The Coromandel is where Kiwis go on holiday. This scenic peninsula is located on the Eastern side of the North Island, not far from Auckland. It’s full of lush forests, rolling green hills, beautiful beaches, and small, quiet towns. It’s the perfect place for a vacation, whether you live in New Zealand or you’re just visiting.
The Coromandel Peninsula is a wonderful place to visit if you love the outdoors and a slower pace of life. It’s definitely a beach-lover’s paradise, as you’re never too far from a nice sandy stretch of coastline. The weather is sunny and warm during most of the year. However, don’t be surprised if you’re met with lots of rain in the winter.
I have a pretty strong connection to the Coromandel, since I ended up living there for a total of 6 months. Most of my time was spent in the Mercury Bay area, but I had a chance to explore other parts of the peninsula too.
This guide is simply a collection of my favorite places around the Coromandel, as well as a few things I think everyone should add to their itinerary. It’s focused on major hubs, so activities are listed under the nearest town.
A Guide to the Coromandel Peninsula
Coromandel Town is one of the main tourist spots on the peninsula, located along the Western edge. This is where the ferry comes in from Auckland, so a lot of people come through here for day trips and holidays. There’s one street filled with restaurants & shops, and there are plenty of accommodation options all around the area.
The main draw of Coromandel Town is simply that it’s a town with amenities. It’s a good place to stay, but most people go out around the peninsula during the day for other activities. There are beaches and walks nearby, though, so you can just spend a day in town if you like.
What to Do in Coromandel Town
- Driving Creek Railway // This fun train ride takes you up 2.7 km, and is the steepest railway in New Zealand.
- Kauri Block Track // This short walk leads up a to an old Maori pa site.
- New Chums Beach // A well-known New Zealand beach on the eastern coast of the Coromandel.
Where to Eat in Coromandel Town
- UMU Café // 22 Wharf Road
- Success Café // 104 Kapanga Road
- Pepper Tree Restaurant & Bar // 31 Kapanga Road
Where to Stay in Coromandel Town
- Anchor Lodge Motel & Backpackers // 448 Wharf Road
- Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park // 636 Rings Road
- Tui Lodge // 60B Whangapoua Road
Whitianga is one of the larger towns on the Coromandel. It’s located on Mercury Bay, in the Northeast of the peninsula. It’s a major tourist hotspot, with all of the restaurants, shops, and major stores you’ll need for a comfortable stay. It’s quite a busy town in the high season, and a great base for exploring the Coromandel.
What to Do in Whitianga
- Buffalo Beach // The main beach in Whitianga. It’s a fun place to hang around in the summer.
- The Lost Spring // If you want to treat yo’ self, have a spa day at the Lost Spring. Soak in the geothermal pools or get a massage.
- Mercury Bay // Whitianga is a good base for exploring the area south of Mercury Bay. See the next section for more activities.
Where to Eat in Whitianga
- Master Kebab // 41/5 Albert Street
- That Curry Place // 45 Albert Street
- Frankie’s Sports Bar & Grill // 37 Albert Street
- The Espy Café // 10 Esplanade
- Whitianga Hotel // 1 Blacksmith Lane
Where to Stay in Whitianga
- On the Beach Backpackers // 46 Buffalo Beach Road
- AirBnB // Check AirBnB for local rentals (Use my code for $40 off your first booking)
Hot Water Beach & Hahei
I don’t quite know how to label this region, but it’s the area I know the best. It’s sort of its own little peninsula south of Mercury Bay, with lots of cool places to see, all spread out around the area. Some of the main hubs are Hot Water Beach and the little township of Hahei.
There isn’t a whole lot in the way of amenities, but it’s such a beautiful, quiet place. You’ll find a lot of walks, forests, and beaches, so it’s definitely worth spending a day or two here.
What to Do near Hot Water Beach & Hahei
- Hot Water Beach – Hot Water Beach is famous for the extra hot water hiding beneath the sand. During low tide, you can dig your own little hot pool to sit in.
- Cathedral Cove – One of the most popular, and most recognizable, places in New Zealand. The walk to this idyllic beach is a must.
- Hahei Beach – Hahei Beach is a casual spot to hang out, right in town.
- Shakespeare Reserve – A short walk leads up to an amazing view atop Shakespeare Cliff. You can also walk down to Lonely Beach from here.
Where to Eat near Hot Water Beach & Hahei
- Purangi Winery // 501 Purangi Winery
- Hahei Beach Cafe // 3 Grange Road
- The Pour House // 7 Grange Road
- Colenso Cafe // 895 NZ State Highway 25
- Hotties Café // 29 Pye Place
Where to Stay near Hot Water Beach & Hahei
- Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park // 790 Hot Water Beach Road
- Tatahi Lodge Backpackers // Grange Road
Other Things to Do in Coromandel
Karangahake Gorge – Karangahake, “New Zealand’s Gorge of Gold”, is an important part of the country’s mining heritage. It’s an historic & archaeological site with lots of walks. The Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway follows an old rail line, where you’ll find relics from the mining days.
The Pinnacles – The Pinnacles is a really popular hike in New Zealand. It’s about 12 km return, so it can be done in a day, but a lot of people turn it into an overnight hike so they can reach the summit in the morning.
The 309 Road – The 309 Road is a winding, gravel road that takes you across the peninsula, from Coromandel Town to Whitianga. It’s only 14 miles, but you’ll have to take it slow. There’s so many cool spots along the way, though, like Waiau Falls and the Kauri Forest.
Coastal Walkway – A fun way to see the upper peninsula is to take on the Coromandel Coastal Walkway. It’s a 10 km track from Stony Bay to Fletcher’s Bay. It’s a 7-hour return, making it a great day hike. You can also do one-way only, and have a shuttle pick you up.
How to Get to the Coromandel + Getting Around
The Coromandel Peninsula is easy to get to from Auckland.
Distances from Auckland
Auckland to Thames – 114 km / 1 ½ hour drive (MAP)
Auckland to Coromandel Town – 168 km / 2 ½ hour drive (MAP)
Auckland to Whitianga – 190 km / 2 ½ hour drive (MAP)
Renting a car and driving yourself is the easiest and most flexible way to see the Coromandel. Having your own car will allow you to move around from town to town, and get to some of the remote beaches and walking tracks.
If you don’t have a car, you can get around by bus or shuttle. Intercity and Naked Bus both make the loop around the peninsula regularly, arriving in major towns (like Thames, Coromandel Town, Whitianga). Smaller shuttle companies also provide transport around the Coromandel, between towns, and to various attractions and sights.
You can also take the ferry from downtown Auckland to Coromandel Town. This is a popular way for Aucklanders to take a day trip to the peninsula, arriving in the morning and departing late afternoon. From here, you can take a bus or shuttle to get to other parts of the Coromandel.
Tips for Visiting the Coromandel Peninsula
- Everything is spread out and fairly remote. If you don’t have your own vehicle, joining a tour or booking a shuttle is the best way to get to various attractions.
- Tour companies in Coromandel Town usually create their schedules around the ferry coming from Auckland. They’re set up so that people coming from Auckland can take a tour and return to the city later that day. Keep this in mind when scheduling your day.
- The best things to do on the Coromandel are outdoor activities. Camping, hiking, and beaches are generally the type of things you’ll be doing. There are also a lot of opportunities for kayaking & boat tours.
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