towns also offer plenty of charm and good food. Flock Kitchen & Bar in Tairua serve up tasty lunches and dinners – their wedges are dangerously good!