So, you’re planning your holiday to New Zealand and you have heard a thing or two about the Coromandel and its stunning beaches and attractions. Well you’d be right to look further into this magic little peninsula on the East coast of the North Island, as it has a LOT to offer.
Here are our some of our favourite activities and recommended attractions for the best Coromandel road trip of all time!
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Visit Hot Water Beach Like a Pro
Let’s start with Hot Water Beach, it’s that unique beach that you just have to visit! More often than not, it’s crowded.
And for good reason…
Hot springs bubble out of the sand at low tide, while thousands of locals and tourists flock here to dig small pools in the sand.
The experience is magic!
But there is an art to creating a pool at the right temperature, too much hot water and you’ll burn your toes! Dig in the wrong place and you’ll miss the hot spring all together.
Our top tips for Hot Water Beach –
- Bring a spade! If you don’t have one, then you’ll need to rent one at the local shops and they can be quite pricey.
- Get there two hours before low tide. Come any later and the fight for a spot is just not worth the hassle.
- Two narrow springs trickle down the beach, either are great, but look for where the water bubbles out of the ground and you’re in the right place.
- Don’t waste your time digging more than 2 metres either side of the spring as there is absolutely no hot water bubbling up there.
- The hot water is too hot to bath in, so try find a place where you have some hot AND cold water filling your pool.
- Reinforce your pool walls! When the tide starts to come in, those waves come in fast.
And this is how the locals do it –
Plan a NIGHT visit. Plan is the key word here, you can’t just rock up and expect it to be perfect. So, this is what we recommend.
- Plan your visit for a full or nearly full moon. The night also needs to be clear. The natural lighting makes it so much easier.
- If you can, plan your visit for outside the silly summer season, that way you may get the hot pools to yourself.
- Don’t forget your spade.
- Bring warm clothes to put on after.
- Follow the tips and instructions above on how and where to dig.
- Bring a bottle of red wine!
On this particular visit we set an alarm and woke at 2.30am. Following a quick walk to the beach in warm weather gear and the hubby on the spade, we had the perfect hot pool all to ourselves. No-one around and we soaked till 5am.
We recommend you book your stay here at the Hot Water Beach Top Ten Holiday Park which is situated right over the road. The facilities are fantastic and they have several types of accomodation options available.
Experience the Magic of Cathedral Cove
We return to Cathedral Cove, time and time again. We love it so much that we made a dedicated post on how to get the most out of your visit.
So, follow this link and read this post for all the details!
Paddle out to Donut Island
There is a hidden little treasure off the beach in Whangamata that goes by the name Whenuakura – also known as Donut Island.
Grab a paddle board or kayak and make your way out to explore it. If you approach the island from the Southern side, you’ll find a little hole or cave in the rock. Enter the cave and you’ll discover how it came to be named donut… the centre is hollow and therefore super unique.
Don’t have a paddle board, don’t panic… book your tour right here.
Explore the Karangahake Gorge
On route between Auckland and Tauranga, or more specifically between Paeroa and Waihi Town you will pass through the Karangahake Gorge. This is a super little place to stretch the legs and spend a couple of hours away from the beach for a change.
There a couple of walks to explore. The most popular of the walks is the Rails Tunnel Loop track that begins along the opposite side of the river and follows it through some gentle bush. Halfway along the walk you will cross the old rail bridge and enter a long tunnel that runs back through the mountain. This is an easy walk if you have young children or prefer to take it easy and will take anywhere between 40 mins to an hour.
The second, The Windows Walk involves some more climbing, but is equally as pretty and just as rewarding. Allow an hour to see the walk and enjoy exploring old mining sites of New Zealand. To read more about other walks in the area see the Department of Conservation (DoC) site here.
Our pick for accomodation is the Dome Waikino. Click here to book a unique bungalow surrounded by bush.
Escape to Great Mercury Island
Great Mercury Island was one of the highlights of our New Zealand tour. The beaches are drop dead gorgeous and the diving is next level. And the best part, you more or less have the island to yourself.
Add Peach Grove beach to your New Zealand bucklet list, and if you get to tick that off you will be a very happy traveller indeed. We have travelled the world and this beach is right up there… the water is turquoise blue and the sand as white as it gets. And on a gorgeous summer day, it doesn’t get much better.
Camp Off-grid in Waikawau Bay or Chill at Little Bay
The road trip to Waikawau in itself is a journey. If you like a remote off-beat destination, then this is for you.
The camping is off-grid, so you’ll need to bring everything in yourself. Remember to book ahead to be sure you get a Department of Conservation campsite.
