The Coromandel Peninsula, what to do and see?
Here I am again, writing articles on New Zealand at the end of 2019. I admit that I had put them aside a bit to focus on the articles on French Polynesia. But I’m slowly picking up on it again, looking back at my logbook from our month spent on the North Island of New Zealand. Today, I’m starting a “guide article” on a region that I really enjoyed during our stay in the country, the Coromandel Peninsula. I spent a total of almost 5 days there. I was obviously not able to do everything that will be mentioned in the article, but this only gives me a good reason to go back. The goal here is of course to show you all that you can do in this region! Besides, I’m going back at the end of this year to discover the wonderful landscapes of the South Island of the country, this island that everyone is talking about and that I don’t know yet.
Come on, Let me take you for a walk in this beautiful region, certainly touristy, but worth a visit. At the end of the article, I’ll give you all the practical information to plan your trip.
The must-sees on the Coromandel Peninsula
Hot Water Beach
This is the must-see spot on the Coromandel Peninsula, the one not to be missed for its originality at least. The beach is famous as its name indicates to be one of the hottest beaches in the world with temperatures reaching up to 65°C. We seize the occasion (at about 2 hours near low tide) to come and relax in hot water holes dug on the beach. If you think of it, you can even bring your own shovel to dig, this will avoid burning your hands while digging in the boiling sand… (otherwise you can always rent on site).
Depending on the season, the place is obviously very popular and attracts large crowds. However, even if I’m the first one to generally avoid this type of site, the attraction is nice and spending an hour there is still a lot of fun!
To find out more about it:
Hot Water Beach is located in Mercury Bay on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. The beach is about a 30-minute drive from Whitianga (northwest) and about an hour’s drive from the small village of Coromandel (on the west coast).
Located only 10 Km North of Hot Water Beach, it is with evidence that many travelers (myself included) visit both places on the same day. It’s the second most famous spot on the peninsula. Once again, the place is really very touristy, even though it was not high season yet (October) when I was there.
The famous spot is located 2Km west of the town of Hahei Beach. In fact, you can get there by kayak quite easily. We decided to go there on foot, following the classic tour which offers beautiful panoramas of the surroundings. Approximately 30 minutes of walking are necessary to reach this very large white sand beach, known in particular for the filming of the “World of Narnia”.
The spot is once again very beautiful: a beautiful white sand beach, a huge limestone cove on the beaches, small rocky islets very photogenic. The site basically has everything to please, that’s for sure. Only downside once again, the crowds! And I would really recommend going there in the off-season or in winter where the beach should be much less crowded. In any case, the site is very pleasant to spend an hour and return quietly by the small hiking trail…
Plus: for info, you can absolutely come by Kayak from Hahei or even by boat on an organized tour. I recommend kayaking, although the prices aren’t cheap, it’s a great way to see the coast. The good thing about hiking is that it’s free!
New Chum Beach
This is a great beach very well known locally on the Peninsula and I must say that it’s nice to see a beach without buildings, roads and too many people. Located just north of the village of Whangapoua, you can access the beach by a path that goes from the tip of the village beach (cross the river) along the seashore and the beautiful cliffs. A small climb in the vegetation allows you to reach New Chum Beach. It is the ideal place to spend a quiet moment. I recommend going early in the morning or late afternoon.
The northern tip of the Coromandel
Starting from the small town of Coromandel, I highly recommend booking a full day (or 2) to tour the Coromandel Point. You have several ways to go around the coastline knowing that in reality, not everything is accessible by car. You can start from the village of Coromandel and stop at the famous Driving Creek Railway. Between us, it’s a bit of a big tourist attraction even if it seems like a nice ride. We passed our turn. You can go on towards the beautiful Kennedy Bay, Tuateawa, then drive on to Waikawau and finish at Port Charles. The road even continues to Stony Bay where you can camp in a magical setting. If you want to go further, it will be on foot or mountain bike.
For the ones traveling by car, you can do as we did and turn back by another traverse road that leads you to the small village of Colville, on the west coast. From here, you can head up to the point (or almost) in Port Jackson. It’s a bit like being at the end of the world, and at the time we were there, we didn’t come across many people. The road to get there is superb along the sea, even if the weather could have been better as far as we’re concerned. On the way, you will pass the famous “Northern most point”, literally the northernmost point of the peninsula. Take the time to head to Fletcher Bay where you can also camp for the night. The road ends here. A good idea would be to spend the night here and take the Coromandel Coastal Walkway to Stony Bay (where you went the day before). The walk is known to be very easy, along the sea and you’ll be amazed! Count 7 hours round trip.
If you are visiting the small town of Coromandel, you should take the time to stroll for a few hours in this beautiful village-like area (certainly touristy).
This is a hike I really regret not being able to do. As an excuse, I must admit that I was with my family, that my wife is not a big fan of hiking and that we also had our one-and-a-half-year-old year old son with us. It’s hard to imagine this hike, renowned as one of the 101 must-do’s that every kiwi should do at least once in their life.
The area is located in the valley of Kauaeranga, about 20 km east of the town of Thames. It takes about 30/40 minutes by car to reach the parking lot where this famous hike begins. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the hike and if you are in the area, this is one of the must-do’s in my opinion.
On the program, a loop of 8 hours of walking in apparently splendid landscapes. For those who wish, you can sleep at the “Pinnacles Hut”, about a 40-minute walk from the summit. For campers, this is also possible. Remember to book well in advance as places are expensive.
Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary – Donut Island
Although apparently long guarded as a secret corner locally, this site has become more and more popular over the last few years. It is located at the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula, opposite the town of Whangamata. The main attraction is to go around the islands located in front, either by paddle or kayak, a tour of about 2/3 hours. These rocky islands are known to be a true sanctuary, to be preserved. You are not allowed to set foot there and must stay on your barque. I regret not going there because the place looks magical. You can go inside quite a few caves and from the pictures I’ve seen, the color of the turquoise water is just crazy! The Pacific Ocean will never cease to surprise me!
Located between the west and east coast, on the road to Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, this little place can be a very nice stop if you are crossing. To get there, go down about 3 Km south of the town of Coromandel and turn inland on Route 309. On the program, a short stroll through a small forest of Kauri, these local trees spectacular in size! You can also enjoy a small waterfall (Waiau Falls), perfect for swimming!
You should check if the location has reopened or not for tourists (closed due to 2 fatal climbing accidents), but the spot is very famous locally. It is located not far from Kauri grove, on route 309. It is therefore an essential stop if you take this road to reach the East/West coast of the peninsula. The hike of about 1 hour takes you to the rocky summit of an ancient volcano and offers a spectacular view of the surroundings and when the weather is good, you can even see the Sky Tower in Auckland!
Finally, among the sites that we did not have time to visit but which has a good reputation, the visit of the Karangahake gorges. I admit that we are at the limit of the Coromandel Peninsula already (well south). Located about 5Km from Paeroa, this natural site features a historical gold mine. The site was exploited from the 1880s to 1950s and represented one of the most important gold deposits in the country. On the program, visit of the old mining sites and many walks in the area, including the “Window Walk” which takes you inside the gorge and through the old tunnels of the gold mine, all while passing through a suspension bridge over the Waitawheta River. In short, if you’re in the area, I think it’s worth the detour!
Well, that’s it, I’ve come to the end of the things I think you can do and see at the Coromandel. It’s not all there of course, but many tourists (including myself, I didn’t do any better eh!) will not take the time necessary to visit all the areas mentioned in the article. If I come back to the North Island of New Zealand, I promise to visit other places! Do you see anything I forgot to add in the article? I’ll take it!
A trip to the Coromandel, the practical aspects
As usual, I will give you all the practical aspects for your stay at the Coromandel.
How to get to the Coromandel Peninsula?
First of all, you will obviously have to go to New Zealand. To find cheap airline tickets, I have been using the Skyscanner flight comparator for over 10 years, which allows you to find and compare a set of flights from any destination.
From Europe, you will find a large number of flights from major capitals, necessarily with stopovers. If you leave from the provinces, prices quickly rise with usually a necessary stopover in the country’s capital.
For Americans, the cheapest flights remain from Hawaii or from the big cities on the west coast such as San Francisco or Los Angeles.
Once on site, the easiest way to get there will be to rent either a car, a camper or a van. I know that many tourists swear by these. To be decided according to your budget and your desires, what will be the cheapest for your trip to New Zealand.
If you want to rent a motorhome / van in New Zealand, look no further, this is the best website in my opinion to compare all companies at a glance! I will continue to use it!
For those like me who prefer to rent a car, I recently booked 3 weeks in New Zealand for really cheap thanks to the rates found on this great car rental comparison site.
If you don’t want to rent a car and you are in Auckland, you can very well take a boat from Auckland directly to the Coromandel.
Where to sleep at the Coromandel?
No worries, there will be something for everyone: camping, small guesthouse, chalet, motel, hotel, villa, holiday home, apartment rental, etc.
For campsites, there is no need to make a reservation per se, although during the high season it may be crowded. Try to arrive at the campsite earlier to expect to have space in the “first come first serve” type campsites. Here is my complete guide to camping in New Zealand. All I did was camping, a few Airbnbs and a few accommodations during my stay at the Coromandel.
Nevertheless, I have been recommended several accommodations of different ranges. Here is my selection. I’ve slept in some of them, others look great!
- Comfy Break Away : A nice little single room in the home of a local who knows the place very well!
- Dragonfly Farm : A beautiful farm in a magical setting not far from Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove.
- Mahamudra Buddhist Centre : Looking for an atypical accommodation, don’t look any further, the spot is excellent!
- Grafton Cottage & Chalets : Beautiful wooden cottages overlooking the river. The setting is a dream!
- Harbour Drive : This accommodation perfectly located on the edge of a small lake will delight lovers of peace and quiet.
- The Chocolate Box : A very nice and spacious apartment with terrace located on the edge of Mercury Bay, in Whitianga!
Top of the range
- Waihi Beach Paradise Resort : Located by the sea, here are some superb apartments, perfect for spending a few days at peace!
- Cathedral cove and Sunrise : Sublime apartment with a breathtaking view of Cathedral Cove!
- Atea Lodge : Perfectly located on the heights of Coromandel, this establishment offers breathtaking rooms.
There are also, for those who like these types of accommodation, a lot of Airbnbs in the area!
How to get around?
To get around the area, the easiest way for me is to consider renting a car or a camper to be independent. The peninsula is really too big to be traveled by bike (otherwise it’s another kind of trip, I’ll say!). On the other hand, if you have some time there, I recommend that you rent in a few places and go on bike rides for a day or even several days. The same goes for walks, especially for the famous Coromandel Coastal Walkway.
That’s it, I’ll end here. I hope I made you want to go for a walk on the Coromandel Peninsula. During my road trip among the kiwis, it was clearly a place that we enjoyed. Another place if you don’t know yet, certainly less known than the geothermal zone of Rotorua, I invite you to visit Cape Reinga, at the northern tip of the country!
Have a nice trip