With so many things to do in the Coromandel Peninsula:
The Coromandel coast, The Coromandel or rather Coromandel Peninsula should be on your bucket list if you get the chance to visit the North Island of New Zealand,
Because where else can you dig out your own hot pool at a beach (Hot Water Beach) or see the screensaver-worthy Cathedral Cove?
- How To Get To The Coromandel Peninsula
- Weather In Coromandel / When To Visit Coromandel
- Important Information For Visiting Coromandel Peninsula
- 23 Things To Do In Coromandel
- Coromandel In 2 Days
- Accommodation In Coromandel
How To Get To The Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula (the box in red) is above the Bay of Plenty (Southeast of Whakatane – not shown) and not too far from Auckland.
Auckland To Coromandel
According to Google, it’s a 2-hour, 20-minute direct drive to Hahei beach where Cathedral Cove and the Hot Water Beach are.
Tip: We filled up on gas in the town of Paeroa as it was way cheaper than in Auckland. If that name sounds familiar to you, it is. Paeroa is famous for being the birthplace of a particular New Zealand drink called L&P or Lemon and Paeroa. There are a number of antique shoes in that town!
Rotorua To Coromandel
If you’re coming up from Rotorua:
Then, it’s a 3-hour drive to Hahei beach.
Waitomo To Coromandel
From Waitomo (Hobbiton):
It will also take you 3 hours to drive to Hahei.
When should you go?
Weather In Coromandel / When To Visit Coromandel
During summer (Dec to Feb), the temperature ranges between ~24-30 degrees Celsius.
However, it is still possible to visit Coromandel during the less popular summer months:
If you can stand a bit of chill and want to escape the summer crowds:
Then, consider going in the other seasons or you’ll find it difficult to secure a spot for your hot pool. Or a parking spot for that matter.
What about going in winter?
We went in winter from Auckland when it was around 12-14 degrees Celsius.
During winter, you may want to monitor the weather for a couple of weeks. To look for a break in the clouds (literally).
Sunny days don’t happen often during June.
And when a sunny weekend appears on the forecast, just grab the opportunity and go!
By the way:
The whole Coromandel area is quite large. So the weather depends which area you visit. Either Thames‘ side or Whitianga’s side.
Also, since you’re checking the weather:
Important Information For Visiting Coromandel Peninsula
Assuming you will be checking out Cathedral Cove and the infamous Hot Water Beach:
You have to check when low tide is.
If low tide is at 5 pm, then you can go within any 2 hours before or after 5 pm. Like 4 pm or 6 pm, to be safe.
Need a rain and windproof jacket to serve your time in New Zealand, regardless of the weather?
We recommend the Uniqlo Blocktech Parka – see our full review here.
23 Things To Do In Coromandel Peninsula
Firstly, we are going to introduce all of these places anti-clockwise starting from Karangahake.
1. Check Out Old Tunnels And The Bridges At Karangahake Gorge
Did you know that the Coromandel region of New Zealand has a rich gold mining history?
There a few walks you can do in this area:
You could probably spend a day here doing all the walks at your own pace.
Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway
This 3-hour walk’s main feature are the ruins of the old Victoria battery (Victoria Battery Historic Reserve). Ore from Martha Mine used to be processed here.
You can take this walk all the way to Waikino Station.
Rail Tunnel Loop
We chose to do the Rail Tunnel Loop which is around 45 minutes (including the return trip).
You will see some mining relics along the trail. And you can go into an old mining tunnel and cross over 2 bridges.
There are more photos on our Instagram.
The Crown Mines
The Crown Mines are definitely one of the highlights at Karangahake Gorge.
They make the hike so much more interesting.
Note: Taking either the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway or Rail Tunnel Loop will pass through here 20 minutes into the walk.
It is pretty wet and muddy in the tunnels. And dark too so have your phone or a flashlight on standby. And a bag to put your camera in.
The whole family can check the tunnel out too because it is a relatively easy walk.
