Search & Explore The Coromandel
If you're serious about travelling to The Coromandel then this should be a good read. You'll find helpful information, travel tips and a video series introducing places that even the most avid traveller will not have seen. Reset the compass, search beyond your typical holiday boundaries and explore more of The Coromandel on your next road trip.
Northern Coromandel (Coromandel Town)
When: Coromandel Town is attractive year round and the ideal place to visit when other plans may've gone awol (e.g. a rainy day or rough seas).
Distance: In good traffic you can be eating fresh Coromandel Oysters in Coromandel Town within 2 1/2 hours of leaving Auckland, Hamilton or Tauranga. Or you could take 2 hour scenic ferry direct from downtown Auckland. Take the ferry, hook up with local guides and tick off The Coromandel's hot spots in style.
Local Tip: To get to New Chums Beach you need to cross an estuary at the northern end of Whangapoua. Check the tides and like all popular beaches head there early in the morning, particularly if you're visiting in the Christmas/New Year holidays.
Coromandel Town Information: The mussel farms are as attractive to the snapper as they are to seafood lovers. Before you even hit Coromandel Town the seafood influence is evident in road side stores, cafes and deli's. While discovering the town's reputable foodie scene you'll also notice the artistic influence at the local galleries. Diary the Coromandel Arts Tour to see the artists at work.
North of Coromandel Town is simply magic. Take your time, the drive is like therapy, it's no wonder Colville is the chosen location for a Buddhist Retreat - a place of peace, tranquility and simplicity.
Coromandel Town Must Dos: At the tip of the Peninsula is the Coromandel Coastal Walkway which spans between Port Jackson and Fletcher Bay and all the bays and campgrounds in between. (NOTE: DOC campground fire pits are only available to use at certain times of the year. Refer to campground information when booking to be sure).
This coastline is home to one of New Zealand's best snapper fisheries, so if fishing's your gig...look no further.
When: Like the other towns on the western side of The Coromandel Thames is a year-round destination (Saturday markets all year).
Distance: A cruisy 1 hour 30 minutes from Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga. Even less from the Auckland International Airport!
Local Tip: When walking The Pinnacles track opt to stay overnight so you can witness the sunset and sunrise - the sunrise could genuinely be the highlight of your trip to The Coromandel. Even though clouds dominated the scene in the video below, the appearance of the sun over the Pacific Coast was enough to draw a collective gasp of wonder come stoke from the early risers...such a good way to start the day! Also, book in mid week and off peak to get the impressive 80-bed hut to yourself.
Thames Travel Information: The Kauaeranga Valley is Thames' best-kept secret. It includes The Pinnacles, Sleeping God Canyon, swimming holes (do some bombs), awesome walks and bike tracks in sub-tropical bush (Nikau Palms everywhere) and the DOC information centre (good spot to fly a kite).
Remember to drive on to Pollen St when passing through Thames. Grahamstown is the heritage end of town with old buildings that celebrate the golden era. Thames was once New Zealand's biggest town (still up for debate but we'll claim it). Thames is ideally located to access the rest of the Peninsula and the Hauraki Plains - which is linked via the Hauraki Rail Trail.
The Thames Coast Road is a show stopper, literally! Look out for passing bays and slow lanes to let faster traffic pass on, chances are you'll be taking a few photos (tag #thecoromandel and #goodforyoursoul when sharing). The road hugs the coastline and is dotted with the Pohutukawa Tree which flowers around New Zealand's summer Christmas. Stop off at Waiomu for a coffee or a one hour walk to the Kauri Grove. Head inland along the Tapu - Coroglen Rd and visit Rapaura Water Gardens for lunch plus a few other hidden gems.
Thames Must Dos: So many! As mentioned, add The Pinnacles and Sleeping God Canyon to your bucket list. The Thames Coast Road is a classic New Zealand road trip, try to time it with a sunset if you're lucky. The snapper fishery in the Firth is pumping, just don't tell too many people. Cycle the Hauraki Rail Trail on a Saturday so you can visit the Thames Markets. And do the Peninsula loop so you can return to sample more than one of the great cafes in the old Grahamstown.
Hauraki Plains & Seabird Coast
When: Time your journey with the migrating seabirds if that's your thing. Autumn and winter are great for cycling the trail and 'chilling' in the hot pools. Summer to pick your own blueberries. Any time's a good time on the plains.
Distance: Times will differ between Miranda/Pukorokoro and Ngatea, however Hauraki is just over an hour from the main centres of Hamilton and Auckland.
Local Tip: When travelling SH2 to The Coromandel from Auckland, take the Mangatawhiri Rd exit. It'll take the same time, the scenery is better, traffic is lighter and it'll allow for a stop off at Stray Dog Cafe and Gallery - features New Zealand's best artists!
