Day One: Coromandel Town and Surrounds
Morning: Getting to the Coromandel
If you’re coming in from Auckland, there’s a ferry that departs from downtown in the morning which takes you on a two-hour journey to Hannafords Wharf on the Coromandel Peninsula. On arrival, you can catch a free shuttle bus to Coromandel Town, a good base for exploring. The town is quite handy to all kinds of accommodation options and attractions. Guided tours can be organised from the ferry company too, among various other places.
For those wanting a self-guided approach, the Pacific Coast Highway will lead you in the right direction. It’s a slow, winding road with plenty of picturesque views that will make the trip worthwhile. Driving from Auckland to the Coromandel takes approximately two and a half hours.
Mid-morning–Afternoon: Exploring Coromandel Town
Go for a stroll around the township to get a glimpse of how the 1852 gold rush shaped New Zealand’s history. Coromandel Town is also known for being home to a number of artists, so make sure to check out some of the local galleries and, if you have an hour to spare, the Driving Creek Railway too.
Finish things off by walking along the picturesque Long Bay Beach, where you’ll find the town’s best cafes and restaurants. Fuel up and get ready for the next stretch of your journey.
Afternoon: En route to Whitianga
If you’re travelling by car, consider venturing along the 309 Road that connects Coromandel Town to Whitianga. The 22-kilometre (13.67-mile) trip doesn’t take long. Just remember to drive carefully as most of the road is made of gravel, and there are a lot of interesting sights along the way. Notable must-sees include The Waterworks theme park, Castle Rock as well as the Waiau Falls and Kauri Grove.
Evening: Unwinding in Whitianga
Whitianga has quite a good selection of places to stay, many of which are right by the beach. Before checking into your hotel or backpackers though, you can always let your worries simmer away by visiting the famous Lost Spring Spa. These natural geothermal pools are open until 5:30 p.m. from Sunday until Friday and until 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, making them the perfect nighttime treat after a full day of travelling. The spa also has a restaurant on-site, so you won’t need to stray too far for a meal.
The Lost Spring, 121A Cook Dr, Whitianga 3510, New Zealand. +64 7-866 0456
Day Two: The Famous Must-sees
Morning: Breakfast in town and Mercury Bay Museum
Head over to the Esplanade for some breakfast with lovely coastal views. Your choices include the Harbour House Cafe and the Espy Cafe, both of which are known for their fantastic locations and great food options, including gluten-free treats for those with allergies. From there, you can take a quick walk up to Mercury Bay Museum, where you’ll learn a bit about the bay’s historic significance as well as get to see a number of interesting relics and photographic displays.
The Espy Cafe, 10 Esplanade, Whitianga 3510, New Zealand. +64 7-866 0778
Late morning–afternoon: A highlights cruise
From the museum, it’s only a short amble up to Whitianga Wharf, where you’ll be spoiled for choice on guided tour options of the Coromandel’s highest renowned highlights. The Ocean Leopard Tours, for instance, offers a two-hour ‘Full Monty’ tour of Cathedral Cove, Cooks Beach, Hahei, Shakespeare Cliff and Gemstone Bay. This one departs three times a day, at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and there’s time to swim and snorkel during the trip too.
Evening: A seafood feast
The Coromandel is quite a popular fishing spot, so it’s no wonder that many of its restaurants focus on seafood delicacies. After you’ve spent the day cruising along the coastlines, head back to Whitianga for a meal that makes the most of local flavours. You’ve got an abundance of options here: you can grab some fish and chips from the popular takeaway shop Snapper Jacks for a beachside feast, chill out in a casual establishment like Squids Bar & Restaurant or you could add a bit of finesse to the final hours of your journey in a place like the French-inspired Poivre & Sel.
Poivre & Sel, 2 Mill Rd, Whitianga 3510, New Zealand. +64 7-866 0053