2. Owharoa Falls
Because the Owharoa Falls are just a quick walk down an uneven path from the car park (or ~30 minutes’ walk if you’re coming from the historic Waikino train station), they’re an excellent stop for cooling off on a hot summer day. Dogs are welcome too.
Weekends and public holidays typically see crowds.
If you don’t fancy swimming, you can just relax on the bank under the shade. And there are toilets (albeit no changing rooms) nearby as well.
Note: This waterfall (like others) looks more impressive after a day of rain
3. Victoria Battery Tramway & Museum
If seeing the old mine relics is not enough to satiate your curiosity on the region’s gold mining history, you can seek answers at Victoria Battery Tramway & Museum.
Note: Open on the weekends and public holidays
In fact, you can take a package that includes the tram, tunnel tour and museum visit!
Some of the staff (volunteers) have personal experience in the mining industry.
Plus, there is plenty of old machinery and other artifacts to gawk at here too! There are also guided tours that will take you underground in an old mine tunnel (200m walk).
This is also part of the Karangahake Gorge Bike Trail.
- Location: Ohinemuri River, Waikato, Waikato 3682, New Zealand
- Opening Hours: Saturday & Sunday from 10am–3pm
- Contact: –
- Website: http://www.vbts.org.nz/
Follow the gold:
4. Stop By The Historical Waihi Town
Close to Karangahake Gorge is Waihi town.
The town is literally built on gold and gold mining is still their main source of income today.
This is the main road that passes through the town.
Martha Mine, Waihi
Don’t exclude this place out if you find yourself in Waihi town and are looking for things to do in the Coromandel Peninsula!
The mine is still in operation and the sheer size of it is awesome to behold in person.
It is easy to walk to the mine from the town.
You can even walk around the mine pit from behind the fence (we stuck the camera lens through the fence so it doesn’t show up here but there is definitely a fence).
There are other mining relics scattered around the town too:
And old steam pumphouse that was relocated from its original spot.
They use electricity instead of the pumphouse to draw the excess water out from the mines now.
Mining Shaft Lift Tower, Waihi
A replica of an old mining shaft tower but without the lift.
You can find this one if you go down some steps behind the old steam pumphouse. It is beside the main road into Waihi Town.
This machine is fenced off in an old carpark for display purposes.
The carpark is somewhere along the way into town if you’re coming from the mining shaft lift tower.
Note: A bogger is apparently an Australian term for someone who’s occupation is digging.
Full Breakfast And Savory Bites At Waihi
Over in Waihi town, Ti Tree Cafe is a great place to get a bite to eat. We highly recommend the pesto scones!
Lovely atmosphere inside. Including an indoor fireplace, cozy spaces and many local artwork for sale on the wall.
5. Pass Through All The Surf Towns In Coromandel
The following towns are recommended for those who love surfing:
- Hot Water Beach
Of these, Whangamata is the most well known and boasts world-class surf breaks.
As you can see, all of these towns are on the east side of the Coromandel Peninsula.
6. Get Panoramic Views Of The Region At Paku Hill Summit
This is a short climb with a spectacular vantage point! And it is one of the (if not the best) views we had in Coromandel peninsula even if the views are partially obstructed.
Tip: Don’t confuse this with the other summit walk (Mt Pauanui also known as Mt Tairua) on the other side. This one takes more time to complete and the views are not as nice (in my personal opinion). Return time is almost 3 hours.
Do you have to be fit to get reach Paku Hill Summit?
With average fitness, you could attempt this in less than 20 minutes one way. Maybe even 15 minutes despite what the sign says.
The last few minutes involves a bit of scrambling over rocks (without any rail guards present) but you don’t need any special gear for that. Though be sure to keep an extremely watchful eye on kids here.
If you want to park your car, look out for this sign:
Park in the field here and start walking to the top. Be quiet as this is a residential area and you will have to pass through the neighborhood at the beginning of the walk.
Location: Paku Drive, Tairua 3508, New Zealand
7. Build Your Own Pool At Hot Water Beach, Hahei
Hot Water Beach is one of the most unique places to see in Coromandel – the geothermal activity beneath the sand is the reason why you can dig your own spa pool on the beach:
We went in mid-June which is the start of winter in New Zealand. The water was still plenty hot close to the beach (around 40-60 degrees Celsius) depending on where you dig.