Hauraki and Seabird Coast Travel Information: The Hauraki Plains have some awesome cafes fueling travellers heading to the Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Taupo and Rotorua. After all this is dairy country so a flat white helps to support the locals. And the locals are a hospitable bunch, making space for some of the best Freedom Camping spots in New Zealand, Ray's Rest is The Coromandel's most popular. Stretch the legs with the kids at the Ngatea Water Gardens when passing through.
Hauraki & Seabird Coast Must Dos: Even if you're not a bird watcher the Miranda Shorebird Centre and hides are like scenes from David Attenborough's Our World. And if twitching is your passion, best you stay a while. While here relax at Miranda Hot Springs - soak in the natural thermal pools set in idyllic farmland while breathing in clean country air.
Circumnavigate the Firth of Thames by bike on the Hauraki Rail Trail. The views across the Firth of Thames and along the Coromandel Ranges on a sunny day are priceless.
When: Check the events calendar there's always something coming up particularly late summer (Like the Tattoo featured in the video). Winter and Spring are great times to ride the Paeroa - Waihi section of the Hauraki Rail Trail due to the cooler temperatures.
Distance: One hour from Tauranga and Hamilton. 1 1/2 hours from Auckland (when the traffics good).
Local Tip: Surprise a loved one (and yourself) with a romantic trip to Paeroa. Plan ahead for places to dine along the Hauraki Rail Trail, include the train ride from Waikino to Waihi. Finish the day aboard the paddle boat Tamati based at the Paeroa Maritime Museum. Also head to the museum for the Paeroa Christmas Light Show, just be prepared for queues as it's getting bigger every year.
Paeroa Travel Information: Paeroa is the events capital of The Coromandel, courtesy of the locals who roll their sleeves up to put on a quality show. It's these locals that helped Paeroa win the New Zealand community of the year in 2012.
Paeroa is organically evolving into another charming country town with lots to offer. So long as it retains its charm and friendly atmosphere it'll become a hot spot in years to come. The Maritime Museum has big plans, visit now and you'll see why.
Paeroa Must Dos: Karangahake Gorge is one of New Zealand's must dos so surely it has to be Paeroa's number one. Explore the mining history along the Windows Walk especially in Winter & Spring when the temperatures are cool and crisp.
Eat and drink (within the limit) your way along the Hauraki Rail Trail, a great day out for the whanau (family).
Waihi & Waihi Beach
When: Year round - bush, beach and the gold story will keep you entertained
Distance: 50 minutes from Tauranga, over an hour from Hamilton and 2 from Auckland.
Local Tip: Take the family to Whiritoa Beach for a day in the sun. The estuary at the north end is ideal for kids (under the watchful eye of caregivers). A gentle stroll over the hill will reveal Waimama Bay, a romantic picnic spot if you're a travelling couple.
Waihi Travel Information: The town with a heart of gold has a lot to offer when you go beneath the surface (you actually can on a working goldmine tour)! The gold story is everywhere, from the old tales scattered through Karangahake and Waikino to the new age mining techniques on display at the Gold Discovery Centre opposite the Martha Mine pit. There's so much more to Waihi that one visit won't be enough, see why in the must do's...
Waihi Must Dos: Kick off the stay with a visit to the Gold Discovery Centre to understand how the town has evolved. And then visit to Karangahake Gorge to truly appreciate the power of nature. Ideally done as part of the Hauraki Rail Trail so you can see the Victoria Battery and catch the Goldfields train. The cafes along the way are superb and make the bike ride all the more worthwhile, the food is often homegrown and always delicious. As is the food at Waihi Beach, a boutique seaside village with fun surf and good fishing. Waihi Beach is at the border between The Coromandel and Bay of Plenty, it is also the entrance for the great Orakawa Bay Walk that connects back into The Coromandel's Hauraki district.
When: Whangamata is New Zealand's summer hot spot, with so much cool stuff going on. If you're a little more selfish and want to have the good times to yourself then Autumn is the best time to visit - think endless summer (although Beach Hop is crazy fun in Autumn so book ahead).
Distance: 2 hours and 20 minutes from Auckland, under 2 from Hamilton and only 1 hour 20 minutes from Tauranga
Local Tip: If you're visiting Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary (aka Donut Island) check out this page before you go, this Wildilfe Sanctuary needs your help and protection!
Whangamata Travel Information: Whanga' is a surfing mecca, with the protected left hand bar and one of the best beach breaks for learners in New Zealand. The town looks towards the Pacific and thrives on water sports such as swimming, paddle boarding, fishing, diving and kayaking. Venture inland and there's awesome mountain bike tracks, great bush walks - the Wentworth Waterfall is worth the walk in most weather (just be aware of the ford crossing in high rain) - or a round of golf.
