Less than two hours from Auckland, yet a world away from big city life, The Coromandel is loved for its beaches, native rainforests, feast of outdoor activities and a laid back vibe. A mountainous spine runs through the centre of the peninsula, west of which is a tranquil Pohutukawa-lined coast that is home to a never-ending parade of beaches, coves and harbours while the eastern coast is dotted with fantastic surf beaches. The Pacific Coast Highway travels through the region and offers a road trip full of natural attractions, mining history, culture and easy-going recreation.
KEY TOWNS AND REGIONS
Thames and Kauaeranga Valley
Situated 1.5 hours from Auckland between the Firth of Thames and the ranges of the Coromandel, Thames is the main centre of this region. The “crafty” town has an expansive bush wilderness as its backdrop. East of Thames, in the Coromandel Forest Park, the Kauaeranga Valley is a series of rugged hills that provides a variety of walking tracks, including the popular Pinnacles track. Another unforgettable adventure is the Sleeping Gods Canyon that constantly keeps you on edge, and is not for the faint hearted. A tour of the canyon comprises a vertical descent of more than 300m, down a steep set of waterfalls with exhilarating water slides and jumps into deep dark pools.
The Coromandel is known for its coastal beach hubs, including holiday hotspot Hahei and the famous Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own hot pool just metres from the Pacific Ocean. Tairua, at the mouth of the Tairua River, is a fantastic base to explore the surrounding beaches. A short ferry ride across the harbour from Tairua is Pauanui, a popular resort-like town. Cook’s beach, flanked by Shakespeare Cliff and Purangi Estuary is home to one of New Zealand’s oldest Maori pa sites at Ferry Landing.
On the southeast coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, bordered by the Coromandel Forest Park and Tairua Forest, Whangamata is popular for its unique combination of beach and rainforest. A popular destination over summer, it provides some of the best surf breaks, yet safest swimming in the country. A number of offshore islands can be accessed from the beach, including Hauturu and Clark islands, which can be reached by kayak or wading at low tide. Whenuakura Island (also known as Donut Island) has a large collapsed blowhole that has formed a small beach inside the island. The bordering rainforests provide many opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and exploring gold mining sites.
Coromandel North (Coromandel Town and Whitianga)
Once a wild colonial gold rush town, Coromandel Town is a quaint boutique town full of Victorian architecture, boutique stores and galleries that line the main street.
On the other side of the peninsula is Whitianga, the main settlement of Mercury Bay, which is said to have been occupied by Maori for more than a thousand years. Surrounded by beaches, rivers, native bush and a national marine reserve, the Whitianga region offers a huge variety of recreational activities.
Paeroa is a small town in the Thames Valley, located at the base of the Coromandel and the entrance through to the Karanghape Gorge. It is known for its mineral springs, which provide the water used in the “world famous in New Zealand” Lemon & Paeroa drink. The self-proclaimed antiques capital of New Zealand, Paeroa is known for its antiques and collectables with plenty of stores dotted around the town.
Getting here and around:
The Coromandel is located on the Pacific Coast and is within an hour and a half drive of the major centres of Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua and their airports.
Ferry link is available between Auckland and Coromandel Town. Other passenger ferries within the region are the Whitianga Ferry, and Tairua and Pauanui Ferry.
Bus tours and shuttles are available. Self-drive is a popular option with car rentals available.
Spring (Sep-Nov) – warming up, clear days with cool showers, 8-18°C; Summer (Dec-Feb) – dry and sunny, 21-30°C; Autumn (Mar-May) – moderate rainfall likely, 9-20°C; Winter (Jun-Aug) – heavy rainfall, possibly foggy conditions, 3-15°C.