You can see steam rising from the sand in some places on the beach.
There were not many people when we were there and it was easy to find a spot to start our pool.
The timing of the tides does matter if you want to visit this beach and have the experience of soaking in your own self-dug pool.
Tip: Go with friends so you can take turns digging out the pool 😉
Where To Park At Hot Water Beach
We parked here (refer map) since there was nobody using the building at the time.
Otherwise, you do have to pay for the main car park (Pye Pl).
Where To Get Shovels For Hot Water Beach
You can rent shovels (to dig your hot pool!) at the nearby hotels or cafe if you didn’t bring your own.
But try to rent one from a friend, neighbor or your landlord if you can.
What To Eat At Hot Water Beach
If you’re looking for somewhere to have dinner after going to the hot water beach:
Check out the fish and chips shack next to (more like in) Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park.
Facilities At Hot Water Beach
There are cold showers, spacious changing rooms and toilets for public use near the car park.
Or you can get hot showers ($5 per person) at the Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park.
8. Admire Cathedral Cove, Hahei
Cathedral Cove is perhaps the most iconic of Coromandel attractions and hence, this majestic natural formation is a must-see if you’ve never been to this side of New Zealand.
Just to be sure to check out the tides before coming here! Else you won’t see the characteristic dome that gives Cathedral Cove its name.
Here is a bonus location:
9. Explore Stingray Bay
Stingray Bay is just as or more beautiful than Cathedral Cove. At least, we think so.
Have a look at this secluded and small bay before you leave the area. It’s walking distance from Cathedral Cove.
You can climb down to the beach but be careful.
Note: We didn’t see any stingrays.
10. Snorkel At Gemstone Bay
There is another smaller bay nearby called Gemstone Bay.
You will know what it is called that when you see it – the rocks here do sort of look like jewelled eggs in the sunlight.
Part of the water here has been partitioned for safe snorkeling. And Gemstone Bay is in fact a known snorkeling trail.
11. Cooks Beach And Shakespeare Cliff Lookout
Kids can safely swim in the shallows of Cooks Beach. And Cooks Beach itself is wonderful for a stroll too.
If you want to see the entirety of Cooks Beach from above, climb up to Shakespeare Cliff Lookout from the main road (~25 minutes walk) or drive up a steep gravel road directly to the lookout.
Note: There are two car parks
This easy walk (you can do this with toddlers in tow too) ends in a proper lookout platform where you can see Lonely Bay, Cooks Beach and other islands too.
Location: Cooks Beach 3591, New Zealand
12. Whiti Farm Park
This stroller-friendly stop is perfect for families. Kids can feed and interact with the different animals.
These include highland cows, emus, wallabies, and Swiss mountain rams. And they have alpacas, goats, and deer too
Besides the animals, kids can get excited about swings, a trampoline and a tree-house while they’re here!
- Location: 2414 Tairua Whitianga Road, Kaimarama 3591, New Zealand
- Opening Hours: 10am–4pm
- Contact: +6478662349
- Website: www.whitifarmpark.co.nz
13. Mill Creek Bird Park And Animal Encounters
Apart from the 4km gravel road that you need to drive on to get to Mill Creak Bird Park And Animal Encounters:
This is another enticing stop for a family with young kids especially if you want to get up close to the birds.
The couple that run the park have more than just a few animals to see. You can expect to spend up an hour here.
Other than birds, they have horses, donkeys, goats, and alpaca too.
Note: Mill Creek Bird Park and Animal Encounters runs a campground too
- Location: 365 Mill Creek Road, Kaimarama 3591, New Zealand
- Opening Hours: 10am–5pm (Closed on Mondays)
- Contact: +6478660166
- Website: millcreekbirdpark.co.nz
14. Visiting Whitianga Town
Banana Boat Water Activities Whitianga
What better way to see the Cathedral Cove than to ride a banana boat (Cathedral Explorer Ride)?
