The Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
The Coromandel Peninsula’s motto, “Good for the soul,” suits it well. Located southeast of Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island, this peninsula is full of wilderness hideaways, secluded beaches, scenic drives and hikes, and a relaxed, summery vibe where visitors are encouraged to take their time and explore wherever their heart takes them.
The Coromandel Peninsula is an excellent respite for folks who may feel overwhelmed by all the activities around New Zealand and want a few “down” days for rejuvenation. We’ve found the Coromandel Peninsula especially conducive to families wanting relaxed bonding time.
There are so many little hideaways and secret places to lose yourself in the Coromandel Peninsula; you could easily spend weeks here. However, we think 4-6 nights is ideal for most international travelers.
What to See and Do on the Coromandel Peninsula:
The best activities on the Coromandel Peninsula are outdoors and inexpensive, requiring only a small sense of adventure. Or of course, any of these locations can be accessed with the safety and security of a guide if that makes you more comfortable.
Whether you love golden beaches or towering trees, there is plenty to enjoy here. Consider your accommodations to be a “home base” and use each day to go driving to a different area of the peninsula.
Favorite Beaches on the Coromandel Peninsula:
- Hot Water Beach — East Coast. For two hours on either side of low tide, you can rent a shovel and dig into the sand to create your own geothermally-heated hot pool.
- Cathedral Cove and Stingray Bay — East Coast. Cathedral Cove is a natural rock arch soaring over a golden sandy beach, and a feature of many postcards. You can reach it by boat or kayak, but we prefer the two-hour roundtrip hike because it passes by several equally beautiful but less-touristed beaches like Stingray Bay.
- New Chum Beach — East Coast. No road access and no infrastructure keep New Chum Beach quiet and pristine. You can reach its wide, graceful, golden arc of sand via an easy one-hour roundtrip hike.
Favorite Day Trips on the Coromandel Peninsula:
- Coromandel town — West Coast. Coromandel town is a charming mix of historic buildings and sites as well as modern-day artists’ workshops.
- Fletcher Bay — West Coast. To get really remote, continue driving north from Coromandel town into quirky little Colville — the last outpost of civilization before reaching the ocean. Past Colville, a spectacular unpaved road continues on, fording small rivers and rounding deserted beaches until the road ends at Fletcher Bay. Those who feel truly intrepid can continue past Fletcher Bay on foot for a 7-hour roundtrip hike along the top tip of the peninsula.
- Karangahake Gorge — South. Below the base of the Coromandel Peninsula, this is old gold-mining country. Come here for hiking, biking, and sightseeing at the Waihi Gold Mine. Also, be sure to stop in Paeroa to see the world’s largest bottle of L&P, a soda that is “World Famous in New Zealand.”
- Thames — West Coast. The closest town to Auckland on the peninsula has a shallow firth that extends for miles at low tide. There’s also a natural swimming hole to the east of town. Back in town, you’ll find a couple of historical museums about gold mining, kauri logging, and early settlers.
- 309 Road — West. Located near Coromandel town en route to Whitianga, the 309 Road is 22 km (13.5 miles) of unpaved wonderland beauty. Its narrow twists and turns are worth the journey to be able to see some dense bushland, a waterfall, and rare giant kauri trees.
More of Our Favorite Activities on the Coromandel Peninsula:
- Snorkeling and SCUBA diving from Whitianga
- Sailing and boating cruises of the coastline
- Kayaking at Cathedral Cove
- Fishing charters
- Exploring Whitianga town, including good shopping and historical sites like Captain Cook’s Landing and Mercury Bay Museum.
- Kauri tree spotting — very few stands of these giant trees remain after centuries of logging. The Coromandel has more than anywhere else in New Zealand.
- Hiking with an expert local guide
- Mountain biking in several locations across the peninsula
When to Visit the Coromandel Peninsula:
With such pretty beaches, you may think that the only time to visit here is in New Zealand’s summer, which lasts from about December until March. True, if you want to swim, then you’ll need to be here in summer. The bright red pohutukawa trees are also in bloom during the summer.
However, the Coromandel Peninsula is extremely popular with local families who fill the beaches and campsites from Christmas through January. February is better, though availability can still be tight so ensure to book early.
For the most peaceful time on the peninsula, go during the cooler months between March and November. You’ll experience fewer crowds and less competition for that perfect snapshot at Cathedral Cove. The peninsula stays fairly warm year-round, remaining well above freezing in the coldest months of July and August.
Where to Stay on the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand:
Our favorite places to stay lie along the east coast of the peninsula, which has better beaches, calmer waters, and more of the “must-do” activities than the west coast. Just keep in mind that the east coast is also where most of the tourists go, so make sure to do a day trip at least once to the west coast for more local flavor.
In the southeastern corner of the peninsula is Whangamata, a purely holiday-goers town with a long, wide, shallow beach that’s safe for wading and boogie-boarding. There are a few 3-star standard hotels, B&Bs, and rental cottages near the shoreline, but just a short drive inland and away from town is a beautiful luxury lodge. Tip: the “wh” is pronounced like an “f” and the last syllable is emphasized. So the correct pronunciation is “fong-a-ma-TA.”
Just a bit north of Whangamata is Pauanui, still on the southeastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. The beach at Pauanui is similar to the one at Whangamata, with long, wide, golden sand and safe swimming. The accommodations here tend more toward the 3-star resort-style, with golf courses nearby. Being a little farther up on the peninsula, and not as close to the mainland, Pauanui offers slightly better access to other areas of the Coromandel Peninsula for day trips than Whangamata.
Our personal favorite area to stay is still farther north, on the central east coast of the Coromandel. There is a cluster of small towns here, including Whitianga, Hahei, and Hot Water Beach, among others. This area has the greatest variety of accommodations, including some of the nicest in all of Coromandel as well as B&Bs, rental cottages, and traditional hotels. We love this area because it has close access to some of our favorite Coromandel sights plus the town of Whitianga is big enough to offer any amenities you might need. Yes, the “wh” in Whitianga is also pronounced as an “f!”
How to Get to the Coromandel Peninsula:
We highly recommend self-driving to the Coromandel, given that the majority of sights and activities need a car to access. It’s a large peninsula with lots of small towns and scenic enclaves, so having your own car is a must.
The closest major tourist areas to the Coromandel are Auckland to the West, and Rotorua and Matamata (or Hobbiton) to the South. Drive times to the Coromandel vary, depending on where on the peninsula you stay.
Approximate drive times:
- Auckland to most points on Coromandel’s east coast — 2.25 to 2.5 hours
- Hobbiton to most points on Coromandel’s east coast — 2.25 to 2.5 hours
- Rotorua to Whitianga / Hahei / Hot Water Beach (central east coast) — 3.5 hours
- Rotorua to Pauanui (southern east coast) — 3 hours
- Rotorua to Whangamata (southern east coast) — 2.5 hrs
Are you ready to book your trip to the Coromandel Peninsula? Whether you’re from Tampa, Calgary, or points in between, we’ve got you covered. Contact us to get started!