Coromandel coast, The Coromandel or rather Coromandel Peninsula is should be on your bucket list if you get the chance to visit the North Island of New Zealand.
Where else can you dig out your own hot pool at a beach (i.e. hot water beach) or see the screensaver-worthy Cathedral Cove?
As for the location:
the Coromandel Peninusula (the box in red) is located above the Bay of Plenty (Southeast of Whakatane – not shown in the map below) and pretty close to Auckland.
By that, I mean 2 hours and 20 minutes direct drive to Hahei beach according to Google.
If you’re coming up from Rotorua:
then it’s a 3 hours drive to Hahei beach where hot water beach and Cathedral Cove are. It will also take you 3 hours to drive to Hahei if you’re coming from Waitomo.
Explore this post:
- Weather in Coromandel / When to visit Coromandel
- Coromandel in 2 days
- Things to do in Coromandel (places we went)
- Other things to do in Coromandel (places we didn’t have time for)
- Accommodation in Coromandel
- What to eat in Coromandel
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:
We went in winter when it was around 12-14 degrees Celsius.
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 be finding it difficult to secure a spot for your hot pool.
What about going in winter?
During winter, we actually monitored the weather for a couple of weeks looking for a break in the clouds (literally). Sunny days don’t happen too often during June as you can imagine. Finally, a sunny weekend appeared on the forecast and we jumped at the opportunity to go see the neighboring region.
By the way:
Other things you should know:
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:
You might as well check when low tide is. Assuming you will be checking out Cathedral Cove and the infamous hot water beach.
e.g. 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.
Coromandel in 2 days
If you start your journey from Auckland:
You can stick to the coastline and check out the seaside towns first (like Kaiaua and Miranda). Apparently, there’s good seafood to be had there.
There is a migrating birds lookout and center (Seabird Coast Lookout and Miranda Shorebird Centre) that bird enthusiasts would enjoy.
Note: On the subject of birds, there is a 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, there’s a good snapper fishing here around the Firth of Thames. And at $14 dollars (per adult), you can visit Miranda Hot Springs.
If you’re coming to surf:
you might want to consider a longer duration as there a couple of surf towns and beaches along Coromandel. We were only able to hit a few places in the weekend we spent there.
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!
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
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 – 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.
the roads are winding and unless you can spare more than 2 days in Coromandel, you will not be able to fit everything in.
When you finally get there,
Things to do in Coromandel (places we went)
Hot Water Beach, Hahei
We went in mid-June which is the start of winter in New Zealand. The water was still plenty hot close to the beach. The water may even be 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 groups 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 😉
We parked here (refer map) since there was nobody using the building at the time. You do have to pay for the main car park (Pye Pl).
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. If you’re looking for somewhere to have dinner after going to the hot water beach, check out the fish and chips store next to (more like in) Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park.
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.
Cathedral Cove, Hahei
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:
Nobody talks about it as much as its more popular neighbor, but 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~
There is another smaller bay nearby called Gemstone bay. You will know what it is called that when you see it ;). Part of the water here has been partitioned for safe snorkeling.
Did you know that the Coromandel region of New Zealand has a rich gold mining history?
This was actually our first stop in our Day 1 plan. We reached here quite early. It was 6 degrees Celsius at 8am on 8 June, 2018.
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. We chose to do the Rail Tunnel Loop which is around 45 minutes return.
You will see some old mining relics here, go into an old mining tunnel and cross over 2 bridges. Great stuff.
Note: It is pretty wet and muddy, especially in the tunnels. Dark too so have your phone or a flashlight on standby. And a bag to put your camera in.
There are more photos on our Instagram.
The other walk takes 4 hours to complete:
Historic walkway to Waikino. The walk’s main feature are the ruins of the old Victoria battery. Ore from Martha Mine used to be processed here.
Follow the gold:
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 one out if you find yourself in Waihi town. 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 old mining relics scattered around the area too:
And old steam pumphouse that was relocated from its original spot. They use electricity instead to draw the excess water out from the mines now.
Mining shaft lift tower, Waihi
A replica of an old mining shaft tower 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. Bogger is apparently an Australian term for someone who’s occupation is digging.
One of the (if not the best) views we had in Coromandel peninsula:
Paku Hill Summit
A short climb with a spectacular vantage point! Don’t miss this one out.
Do you have to be fit?
I would say we have average fitness and we did this in less than 20 minutes one way. Maybe even 15 despite what the sign says. The last few minutes involves a bit of scrambling over rocks but you don’t need any gear for that.
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.
Tip: Although close on the map, 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.
What to see a mature Kauri tree? This fabulous species of tree is native to New Zealand and get obtain great sizes.
Coromandel Kauri Groves
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. That’s where the photo below was taken. Easy pathways and there are wooden boardwalks that go around the trees.
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:
Coromandel to Thames drive
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.
Other things to do in Coromandel (places we didn’t have time for)
There are so many places we missed. Surfing towns, forest and coastal walks, etc. 2 days do not do justice to this beautiful region of New Zealand’s north island but alas, we have a tight budget to stick to.
Surf towns in Coromandel
The following towns are recommended for those who love surfing – Whangamata, Pauanui, Waihi and Hot Water Beach. 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.
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).
Again, we just passed through here but this town probably sees a lot of action in the summer.
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 cross. 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.
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.
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 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 many other things you can do in Coromandel Peninsula if you have money to spare. There are all sorts of tours to go see the smaller islands, kayaking, a glass bottom boat cruise, a railway train ride along the coast, etc.
But here in this post, we have listed things to do that are free or almost free.
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.
For example, there are the following:
Cooks beach campsite (there are toilets but we didn’t use them so we can’t comment on them). We like this one because it was 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).
Not too bad for a FREE night.
Airbnb close to Hahei
- Option #1 (Tairua) – Great reviews for this one for its good location (close to the beach) and cleanliness. A private room costs RM158 (or $57 NZD) /night and is 23 minutes drive from hot water beach.
- Option #2 (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 #3 (Pauanui) – Pauanui Guesthouse – private and with a view. This one costs RM287 (or $104 NZD)/night for the whole house and is 50 minutes drive from hot water beach.
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:
They have family rooms and also powered sites for camper vans. There are romantic modern-looking cabins for couples too. The deluxe cabin (2ppl max) 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.
The communal facilities are nice. There is big kitchen, a cozy and large lounge with a fireplace, couches and a TV. Laundry machines and 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.
Worthy food mentions coming up!
What to eat in Coromandel
We had the most delicious wood-stove pizza at Lukes Kitchen in Whitianga.
Do come early if you don’t like waiting. The local lunch crowd does start to pour in around 12-1pm.
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.
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.
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. They have an indoor fireplace and many local artworks for sale on the wall.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to see and do in this region of North Island, New Zealand. From gorgeous bays, beaches to historic gold mining towns, majestic kauri groves, pinnacles, etc. I would highly recommend you to explore this region if you can afford the time. Two days was definitely not enough.
How long would you spend in Coromandel? Leave a comment below.
Want more? Check out our other New Zealand posts below:
Here’s how you can get a Working Holiday visa for New Zealand
Another must-see in New Zealand North Island – Tongario Alpine Crossing
How to get started on your own van life in New Zealand
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