This is one of many Coromandel activities that will make for a memorable experience for the whole family.
The scenic route takes you to Gemstone Bay as well where you can see the fish through the crystal clear waters!
Most importantly, the staff is extremely professional and pleasant besides so even if your boat capsizes, there’s nothing to worry about.
- Location: The Esplanade, Whitianga 3510, New Zealand
- Opening Hours: –
- Contact: +642108328350
- Website: https://bananaboatwhitianga.weebly.com/
Mercury Bay Museum
Mercury Bay Museum offers another option for a rainy day. And you’ll be surprised at how entertaining this museum can be for kids too.
The museum focuses mainly on Whitianga’s history with fantastic exhibits and equally wonderful staff.
If you want to take your time exploring this museum, allocate a few hours for your visit.
- Location: 11a The Esplanade, Whitianga 3510, New Zealand
- Opening Hours: 10am–3pm (Closed on Sundays & Mondays)
- Contact: +6478660730
- Website: www.mercurybaymuseum.co.nz
15. Try the Delicious Wood-Stove Pizza At Lukes Kitchen In Kūaotunu
We had the most delicious wood-stove pizza at Lukes Kitchen in Kūaotunu.
Do come early if you don’t like waiting. The local lunch crowd does start to pour in around 12-1pm. This place is highly popular for dinner as well (sometimes they have a live band).
Look out for their special of the day too!
We ordered the Never Fail pizza at $28 and the Sunshine pizza ($16) and both were equally good.
However, the fish pizza (i.e. Never Fail) had a really unique flavor to it and we would recommend this one if you don’t know what to order.
Note: Sunshine pizza is the one with the pineapple pieces if you refer to the photo below.
Other popular flavors to try include the Antipesto, or garlic pizza. On top of the intriguing pizza menu is a dazzling selection of drinks to choose from. Including beer.
After a great meal at Lukes’, you can enjoy this little park outside. There is a swing by the Kuaotuna stream with a great view of the ocean.
- Location: 20 Black Jack Road, Kūaotunu 3592, New Zealand
- Opening Hours: 11am–9pm; Thursday, 4–9pm (Closed on Mondays, Tuesdays & Wednesdays)
- Contact: +6478664480
- Website: www.lukeskitchen.co.nz
16. Have An Adventure Finding New Chums Beach
Your shoes (and possibly your legs) will get wet getting to this secluded beach.
The trek (1 hour return) starts with a stream that you have wade through. So it helps to check the tide schedule before going!
We didn’t see it ourselves but our friends found the stream intimidating and turned back.
You will get a nice view of the beach from above somewhere along the trek too. A big of rock scrambling is involved too.
Location: North End, Whangapoua 3582, New Zealand
17. Complete The Coromandel Coastal Walk
We skipped this one too because there is no way to directly drive through from Fletcher Bay to Port Charles.
The walk is not a loop track and you will have to go back the same way you came from after you finish.
One way takes ~4hours+ by walking.
You could find a friend (with a car) and agree to start the walk from opposite ends and meet each other in the middle to swap car keys.
Then, you could meet each other for lunch or dinner and switch cars again.
Or you could pay a tour service ($135 per adult) to arrange the pick up for you instead.
And there are of course still many other things you can do in Coromandel Peninsula if you have money to spare.
There are island-hopping tours, kayaking, a glass bottom boat cruise, a railway train ride along the coast, etc.
18. Soak In The Summer Atmosphere At Coromandel (Town)
Again, we just passed through here but this town probably sees a lot of action in the summer.
A lot of artists have made this town their own. Recreational fishing is a common pasttime.
There is a small scenic railway for tourists in this town (Driving Creek Railway).
Read more on Coromandel town attractions.
19. Take A Dip At Waiau Falls
The beauty of the falls makes the windy gravel road worth it. After you park your car, it only takes about 2 minutes to get to the falls.
It’s very peaceful here and you may even spot some eels!
Note: Dogs are allowed here
One of the (if not the best) views we had in Coromandel peninsula:
20. Walk Among Ancient Trees At Coromandel Kauri Groves
What to see a mature Kauri tree? This fabulous species of tree is native to New Zealand and can obtain great sizes.
