But there is so much more to this peninsula, which sits just a few hours from Auckland. You would be hard pressed to explore all it has to offer in a single weekend. In our latest visit, we set out to do just that.
Our two-day itinerary for The Coromandel takes you to the most stunning places in the region (including some you may not have expected) and will inspire you every step of the way.
Day 1 Karangahake Gorge and Owharoa Falls
If you are driving from Auckland, your first stop should be Karangahake Gorge.
Located just South of the Coromandel, this is a great opportunity to stretch your legs and make the most of the morning light. The short rail loop track takes around 45 minutes and winds alongside the Ohinemuri River and through a 1100m historic railway tunnel.
It is then just a 5-minute drive to Owharoa Falls, a hidden gem down a small set of stairs from the side of the road. These cascading falls offer a moment of relaxation amongst the swooping fantails.
From there, take the road up to the Coromandel Peninsula. On the way you will pass through several small towns where you can find a spot for a quick bite to eat or a longer sit-down meal.
To catch the sunset at Cathedral Cove, you will need to arrive with plenty of time to spare. The walk (up and) down to the beach stretches along the clifftops and surrounding countryside before winding down a set of stairs to the coast. A round trip without any stops will take you about 90 minutes, but you will want to stop and photograph along the way. The large arch is the main attraction, but be sure to walk through to the other side as the beach beyond features stunning rock formations. If the sky is clear, stick around for star trails or head into town and check out the Pour House for dinner and a drink.
Tip! This is a very popular destination in the summer. We recommend visiting outside of peak season to enjoy emptier beaches, as well as earlier and longer sunsets.
Photo Credit: @twodustylenses
Day 2 Te Pare Reserve and Hot Water Beach
Start the new day with a sunrise from the bluffs at Te Pare Reserve. The sun will stream in over your shoulder as you look out at Hahei Beach below and up the coast towards Cathedral Cove.
Once the sun is up, jump back in the car and head around the corner to Hot Water Beach. Enjoy a lazy breakfast and lounge in your beach pool heated by underground geothermal springs.
Tip! Check the tide. The pools are only accessible two hours either side of low tide. Also, remember to bring a shovel, as you will need to dig a fresh pool for yourself. Most hotels will provide this for you.
Photo Credit: @twodustylenses
Head north out of Hahei and cut across the centre of the peninsula on the scenic 309 road.
Your first stop will be a fifteen minute loop through the Waiau Kauri Tree Grove. These mighty trees grow over 50 meters tall, but are threatened by the rapid kauri disease.The grove is protected with a small foot washing station on the way in and out of the track, which reduces the spread of the disease by stopping travellers from carrying it in on the bottom of their shoes.
Driving just a little further down the road, be sure to stop again for the Waiau Falls, a fantastic end to your stay in The Coromandel.
Tip! Take a towel to sit on and make the most of photographing this location.
Photo credit: @twodustylenses
From here, make your way back along the western coast through Thames and back up to Auckland.
GOT MORE TIME ON YOUR HANDS?
If you have three or more days to explore The Coromandel, you may wish to expand your itinerary using one or more of these options...
Karangahake Gorge: The Historic Walkway to Waikino extends far beyond the shorter Karangahake walk. It will take up the better part of a morning (4 hours return) and allows you
Te Pare Reserve: Consider returning later in the day, particularly in the winter, when the sun sets over Hahei beach and the coasts beyond.
Colville: For a full extra day, consider driving to the very North of the Coromandel Peninsula to enjoy this quiet town, surrounded by a number of little-known but charming beaches.