Head out of town and explore Opoutere and Onemana beaches. Opoutere is particularly special as you have to walk through forestland to get there with no buildings along the coastline, a rare find in today's world.
Often overlooked in all of The Coromandel and particularly Whangamata, is the shopping scene. Imagine perusing boutique stores at your leisure, timing it with brunch in the sun and taking in the local art scene - you don't even have to worry about car parks. Now compare that to shopping in the big smoke...no stress!
Whangamata Must Dos: Surfing Whangamata will always be number one, remember to play by the rules to maximise those #goodforyoursoul moments. Donut Island (Whenuakura) is becoming a popular attraction, however it needs more respect if this sanctuary is to survive. Certified guides will explain why, while also keeping you safe!
When: October through to April for the summer scene. If you're after a romantic escape Winter and Spring are ideal.
Distance: Around 2 hours from all neighbouring cities (Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga)
Local Tip: Keep an eye out for off-season specials. Pauanui is a great escape for the romantic, imagine staying in bush chalets when it's raining or glamping on a private island in the Pacific.
Pauanui Travel Information: Pauanui was built for the fun times, rich in lifestyle options for locals and visitors alike. The growing permanent and holiday community enjoy fun waves, good fishing, awesome diving, flying planes, playing golf...but wait there's more! The new Pauanui - Tairua walking track doubles as a bike track adding to the bike options in town (ask a local for the best spots, they're a friendly bunch). If you're after a tougher challenge hike Mt Pauanui and be rewarded with epic views of the Pacific Coast.
Pauanui Must Dos: For golfers you have to play Lakes Resort. The challenging championship course is in a wonderful setting that should not be missed. If you're not an avid golfer, hit some balls at the driving range just so you can enjoy the scenery and restaurant. Stay a few nights with the intention to relax and recharge.
When: Another summer stunner, stay for a while to experience the best of it. Autumn offers all the delights of summer in a laid back way you'd expect from a coastal Pacific town.
Distance: Around 2 hours from all neighbouring cities (Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga)
Tairua Travel Information: Interestingly, the oldest polynesian artefact in Aotearoa New Zealand was discovered in Tairua, stop in town and you may find a few gems too. Tairua has it all at its doorstep, not too big, not too small...just right. Puketui Forest and the Hikuai Valley are the perfect contrast to the coast, peaceful country scenes, dwarfed by layers of dramatic Coromandel ranges. The coastal lifestyle is the biggest drawcard with world-class fishing, diving and surfing right here. Perhaps that's why the locals are so relaxed, happy to share the love but equally happy to enjoy the #goodforyoursoul vibe without any fuss. This photogenic seaside town is growing in reputation in a sustainable kind of way, slowly but surely. Some might say it's perfect.
Tairua Must Dos: Head to the off-shore supermarket for a spot of diving at the Aldermen and while you're out there catch some King Fish, enough said!
Mercury Bay (Whitianga)
When: A genuine year-round destination that is officially hot in the summer!
Distance: Approximately 2 1/2 - 3 hours from all neighbouring cities.
Local Tip: If you plan to visit Cathedral Cove go early in the day or late, to get the best photos and secure a car park. Or even better go on a boat tour and avoid the summer pilgrimage - you won't regret it. May - October are the opportune times to get the whole place to yourself, although the water will be cooler at this time of year if you're planning a dip!
Mercury Bay Travel Information: Mercury Bay is unquestionably the tourism mecca of The Coromandel. Whitianga is the main town and ideally positioned to explore Mercury Bay with plenty of dining, accommodation and activity options on offer. The Coromandel gets busy during the summer and 'Whiti-city' is no exception. However, busy in local terms is still bearable for most travellers with the town's permanent population less than 5000. Matarangi is worth a look, particularly if you've brought your golf clubs. Coroglen should see you stop off for a refreshment or for one of New Zealand's latest music tours at the local tavern, take care if travelling across the gravel road to Tapu on the Thames Coast.
Despite being the busiest place in The Coromandel, Whitianga effortlessly maintains a perfect balance with no skyrises and spectacular views from Buffalo Beach. Look up Mercury Bay Art Escape and get set to meet the artists at work, inspired by the coastlines and landscapes of The Coromandel.
Whitianga Must Dos: New Chums, Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove are the most popular attractions in The Coromandel. Cathedral Cove is particularly busy, beat the crowds and go on a tour or catch a shuttle before walking the newly opened track - Te Ara o Hei, back to Whitianga via Ferry Landing.
The Lost Spring is worth a weekend away. It's like a trip to the Pacific Islands, just a whole lot easier. Search for accommodation and lock it in.
Opito and Otama are becoming beaches of choice due to amazing scenery, respite from the hot spots and the funky village of Kuaotunu that's on the way.
Secure tickets to the worlds best Scallop Festival before the event sells out.