There are quite a few places to see mature kauri trees in the Coromandel Peninsula, particularly on the Thames side:
The one we went to (Waiau Kauri Grove or 309 Kauri Grove) was a 20-30 minute return walk.
You won’t need to walk much to see some kauri trees at Waiau Kauri Grove. There are trees here that are a few hundred hears old! As well as a pair of Siamese kauri trees!
Hence, seeing the trees is a must if you’re coming for Waiau Falls. The well-maintained and shaded wooden walkways and boardwalks make the walk very family-friendly.
That’s where the photo below was taken.
Please clean off dirt from your shoes before entering one of these magnificent groves.
The local councils make that easy by providing cleaning stations at the entrance of the groves and trails. They do this to prevent Kauri Dieback disease which ultimately kills any kauri tree that is infected.
Other Kauri walks include:
- Square Kauri Walk (20 minutes return) – good views from the deck
- The Pinnacles – Kauaeranga Kauri Trail (8 hours return) – excellent views at the top
- Waiomu Kauri Grove (<3hours return, near Thames) – there are creeks to cross. Trail starts where the Waiomu Valley road ends.
- Kauri Block (2 hours return) – close to a Pa site (Maori historical site)
Here are the locations of the groves between Coromandel and Thames:
21. Enjoy The Drive From Coromandel To Thames
The views of the coast are insane once you head out of Coromandel town!
Make sure you have a good playlist ready before you head out for this drive. 😉
There are lookout points and places to picnic along the way so keep an eye out for those if you need a quick break.
Manaia Road Saddle And Lookout
This is one pullover stop you don’t want to miss on this route. It’s windy here and you’ll be able to get a 180 degree view of the east and west coastline.
Location: Manaia Road, Manaia 3581, New Zealand
22. Bask In Thames’ Rich Heritage
We didn’t stop here for too long but it’s a lovely town as they still keep many of their old buildings from gold mining days (starting from the year 1867).
Thames Goldmine Experience
For $20, the Thames Goldmine Experience provides an in-depth look into the gold mining industry.
A visit here will take at least 2 hours where amiable and knowledgeable volunteers will take visitors into a gold mine and to the museum.
They have functional gold mining equipment on-site and you will get to see demonstrations as well.
- Location: Tararu Road, Thames 3500, New Zealand
- Opening Hours: 10am–4pm
- Contact: +6478688514
- Website: http://www.goldmine-experience.co.nz/
23. Climb The Pinnacles
Climbing to the top to view the pinnacles at sunrise would require you to stay overnight in the DOC (Department of Conservation) hut on top. It costs $15 a night per person.
The hike is steep towards the end.
And although it’s possible to do in a day (the whole Pinnacles walk takes about 8 hours round trip):
You might find yourself pressed for time if you want to avoid hiking in the dark.
Note that around summer, the hut’s popularity increases. So book early if you plan to do this climb and stay overnight.
You would also need to bring your own sleeping bag if you want to stay the night there.
Alternative Accommodation At The Pinnacles Park
The Pinnacles park is close to Thames.
There are a few campsites before the start of the trail based on Campermate.
Here are some options:
- Danby Field carpark (Free for SC, close to local pool hot showers for $3, has clean 24hr toilets, 39 minutes drive to Pinnacles )
- Rhodes Park Reserve (Free for SC, close to local pool hot showers for $3 and no toilets, closer to Pinnacles at 37 minutes drive)
*SC = Self contained vehicle (certified)
Coromandel In 2 Days
If you start your journey from Auckland, you can plan your itinerary to include the following:
You can stick to the coastline and check out the seaside towns first (like Kaiaua and Miranda). As there’s good seafood to be had there.
There is a migrating birds lookout, beach and center that bird enthusiasts can enjoy:
- Seabird Coast Lookout
- Miranda Shorebird Centre
- Nice beach walk at Opoutere (45 minutes’ return) where you can observe dotterel and oystercatchers.
Or maybe you like to fish?
