The Coromandel is another gem of New Zealand. It is around a 2.5 hour car journey from Auckland (your best to hire a car from Auckland) and was actually our first “road trip” that we took in 2009 on our first visit to NZ. I remember being amazed at the truly remarkable scenery that we had stumbled upon, it was the first time we got a true sense of what the “real” New Zealand is actually like! Here are our best spots:
Cathedral Cove & Hahei:
If you are after picturesque bays and white sandy beaches this is the area to visit. Cathedral Cove itself is only accessible (unless you kayak) via an hours walk from the main carpark. But in high season it will be pretty much impossible to get a park! Many people park in Hahei and walk the extra hour to the cove. Or alternatively in high season just outside Hahei you will find a park and ride, for $3 per person you will be able to jump on the bus and get taken to the main car park. The bus runs every 15 minutes so you won’t have long to wait!
If you are not up for the walk then we suggest taking a boat trip to the cove. You will get to see it from a different angle!
The Cove itself is surrounded by massive limestone cliffs with even a large limestone archway you can walk through and reach another beach (low tide only), it would feel like a secret beach if it wasn’t full of hundreds of day trippers! Try and visit early morning or in low season to really appreciate its true beauty. Here is my attempt (can you spot the person in the sea?!) of getting a picture with nobody in it!
Hot Water Beach:
This is located just 15 minutes from Cathedral Cove and in Mercury Bay. Two hours either side of low tide you can dig your very own natural hot pool sourced by an underground hot spring. Expect lots of people there, from the local café you can hire or buy your own spade to help speed up the digging (around $5 to hire or $15 to buy!) but you don’t really need it, get on your hands and knees and help out, or let the young kids do all the work for you and reap the rewards once they are bored! There are many Hot Water Beach’s in New Zealand but this is by far the most popular due to it being easily accessible.
The Coromandel Forest:
Just 15 minutes from Thames is The Coromandel Forest Park. The Coromandel doesn’t have to be all beaches and sun cream. More than 30 day hikes can be explored from this forest the longest one is the 7-8 hour return journey up to the summit of the “The Pinnacles” There are also lots of great small and cheap DOC camp sites to stay at and even glow worm caves to explore if you fancy something a bit different!
Purangi Winery and Cook’s Beach:
We love finding unique places to stay and eat when we are on our travels. We are often stopping and starting the car, turning around and popping into a place just to be nosy! And this is just how we found this place. A sign on the side of the road said “Wood Fire Pizzas”. We decided to stop on the way to Cook’s Beach (worth a visit if you are after an afternoon of relaxing with less people) inside we found a winery that is run by a family who have been there for generations. We then found out via our Wiki Camp app that if you spend $40 on either wine or food here and you can camp on their land for free. This may not initially sound like a great deal, but considering you get fed, have great pizza and enjoy some unique wines and a place to pitch your tent or camper van you soon realise it is worth it! And granted the land is not great, they provide a camping loo and that is about it! But we had a blast we had some pizza, embraced the obligatory winery tour (which consisted of numerous spirits as well as wine!) and even took some Feijoa wine back to our tent. Needless to say we were a bit legless!
This place is technically not in the Coromandel Peninsula but more on the edge between the forest and the Kaimai Ranges. However it is worth a mention as it is great detour back to Auckland! On state highway 2 you come across a beautiful historic railway within a gorge with many walks and paths to explore you will find yourself here for hours! There is a 1km rail way tunnel on one of the paths with signs telling you about the history of the gold mining era. Walks last from 30 minutes return (to the car park) up to 4 hours, bring a pack lunch and prepare to go exploring!
If you want to find out how a trip to The Coromandel can be incorporated into a larger road trip of New Zealand, check out our 30 day Self Drive Itinerary. 🙂
Our Top Tip:
If you need to find somewhere to stay other than a campground when you visit then we highly recommend booking your accommodation in advance, it’s important not to under estimate how busy NZ gets between September and March each year. We suggest checking out BookaBach (private homes often not found on AirBnB) or this link to find out instant availability of the motels/hotels/guest houses in the area.