It’s fair to say the Coromandel is one of the most beautiful destinations on New Zealand’s North Island. The peninsula, and the township named after it, has a trove of attractions to share — especially in the highly-desirable summer season. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover or a water sports enthusiast, make sure to add these places and activities to your must-dos and must-sees.
A walking track north of Hahei will take you to Cathedral Cove, one of the peninsula’s most famous wonders. The marine reserve, which is also known by the Maori name Te Whanganui-A-Hei, stretches from the northern end of the aforementioned Hahei Beach to the Cook Bluff Scenic Reserve. Its beach and picturesque archway were used as a setting for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and the area is also quite popular among scuba divers and snorkellers.
Hot Water Beach
The Hot Water Beach is a sheltered white-sand beach nestled within Whitianga and Tairua. During the low tide, curious visitors come armed with spades so that they can enjoy this unique New Zealand sight in its finest glory — dig up a hole in the sand and you’ll have your own bubbling spa pool to ease yourself into the sweet summer days.
New Chums Beach
New Chums Beach is situated on the northeast coast of the Coromandel Peninsula in the Wainuiototo Bay. Sheltered by lush native forests and Pohutukawa trees, this unspoiled piece of coastline can only be accessed by foot and is the perfect spot for a quiet picnic. In order to keep the area in prime condition there are no roads, buildings or camping facilities nearby.
With 3 kilometres (1.86 miles) of glistening white sands to play with, it’s no wonder Cooks Beach continues to catch the attention of those venturing into the Coromandel Peninsula. In fact, the beach is named as such because it was the arrival point for Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavour in 1879. Before that, Maori legends tell us that Mercury Bay (where Cooks Beach is situated) was fished out of the Pacific Ocean by the mythical Polynesian explorer known as Kupe.
Whenuakura (aka Donut Island)
Often lauded as one of the Coromandel’s best-kept secrets, Whenuakura is one of the four islands you’ll find off the Whangamata coast. It is situated just 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) from Whangamata beach and can only be accessed by kayak or paddle boards. With two beaches, an emerald-water lagoon and a cove with stunning rock formations, this is a definite must-visit if you want to fully immerse yourself in the contrasting landscapes of the Coromandel Peninsula.
The Driving Creek Railway
The Driving Creek Railway is located in the outskirts of Coromandel Town and is New Zealand’s steepest railway. A one-hour trip along the narrow gauge mountain trains will reward you with incredible views of the harbour and surrounding forests within. As the train winds its way up to the EyeFull Tower lookout, you’ll also spot a unique showcase of pottery sculptures and artworks.
The Pinnacles Walk
Also known as the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail, the Pinnacles Walk is one of New Zealand’s most popular overnight hikes. It follows a scenic path that was originally built for the packhorses which carried supplies for the loggers, gum diggers and gold miners who worked in the area in the 1920s. There’s a hut for those wanting to tackle the full summit walk at a slower pace, though the route can be done in a single day if you’re up to it.
The Hauraki Rail Trail
The Hauraki Rail Trail is a 173-kilometre (107.5-mile) cycling route that showcases some of New Zealand’s finest landscapes. An abandoned railway system that runs across the Hauraki Gulf and the Coromandel Peninsula leads riders into various historic points. The trail is accessible from Kaiaua in the north, and Thames, Paeroa, Te Aroha, Waikino and Waihi in the south. It can be broken into single-day rides or multiple-day journeys according to your own personal interest and fitness levels.
You might come into the Karangahake Gorge through the Hauraki Rail Trail, or you may just stumble upon it while heading out of the Coromandel and into the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions. Either way, you should definitely take the time to explore these compelling horizons: a collection of old mining equipment and tunnels, a labyrinth of walkways and swing bridges, plus some stunning native bush and rivers are some of the noteworthy gems this location has in store.
Coromandel Coastal Walkway
This walkway is another hiking must-do in the Coromandel Pensinsula. The Coromandel Coastal Walkway lies between Stony and Fletcher Bays, crossing farmland and lush coastal forests as it follows an old bridle path that was built to connect these two points. This easy, 10-kilometre (6.21-mile) return journey takes approximately seven hours to complete — a steep section along Poley Bay is its most challenging point, otherwise everything is relatively smooth-sailing. The walk provides fantastic views of the Pinnacles, Great Barrier Island and Cuvier Island. There’s also a mountain biking track in the area if you prefer to pedal your way through the circuit.