For the fishing enthusiasts, you can go snapper fishing around the Firth of Thames.
And at $14 dollars (per adult), you can visit Miranda Hot Springs.
If you’re coming to surf:
Consider a longer duration as there are a couple of surf towns and beaches along Coromandel.
Or you can use the following as a base for your Coromandel trip:
Coromandel Peninsula Itinerary (2 Days To 4 Days)
This was our overall plan (from left to right):
Day 1 – Auckland – Karangahake Gorge – Waihi Town – Martha Mine – Mt Paku Summit Climb* – Hot water beach
*You will need another day if you want to try the Mt Paku Summit Climb
On a fine day, the views along the drive really take the cake. You will see many farms and rolling green hills dotted with cows (or sheep but mostly cows).
Day 2 – Cathedral Cove (+Stingray Bay and Gemstone Bay) – Lukes Kitchen (Best wood-fire pizza!!) – Coromandel town (pass by) – Kauri Grove – Thames town – Auckland
Don’t be fooled:
On the map, the various towns can look like they are close together but in reality:
ThThe roads twist and turn a lot so if you can spare more than 2 days in Coromandel, that will be better!
As we keep saying, Coromandel is a huge area to cover. You will definitely need somewhere to stay during your visit:
Accommodation In Coromandel
Depending on your budget, there are a number of options to choose from when it comes to where to stay in Coromandel.
1. Cooks Beach Campsite (Free Campsite)
There are toilets but we didn’t use them so we can’t comment on them.
We like this place because it is quiet (in a residential area) and close to Cathedral Cove.
The area at the tip of the land point (before the boats) is where the self-contained vehicles are parked.
We parked in the grass patch in the center.
This map shows the proximity of the free campsite to Hot Water Beach (20′ minutes drive) and Cathedral Cove (20 minutes’ drive).
2. Airbnb Close To Hahei
- Option #1 (Whitianga) – Classic kiwi bach with sea views in Whitianga. It’s RM425 (or ~$155 NZD) /night for the whole house but it takes 30 minutes’ drive to get to Hot Water Beach from here.
- Option #2 (Pauanui) – Pauanui Guesthouse – private and with a view. This one costs RM280 (or ~$100 NZD)/night for the whole house and is 50 minutes drive’ from Hot Water Beach.
3. Holiday Parks
Even with their winter deals:
Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park can still put a burden on your pocket if you are on a budget!
But they have family rooms and also powered sites for camper vans. There are romantic modern-looking cabins for couples too.
The deluxe cabin (2 pax maximum) usually sets you back for $85 NZD /night.
With 20% winter discount, it can be $68 instead.
The holiday park is 1 minute walking distance to the Hot Water Beach.
Communal facilities are also very nice:
- There is big common kitchen
- Cozy and large lounge with a fireplace, couches and a TV
- Laundry machines
- Spacious clean bathrooms with hot showers. The showers run on 5-minute timers but you can step out of the shower stall and press the button again if you need more time. Or just ask your shower stall neighbor to help you if they’re done with their shower. The bathrooms have hair dryers too!
Tip: We paid for hot showers ($5 each) at the reception of the Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park before we made our way to the free campsite at Cooks beach. Don’t forget to ask the clerk to write down your vehicle number. They do have a guard in the evening watching out for people who try to use the facilities for free. Not that we tried to do that but he still wanted to check whether we had paid or not.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in the Coromandel Peninsula.
This region of North Island, New Zealand has no shortage of gorgeous bays, beaches to historic gold mining towns, majestic kauri groves, pinnacles, etc.
Definitely do explore this region if you can afford the time. Two days was definitely not enough.
And since you’ll probably be passing through, take a look at this list of things to do in Coromandel Town.
Want more? Check out our other New Zealand posts below:
- Here’s how you can get a Working Holiday visa for New Zealand
- Exploring Auckland – here are 13 things you can do there on a budget
- Another must-see in New Zealand North Island – Tongario Alpine Crossing
- How to get started on your own van life in New Zealand
- What is the cost of living in New Zealand (while on a working holiday visa)
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