Alternatively, for a little more comfort grab yourself a typical kiwi style summer bach at Little Bay just over the hill from Waikawau. Follow this link here and search for accommodation in Little Bay with dates that best suit you.
Tip – there are only a couple of places in Little Bay, and the BookaBach site gives you a wider lens, so zoom in close and look directly in the Bay to the right of Waikawau for the best places.
We love Waikawau for its remoteness. Expect to see the Milky Way in all it’s glory. A lack of light pollution in the evening creates for the most spectacular night sky. The beach is very quiet and great for a bodyboard. At the right time of year, you might find field mushrooms growing in the campground and walk the hill to find the tastiest blackberries.
It is important to note that there are no shops nearby and you will need to have done a shop before your arrival if you don’t want to go hungry.
Walk from Fletcher to Stony Bay
If you loved Waikawau Bay, then chances are that you’ll also love Port Jackson. The DoC camp ground setup is right on the beach and equally as remote. Carry on further around the coast and you’ll find yourself in Fletcher Bay. From here you cannot drive any further.
The road from the East side of the Coromandel Peninsula doesn’t go any further than Stony Bay, and from the West it doesn’t go beyond Fletcher. But there is a spectacular walking track that links the two bays together. If you fancy a full day challenge, then this is perfect for you.
Bring good walking shoes, plenty of water, a sunhat and suntan lotion and allow 7 hours for the return 20km walk. To read more about this walk check the DoC site right here.
Walk to Orokawa & Homunga Bay
If you have a morning or afternoon spare and have planned a stopover in Waihi Beach, then don’t miss a walk to Orokawa or even further to Homunga Bay.
The easy 45 minute walk over to Orokawa bay is a rewarding one and the long sweeping beach with overhanging Pohutakawa trees, provide a beautifully shaded spot to read a book.
And if you continue on a further two hours to Homunga Bay then you will likely arrive to an even quieter beach. Keep a look out for the small waterfall that is often trickling at the end of the beach. See here for more.
The Bowentown Beach Holiday Park is our recommendation of place to stay in Waihi Beach. This is a great location for family friendly, beachfront fun.
Soak it up in Whitianga
Whitianga is the most northern biggish town of the Coromandel Peninsula. It is a great destination to do a supermarket shop if you are planning to camp in the north. And it is also a great place to enjoy a well-deserved meal out, a soft bed and a soak in a hot pool if you are returning from a camping trip.
The Lost Spring is one of our favourite geothermal hot springs in the North Island. Probably because this is a child free zone! Visit for an indulgent afternoon or night without the littles, order a round of cocktails and soak away your travel troubles.
IF you are looking for a place to lay your head, then then this is our recommendation for Whitianga – The Wairua Lodge, Rainforest River Retreat is situated out of town and is great for couple looking for some five star treatment.
Wine tasting at Mercury Bay Estate
Not far out of Hahei is the superb Mercury Bay Estate. Should you be inclined to taste some of the local vino then this is a great place to do it. A small family run winery, they have a great selection of wines to try and wood fired pizza to die for.
And if you love it as much as we do, then you might like to stay in their bubble tent. Check there website here for more.
For the perfect location and view, we recommend you book this gorgeous little beachside apartment for Hahei.
Chill Out in Octopus Bay (Pakahakaha Bay)
This bay is a total hidden gem. We have been visiting Whangamata for years and had never heard of Octopus Bay. With a little insider information, we found the track and made the walk over.
To get there, you’ll need to drive to Onemana Beach, then continue on up the hill to the right of the main beach. When you get to the top, you’ll find a small car park and reserve. Park here and walk beyond the picnic table. To the right side you will note a small obscure sign that asks visitors to keep to the path and this is where it begins. The walk runs between bush and a private farm.
As you descend into the beach, you’ll see why we LOVE it, and how quiet it is. So now that we’ve shared it with you… shhhh… keep it on the down low. Let’s reserve it only for people who truly love an off-beat adventure.
We recommend you book your stay in this kiwi style holiday bach in the heart of Whangamata.
Explore Pokohino Beach and Cave
Another favourite in Pokohino, and one that seems to be making regular appearances on Instagram is Pokohino. Another 30 minute walk into this bay through beautiful bush and you are in paradise.
There is a cool little cave to the right side of the beach that is best accessed at low tide. And it is because of this cave that the beach is gaining in popularity. It is a very cute little bay to explore.
And there you have it friends our top 12 attractions and sights of the Coromandel of New Zealand. We are always looking for more hidden gems and off-beat travel experiences, so sign up below for updates on our latest blogs from around the globe. Don’t worry we don’t spam!
If you loved this list of Coromandel Attractions, then you might also like to check out this post on the Best Places to Visit in the North Island of New Zealand.
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